Friday, December 23, 2005

The Mysteries Of Life And Reading Zones In Zoom Text

One of the newest features in Zoom Text actually turns out to be one of the more complicated ones to master. Here's some info from an Ai Squared newsletter that has some points on how to use this new ZT technology.

Optimize Your Work with Reading Zones
Whether you use a computer at home, at school or in the workplace, many computing tasks require that you look at the same fields of information again and again. Tasks of this nature are particularly common in spreadsheets, databases, and banking applications. If you use a screen magnifier or screen reader, locating the desired field can be time consuming and challenging, requiring that you scroll the magnified view in search of the field, or tab through a series of controls until the field receives focus. To solve this problem, Ai Squared has added Reading Zones in the new ZoomText 9.0 Magnifier/Reader.
Screen shot of a Reading Zone with the dimming option enabled
A Reading Zone with the "Dimming" Option enabled
Reading Zones let you instantly see and hear selected locations in an application window. For example, your database application may display a dozen or more fields of information. In your normal work flow you may be interested in only a few of these fields. With reading zones, you can instantly see and hear these select fields with the press of a hotkey.
You can create up to 10 reading zones for each of your applications. As you open and switch applications, zones that you have defined for the active application are automatically loaded and ready to use (referred to as ‘triggering’).
Creating and triggering reading zones is quick and easy. Here’s how to do it.
To create a reading zone
1. Open the application in which you want to create a reading zone. Make sure the desired application tab, view or window is displayed.
2. Press the New Reading Zone hotkey: CTRL + ALT + Z.
The appearance of your mouse pointer will change, indicating that the New Zone Tool is active.
3. Move the mouse pointer to scroll the new zone area into view.
4. Hold down the left button, drag the selection rectangle over the desired zone area and release the button.
When you complete the drag the Reading Zones dialog appears. This dialog allows you to name the zone and select zone options.
5. In the Zone Name box, type a descriptive name for the new zone, then press the TAB key one time.
The new zone name now appears in the Zones list. The new zone is automatically assigned a zone number. The corresponding hotkey for triggering the zone appears beneath the ‘Zones’ list.
6. Under Zone Actions, choose whether you want the zone to be spoken, displayed, or both.
7. To create additional zones, click the New Zone button and repeat steps 3 through 6.
8. When you’re finished creating zones, click the OK button.
Once you’ve created reading zones for an application, you can use them any time the application is active. You can trigger a single zone at a time (via menu or hotkey), or enter a mode that allows you to navigate through all of the reading zones.
To trigger a specific reading zone
1. Open the application that contains the reading zones you want to trigger.
2. Press the List Reading Zones hotkey: CTRL + ALT + L, then select the desired reading zone from the menu.
The selected new zone is displayed and spoken according to the selected zone settings.
The above steps describe the basics of creating and triggering reading zones. There are additional reading zone features, settings and methods that you can use to further optimize your work flow. To learn more about the power and convenience of reading zones, see the Reading Zones topics in the ZoomText Help system or user’s guide.
Help Make ZoomText a Better Product
Did you know that you can help make ZoomText a better product – and all it takes is clicking one simple checkbox? That’s right, by turning on ZoomText error reporting you can automatically send information that helps us diagnose and fix potential ZoomText problems before they affect end users.

woman with clipboard
How does ZoomText error reporting work?
As ZoomText runs it constantly monitors itself to check for problems that it has encountered. ZoomText takes care of most of these problems by itself – which is why you’ll rarely see an error message or other problems. However, we have built functionality into the program that allows ZoomText to send information about the problems it encountered to our servers here in Vermont. ZoomText sends this information over the Internet the same way that you browse the web (via an HTTP connection for all you techies out there). Once it gets to us we store it in our database for later analysis.
What exactly do you do with the information?
On a daily basis we analyze the error reports that we have received from all over the world. Most of the errors are innocuous and require no investigation. However, occasionally we spot a trend that indicates a problem; such as trouble with a ZoomText feature, an application, or web page. When we find something that needs further investigation we look at our program code and when necessary, contact users directly to see what problems they are experiencing.
So how can I turn on ZoomText error reporting?
You can turn on ZoomText’s error reporting during the setup process or after you’ve installed the program.
To turn on ZoomText’s error reporting during the setup process:
* During the setup process, you are presented with the option to "Report Severe Errors". When this option appears, check the Enable error reporting option and then proceed with the installation.
To turn on ZoomText’s error reporting after you’ve installed ZoomText:

1. From the ZoomText user interface choose Settings > Program…
2. Check the option Report ZoomText errors to Ai Squared via the Internet.
3. Click the Ok button.
After I’ve turned on ZoomText’s error reporting, what can I expect to see?
Well… nothing different. ZoomText’s error reporting occurs in the background and puts no perceivable load on your system. You won’t experience any decrease in performance or change in how your system behaves. Best of all, by turning on ZoomText’s error reporting you’ll be doing your part to help make ZoomText the best product it can be.
Where Do You Live On Planet ZoomText?
Have you ever stuck pins in a map to show all the places you’ve visited? If you’re a seasoned traveler, you’d be amazed what a visual representation of your travels look like.
We’ve been wondering what a map would look like that showed all the places where people are running ZoomText. While we know where all of our dealers are, we don’t have a good picture of where all of our ZoomText users are.
With the help of two cool Internet services – Google Maps and Frappr, and a little help from you, we can all get and idea of what "Planet ZoomText" looks like.
Take a look at the map below. It’s centered over Ai Squared headquarters in Manchester Center, Vermont. Each one of the small flags indicates where one of our ZoomText dealers or users lives. If you click "Add yourself! <> " and enter your own location you can help us grow this amazing mosaic of ZoomText users around the world. You can even attach a picture of yourself using ZoomText.

ZoomText Users <> Photos <>
Add yourself! <>
Image of map from frappr.
Please note that we have no control over Google Maps or Frappr. We just thought it was a fun diversion and an interesting perspective on ZoomText users worldwide. Also, you can enter your information without creating a Frappr account, so there are no risks in participating.
Stop by the Ai Squared homepage from time to time to see how the mapping of Planet ZoomText is coming along. Just take a quick trip to
Thanks for participating.
Ai Squared Holiday Hours
During this holiday season, Ai Squared will close their doors for a few days, allowing our hard-working employees extra time to be with family and friends. Should you need to contact Ai Squared during the holidays, our business hours will be as follows:

December 19th – 23rd Normal Business Hours
December 26th Closed
December 27th – 30th Normal Business Hours
January 2nd Closed
We like to thank you all for your continued support. Have a great holiday season.
The Ai Squared Team
Join Ai Squared at ATIA 2006
Ai Squared will be exhibiting at the ATIA Conference – January 18th through the 21st in Orlando, Florida. The conference will bring together leading experts and manufacturers of assistive technology. Attendees will take in four days of presentations, workshops and product exhibits.

The ATIA conference will be held at the Caribe Royale Resort & Convention Center.
Visit us at booth 518 to see the latest features in ZoomText 9.0 and pick up a free trial CD. You may also join us for our presentations:
* ZoomText 9.0 User Training
Friday, March 20th at 8:00 am – Curacao 6 Meeting Room
* ZoomText 9.0 New Features and Overview
Friday, March 20th at 9:15 am – Curacao 6 Meeting Room
* ZoomText 9.0: Overview for the AT Trainer
Friday, March 20th at 1:15 pm – Curacao 6 Meeting Room
We look forward to seeing you there. Learn more about ATIA 2006 <> .

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

New Humanware Audio Newsletter Out And Keysoft 7 Featured On Main Menu

Jonathan is talking about the new release of Keysoft set for launch in mid January. You can hear it on the ACB Radio Replay or wait for it to arrive on their On Demand section of the web page. In other Humanware news .. Check out what was sitting in my Inbox today.

HumanWare's Audio Newsletter 4 is now available online at In this edition of the audio newsletter you may:
Listen to Kurzweil Technical Support Engineer Paul Henrichsen discuss mPower and share his insights into which accessibility solution might be right for you.
Learn how Jim Halliday plans to utilize feedback from end-users to shape the future of HumanWare's product portfolio.
Meet Phil Rance, new CEO of HumanWare US, and hear first-hand how he anticipates the development of the new HumanWare.
Attention BrailleNote users! KeySoft 7.0 is just about ready to ship. Learn about Keysoft 7.0 with Jonathan Mosen, Blindness Product Manager.
Also, one lucky user will get the first copy for FREE! Enter yourself in the drawing for one FREE copy of KeySoft 7.0 at
175 Mason Circle
Concord CA 94520

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Welcome ACB Radio Users!

Boy was I ever surprised to open my browser to read the news of the day only to find my little ol’ Blog on the main page. Very Twilight Zone over a cup of coffee if you know what I mean. I say Twilight Zone because, if you noticed, the Outer Limits never really ended on a high note in most of it’s episodes. Kind of depressing and HP Lovecraft if you ask me.

This Blog is a Hodge Podge of info on Assistive Technology that I have found on the net, through Press Releases or through my direct contact with the Assistive Technology companies themselves. It’s also an unofficial account of some of the hands on experiences we have here at the Unit.

And by Unit I mean I work for a State Government Agency that has it’s own Assistive Technology Department. In our Unit we have over 45 CCTV units of various types, 6 braille displays, 5 braille embossers and all the leading products in the Screen Reader and Screen Magnifier categories. We also have the Pac Mates, Voice/Note mPowers and the Braille Sense. But, of course, that’s not all. We have several products that we are evaluating for companies at any given time.

We see people around the state who need technology to help them with their access of work or school and we make recommendations based upon their experiences with the equipment housed here. So we are like one big free focus group for AT companies which works out for the people we serve and the companies themselves.

So if I tell you something here about a piece of technology it is generally either based on a personal observation of that equipment or it came from an industry player. And with that said you want to pop back here for when I hit LA in March. I will be doing some real time updating if I can find a wireless connection.

Oh and by the way..
Please feel free to link here or tell others about the site. I know it’s not much to look at but I am trying to remain PDA and Blind Friendly. I created this site for the sole purpose of posting my info in one place rather then seeing myself plagiarized all over the forums and list serves. I mean that’s still going to happen of course but at least I know that I posted it here first and hey I might get a link out of it .. maybe. Still this thing was designed to be a helping hand and that’s why I am honored that I made the splash page at ACB.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

December 05 Tech Update: The Out Of Stock Edition

Update: Hi to all the people reading this archive from ACB Radio. Check out the regular postings of this Blog at

Good grief. Every time I went to finish this one something new would come out. And here I thought everyone would wait for ATIA next month. Whew!

Steve’s Phrase Of The Month
“Drive By Upload”
Definition: A DBU happens when someone uses your wireless network to upload a file. It is also used for when someone who uses your system to do something illegal leaving all records to point to you doing the wrongful activity. This is mentioned often in cases with the RIAA or the MPAA. Recently a Chicago mother of two stated that she was a victim of a DBU when a friend of one of her children uploaded the movie “Coach Carter” to a file sharing site.

Roy’s Toy Box
Clear Type Is Not Always Your Friend.

Now a days AT will disable the Clear Type function in Windows XP, however, we still see it causing problems with Screen Readers in the field. To disable Clear Type do the following:

Go to Display Properties in the Control Panel.
Select the Appearance Tab.
Choose the “Effects” button.
From there look for the check box that talks about Font Smoothing. Remove the check box to make sure XP won’t use Clear Type or place a check in the box and select “Standard” from the combo box that is below the Smoothing Options.

~~ Lightning Round!

So many people like this segment that it may just end up being a regular feature.

` Freedom Scientific: FS has added a line of CCTV units to their portfolio of AT offerings. Check out the Topaz line here:

` Open Book: An Open Book Mini Patch is now available for 7.02 users. We had some trouble with it and other competing products so be warned that you may want to set a system restore point before using this 35 MB patch. Find it here:

* Keysoft 7: KS7 will be a paid upgrade and it will be available on 1/15/06. More on this lower down on this mail.

* Jawboned: The popular bridge between JFW and Dragon is no more. J-Say 3.0, Standard and Pro, would be the logical substitute for this product. At this time, however, it is not on the APL.

* Skype: For those who don’t use JFW 7.0 you may want to check out this product upcoming from Wizard.

* Nuance: The makers of Dragon have a product that puts them in the same arena as Talks and Mobile Speak.
* Trekker 2.7: The GPS solution has been updated.

* Dektalk: Version 4.6.5 sports Windows Mobile features.

* Braille Sense: Recently the unit has a new update available to Version 3.0 Build 20051124. We are waiting on release notes but just be aware that there is an update for this unit.

* Easy Link: Optelec has lowered their prices on this competitor to the Maestro.

* Sighted Electronics: Looks like Braille support for Mac is back.

“Please read announcement at we have Braille translation for the new Mac OS10 applications. This means we have Braille translation for all Windows and Mac applications as well as Braille graphics for Microsoft applications, all for a fraction of the cost of the nearest competitor's Braille device.”

* Clearview CCTV: We had another issue with power supplies and overheats on the new PC unit. Make sure you let Chrystal Vision know if you have any issues with these units.

*Top Tech Tid Bits: There’s some info on Dancing Dots, education and voice email.

~~ “Keying You Softly With His Song”

Keysoft 7 is cool. Yes I said cool. You have games and some fractional math stuff. . . and a FM Radio for mPower users. Oh yeah there’s some thing about a data base for importing and exporting Excel but honestly it’s the radio that is the key right? Anyway, we saw a demonstration of the update and it’s worth it if you really need the data base functions for your job. Otherwise mPower users get the bigger benefits here. See the PR release at the bottom of the mail to read all the changes in 7.

~~ “Support This!”
Contributed By Robert Mejia

How many licks does it take to stop supporting older products? Check out the funny language from this Ai Squared back pedal.

“Effective November 30th, 2005, Ai Squared will reinstate phone and email support for registered ZoomText 7 users. Support for ZoomText 7 had been discontinued earlier in the month.

"We underestimated the number of people that are still using ZoomText 7", said Ben Weiss, President of Ai Squared. "The product is over 6 years old and does not have support for Windows XP, but a surprising number of people are still using it. We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused."

As a special offer to our customers, if you have called requesting phone support for ZoomText 7 between November 1st and November 29th, you qualify for a special discount on an upgrade to ZoomText 9.0. Please contact our sales department at (800) 857-0270 for more details.”

~~ “HALacious Pocket Sized Goodness”

Dolphin seems to be going crazy with releases. Creator, Publisher and Professor have all been released and it’s great for those who want to do more with Daisy. Now you can use a fully operational copy of Supernova on a PDA. Check out more here:

~~ “It’s Tigerific and Vistastic!”

Many are in the age old debate of who stole who from whom when it comes to Microsoft and Apple. Truth is they all owe Xerox Park almost everything that said to be stolen from one or the other camp. But the debate will roll on a new as you can see from this early comparison between Tiger and Vista.

~~ “Browser War 2: The Phantom menace”

It’s being wildly regarded in the computer industry that Mozilla has hit it’s saturation point. Of course it does this right when all the AT products provide support for it of course. Being that as it may here’s a look at Internet Explorer 7.

Press Releases

** Whal Mart

Dear members of the blind community:

As of December 1, Walmart has installed at least three point of sale
units with tactile keypads in every store in the country (over
10,000 units!) The new units allow blind shoppers to enter their
PIN confidentially; tens of thousands more units will be installed
by Walmart over the next three and a half years.

Walmart is training staff about the location of the new machines and
their importance to blind shoppers. As with anything else new in a
store, however, it is possible that not all staff may know where the
new units are located. If you encounter any problems in a Walmart
store in connection with the new units, or have feedback on their
operation, please let us know by email or phone using the contact
information below. You can also use this contact information to
let us know about other retailers with flat screen devices that
force blind people to disclose their PIN when using debit cards.

Phone: 1.800.332.6177 (please leave a message)

Thank you very much
Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian

** I.D. Mate

How do you use your i.d. mate II? We want to know! Participate and you’ll receive a free upgrade to your i.d. mate II database or a set of 100 barcode labels!

What do you use i.d. mate II for? How do you use it around the house? At work? With your hobbies? For household organization? We want to hear from you, our valued customers, how i.d. mate II has changed your life. We’ve added a new discussion area to our website. We want to hear your feedback on i.d. mate II and give you a chance to share your stories and ideas with other users. Do you have helpful information, great ideas or even a question? Share it online! Go to our website via the link below and tell us all about how you use your i.d. mate II.

Link to the discussion:

Please add your comments before the end of the year! We will contact you via email and send you a coupon for a free database upgrade worth $50. To share database information, suggestions for new products, or other general information, click on the ‘i.d. mate general discussion’ page.

We welcome your comments!

Anna McClure
Marketing Representative
En-Vision America
2012 W. College Ave.
Suite 200

Normal, IL 61761
309-452-3088 x116
309-452-3643 (fax)
309-212-7011 (cell)

** Keysoft 7

HumanWare will be releasing KeySoft 7 in mid-January 2006, and it's our
biggest and best release ever!
Whether you have a BrailleNote or VoiceNote mPower, a BrailleNote PK, or a
BrailleNote or VoiceNote Classic, there's a version of KeySoft 7 that will
be available for you. KeySoft 7 takes one count from your Software
Maintenance Agreement (SMA). An SMA allows you to receive two major versions of KeySoft for the price of one. Remember, SMAs only can be used for a version of KeySoft if they are purchased prior to the release of the
software concerned. So if you are not yet an SMA holder, ensure you get the
best deal on KeySoft 7 plus the next major release of KeySoft by purchasing
your SMA now. What a great holiday present for you or that special BrailleNote user in your life.Note that the cost of KeySoft 7 on its own is exactly the same as the cost of an SMA, so an SMA represents by far the best value for money. Contact HumanWare or your local dealer for KeySoft 7 pricing.

Please note that KeySoft 7 will not run on the original BrailleNote,
discontinued in 2002, that does not have a compact flash slot in the back of
the unit. The latest version of KeySoft that runs on these units is 4.02. By
BrailleNote Classic, we refer to the BrailleNotes and VoiceNotes prior to
BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower that have a compact flash slot in the back
of the units. Original BrailleNote owners should contact Humanware about
transplanting to BrailleNote mPower.

What's in KeySoft 7?
We promised that KeySoft 7 would be our best release ever, and as you look
at this extensive feature list, you can see we've packed in a wide range of
features that will change the way you work, learn and play.Key Base, Available on All Models

With KeyBase, you've got it sorted! This new application, available from
KeySoft's Main Menu, is a powerful database manager allowing easy creation
of your own databases. KeyBase ships with many useful databases to assist
you in cataloging your music collection, keeping track of home inventory,
entering recipes, logging ham radio contacts and so much more. But the step
by step wizard-style interface of KeyBase makes it a snap to create your own
databases too. Simply tell KeyBase the names of your fields and the type of
data you want to store in that field. Be specific right down to the kind of
Braille you want to be entered into a field if you wish. Want to share your
database with others? Then you can even customize the messages users read
when they press the help key when entering data into each field.

KeyBase allows easy importing and exporting to and from many applications
including Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access and many on-line banking

KeyPlus Just Got Smarter with Fractions, Available on All Models
Work with fractions in the updated KeyPlus Scientific Calculator. As well as
performing standard mathematical operations, you can convert fractions to
decimals and vice versa, convert fractions to and from percentages, convert
a fraction to its lowest terms, and much more.

Let the Games Begin, available on all models
One of the most frequent questions asked of HumanWare about the BrailleNote
family has always been, "can you play games on this?" Now, the answer is a
resounding yes, as interactive fiction comes to KeySoft. Interactive fiction, also known as text adventures, will take you into mysterious worlds where you can look at your environment, move around, collect objects, talk to all kinds of strange creatures and sometimes find yourself trapped. There
are hundreds of compatible interactive fiction games available for download
on the Internet, ranging from educational titles for kids right through to
epic fantasy for the serious gamer, and you can play them right on your
BrailleNote or VoiceNote. Easily switch in and out of games when you need to check e-mail or make anote, play music in the background while you solve the latest mystery, or save games for later resumption.

Braille Input for JAWS for Windows, available on all models
Window-eyes users have for some time been able to control their Windows PC
from their BrailleNote in Braille terminal mode. Now, that feature is
available for JAWS for Windows users as well. Compose e-mail, write a
Microsoft Word document or work with your spreadsheets on your PC, all from
your BrailleNote's keyboard.

More Configurable E-mail, available on all models Some Internet service providers are now using non-standard POP and SMTP server ports as an attempt to increase security. While most users will not need to be concerned with this, those customers on Internet providers adopting this approach can now specify any port for both POP and SMTP traffic.

More Bluetooth Support, available on BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower, and
BrailleNote PK The integrated Bluetooth support in BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower and BrailleNote PK just got even more useful! In KeySoft 7 you can,

Use your device as a remote synthesizer for your PC with no wires attached. Take your BrailleNote or VoiceNote mPower or BrailleNote PK up to
10 meters (30 feet) away from your PC and still hear what your screen reader
>is saying.

Use your device as a wireless Braille display. With BrailleNote
mPower and PK operating as a wireless Braille display, coupled with the
keyboard input functionality, you have complete control over your PC as far
as 10 meters (30 feet) away from your PC. Take the BrailleNote outside on a
sunny day and keep on working on your PC using the keyboard input functionality. Control a PowerPoint presentation in front of your audience,
even when the PC is tucked away in an inconvenient place. The possibilities
are limitless!

Drive a wireless visual display. Want to give a presentation using
data on your BrailleNote? Are you a teacher who wants to be able to check a
student's work with no wires or fuss? The extension of the visual display
function to include Bluetooth makes all this possible. Use a range of devices for the visual display function including Palm Pilots and Windows HyperTerminal.

Voice Recorder for BrailleNote PK
The popular voice recorder for BrailleNote mPower arrives on BrailleNote PK
in KeySoft 7. Just press the handy record button on the front of your BrailleNote PK, and make recordings using the built-in microphone.

Eloquence Speech for BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower
>HumanWare's BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower becomes the first device of its kind to offer you a choice of speech synthesizer. Use the highly responsive
and accurate KeyNote Gold speech that has been one of KeySoft's strongest
features, or switch to the familiar Eloquence speech that is now widely available on access technology products. When Eloquence is active, you may also choose to have hyperlinks voiced in a different Eloquence voice when using KeyWeb, making the web really come to life.

Fm Radio for BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower
That's right, your BrailleNote or VoiceNote mPower is now an FM radio too!
Scan the FM band for your stations and save them as presets. Read the
frequency on the Braille display or the station name if you've saved that
information. Listen to the FM radio while you work on other tasks. Control
the volume of the FM radio separately from the volume of the speech. Even
use the recorder to record FM radio stations.

Don't Miss KeySoft 7
We told you KeySoft 7 would be our most exciting release ever, and as you
can see, we weren't kidding. Make sure you have a current Software maintenance Agreement so you can download your copy of KeySoft 7 in mid-January. KeySoft 7 from HumanWare will change the way you work, learn and play.

Friday, December 09, 2005

My First Ice Day Off In Years Well Spent With My Materialism Worldly Goods

When in Houston we could expect to work through all the horrible weather we saw in the north. True we would have to swim to work in the spring but that’s not so bad as the slippery slimy ice. So one year in Austin and the ice comith. And I stayith my little rear end in the nice warm house with my newly nabbed goods.

You see I HAD TO go to Target the other night to pick up a Holiday Ornament for our party and gift exchange. And while I was there I just happened to notice the sales on DVD andCDs. And oh how did I spend too much money on gifts for myself. If there is any solace to be found it would be that the Wife was right there beside me. Okay she got some stuff too. Heh heh.

I grabbed the new Korn Dual Disc set “See You On The Other Side”. I am still playing around with that one because the second of the two album set from System Of A Down has not often left the speakers. “Hypnotize” is not as commercially friendly as this year’s earlier outing “Mesmerize”, however, it’s truly a follow up to their self titled release. I also found the new Gorilaz on sale for the Wife and it’s fair but I honestly have to stop playing SOAD long enough to recognize that I bout other things.

I went in with a hidden agenda of picking up Day 4 of 24 only to find out that FOX for the first time priced their TV DVD Sets out of what I would consider a good deal. $44? Nope. But $16 bucks for the Family Guy movie was right up my alley. And I found Aqua Teen Hunger Force Vol. 4 for $19. So that got in the pile.

Now getting back to the ice bit I mentioned earlier. For the first time in a long time I was able to have the time to actually play with my toys, including some quality time with the PS2, thanks to that cool little eighth of an inch of ice covering everything. Now I have to start learning about those superstitions for bringing on Snow Days. It’s true y’know we revert to our younger selves as we age.

Friday, December 02, 2005

New In The Unit.. Week of Dec 1st!

We always get tons of new toys to play with here in the Unit. It’s like Xmas but our gifts range in the thousands of dollars. Honestly it warps me a little just thinking how much is out on the floor. I mean just think about how much 42 different CCTV units cost and then keep adding up the Braille Displays for a third of what’s in our four walls.

This week we received the revamped Braille Voyager from Optelec. This unit is drastically improved from the first incarnations which had the power supply of death. Well death for your equipment at any rate. The USB and power management has been completely reworked but driver support is still a chore. We are looking at it now for a chance to add it to the throng of the other approved displays.

The Merlin series gets more complex every day. Now Enhanced Vision offers a Merlin with a 19 inch TFT/TV which also comes with all the bells and whistles of the Merlin PC Option. Now you can have your CCTV and Computer Monitor all in one from the base of your CCTV camera. It’s not the first unit we have seen that does this.. it’s just our newest.

Say It All claims to be a hand held Bill Identifier, Color Identifier and other Swiss Army Knife functions. Claims is the right term as it does do a ton of functions if just doesn’t do any of them well. Or accurately. Or understandably. Well you get the idea.

We also have gotten a redesigned Traveler Portable CCTV unit from Optelec, the newly redesigned Quick Look with Color Filtering options from Ash Technologies, Window Eyes 5.5 from GW Micro, a Voice Note QT mPower unit from Humanware and a Clearview PC Access unit [got it to work by the way] from Optelec in over the last few weeks. Like I said.. it’s Xmas all year round.

What we expect to see in the next month or so is:

JAWS 7.1
A new version of the Smartview2 8000
A portable CCTV from a vender I can’t talk about yet.
And eventually the US version of the Optelec Clear Note Laptop assisted unit. This thing is the answer to the LVI Magnalink Student.

Oh and Vista Public Beta 1. Can’t forget about that.

Friday, November 25, 2005

On A Clearview Day You Can See Forever

The term “early adopter” has been coming up more and more in the AT business lately. Both software and hardware have that ability in the real world as well, however, most Blind users of technology don’t buy enough electronic doo dads to know this to be a tech thing more than a Blind tech thing.

Times have changed dramaticly over the last few years. Some may remember the first iteration of the Pac Mate. Others will remember the 8 patches that ran Zoom Text through the 7.0x era. Rarely does this little trend effect the CCTV side of the cube.

In the last two years Optelec has tried to change things up. Their original attempt at a Flat Panel display unit resulted in the aptly named Optelec Flex. Legal issues had them change it to the Flexible Flat but that wasn’t the only trouble associated with the line of units.

The thing came in three boxes and better yet it had it’s own set of tools for assembly. You could sometimes count on two hours of your life being used to get this monster up and running. Despite all of this the unit still had what people wanted namely the Tray Controls and the Red Reading Light Indicator. You just had to go around Robin Hood’s barn to get there. For a detailed list of steps check out Access World’s article on the unit in question.

So like any good company the brains of the tech R&D division found ways to avoid the problems of the Flex. And by doing so they created all news ones in the process. See the new line of Clearview units is modular. Ikea like modular. Now on the front of this prospect this is a great idea. You can keep inventory low by making the base X/Y tables and just make the camera types you need on demand. Then add the ability to make a Black and White unit into a Color PC Ready unit through hardware upgrade feature packs. Again great on paper. The result is sadly not as cool as the idea.

We have seen three units perform badly. We have noticed that if the camera is hot then your unit is not long for this world. And better yet there was an instance where we hit a button that was meant to switch it from PC Split to normal CCTV and the unit shut the monitor completely off. Neat eh? Well it really stinks when you aren’t connected to a PC to begin with let me tell you.

Optelec is aware of some issues with the first generation of these new units and there has been a warning sent out to Dealers. If you know anyone who has a new Clearview and they are noticing problems notify your Dealer post haste. Especially the power/overheating camera. That’s a nasty one.

The changes on these units have already been addressed so hopefully newer units shipped won’t have these issues. Or we hope that’s the case. On Monday I have to trouble shoot a new Clearview PC unit that just stopped it’s switching to the PC for some reason. New off the truck and installed by Optelec themselves no less. Looks like I will update you all on that later.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The 360 Is Out. Well Out Of Stock That Is..

Who needs "Saw" or "Nightmare On Elm Street" when you can get so much more out of what you hear from others at a system launch? Hordes of zombies with only one thing on their minds. Yep it’s the Xbox 360 instead of brains. However the case could be made that some of the throng doesn’t have any brains to speak of either.

Take for instance the individuals who didn’t listen to the internet, the store clerk or any other media outlet by deciding to just show up at launch and cop a system. This thing has been sold out since preorder hoaxes at E3 yet some went out and braved horrible weather in order to be number 167 in line for the store’s 20 units.

Cries of “Microsoft is evil!” and “Artificial Demand To Sell More Systems” have rang out like church bells this morning from non fanboys and the MS loyalists alike. But older gamers know this to be nothing new really. If you want a quick Videogame history lesson then you need go no further to the Xmas where Nintendo strategically released only a quarter of the Goldeneye shipment to desperate N64 owners. Then on December 23rd they shipped a few more. And on January 3rd you couldn’t swing a dead controller without hitting a Goldeneye cart. So the art of demand has been pioneered by others far before the launch of this system. And I don’t think the poor guy at EB, Best Buy or Gamestop has much to do with the lack of systems shipped to each store despite claims on the net to the contrary.

If there is any complaint to be worth it’s merit it’s the movie analogy of paying more money for a sequel. You would think that $11 a ticket would have some think twice about spending money on another cookie cutter hack’em up, however, they still make Friday the 13th movies don’t they? The same can be said of the 360. This is the most expensive console to come out in almost a decade, there is no Core System in my book, and no matter how many elves Microsoft had outsourced this year there seems to be no way on earth they could meet the demand set by the awesome marketing power of Microsoft it’s self.

It’s like going to your fave Cineplex only to see that six theaters are sold out until 2006. But is the 360 one of those movies that has a great opening only to drop off the next week like a particular movie called “Get Rich Or Dye Trying”? Chances are that the 360 is going to be like a Star Wars film. You may not want to see it in the first week of release but darned if you don’t feel that at some point you have to see it to stay on even keel with everyone else. Or at least until you hear about the next big blockbuster.

And that next big release doesn’t seem like it’s coming in the summer of 06 like those trailers said it would. No Sony looks to be on the way to making a bigger mistake than underestimating the need for MP3 support in the Walkman. The Playstation 3 is turning out to be more and more of a movie out of control with no script, an ever increasing budget and the best of them all a continuously moving release date. The only difference is that Sony can’t release this straight to DVD like they did with the Pocketstation.

For as crazy as it sounds Microsoft may have just done the impossible in spite of it’s own mistakes. Releasing a year early may seem like the right idea around E3. And balking at $399 will seem like the days of remembering $1 candy at the concession stand come Xmas or whenever the console sees the light of day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Too Much Entertainment And Not Enough Down Time To Enjoy It!!

In high school I used to think about how cool it was gonna be to be able to afford the toys, games and other bobbles I was amassing in my Geek stock pile. But I had no idea that my hobbies would become jobs in their own right.

When I was 7 I wanted to be a DJ. I studied and memorized and practiced reading copy. And man do I have a nice music collection. But it's hard to realize that the job you want as a kid doesn't pay very well as an adult. Nor did I know at the time that the satisfaction of Radio can be a one sided affair.

My love of movies and Laser Discs got me into my next gig in Home Theater sales. I was actually paid, thank you Tandy/Radio Shack, to sit on my behind and watch movies. I would then take said movies and work out the best scenes for demonstration on new or crappy equipment we needed to sell. DCM speakers, for example, were great for action movies but they sounded like tin cans for music lovers. Anyway a hobby once again ended up being a job.

I ended up working at Gateway's Technical Support department by a fluke action from a friend. I had come back to Houston after closing Incredible Universe Dallas [and a real brief stent at the first Fry's store up there] looking for something to do. My pal suggested that I would learn tons about computers in just 30 days on the phones. And he was so right. Again.. hobby equals job.

As I was learning about computers myself I ended up being the family member everyone called to fix their computers over the phone. Research became the key and through research I learned that there was more than just Zoom Text and JAWS in the world of computer access. I then went semi pro by doing Assistive Technology Training on the side. Which then led me into my current gig as a government drone. Hobbies win again.

The thing is that I get so focused on the things I do because they are things I like doing. Which now leads me back the subject line. I, the Geek Adult, now have money for my hobbies and because of my schedule I don't have the time to relish in my rewards. Tivo has robbed me of any life beyond my scheduled grid of shows. I must have all my cable channels available as it would be a world ending calamity if there was something on that wife and I may wish to view only to be blocked by subscription. And now I have this brand new Smackdown Vs. RAW 2006 for the Playstation 2.. and I have to go to some boring conference and do what will probably end up being an equally borring presentation. That's right! I can actually get tired of hearing myself people. Let those jokes go to a nice resting place because I already know and feel the same way sometimes.

Thoughts of packing up the PS2 with a RF Adaptor for down time in the hotel have crossed my mind though. But that would be just sad.. hmmm.. I think that cable is in the bedroom closet behind the stack of audio books I swear I am going to read some day.

Friday, November 11, 2005

iZoom 2 Go Now With Fewer Strings Attached

As a follow up to the news on iZoom 1.2 from I bring you a report on iZoom for your USB drive.

Here's my problem with this software. As bad as some may feel about the version changes and frequency of upgrades for major venders you can't argue that, in most cases, the software works overall. Free and cheap come at a more substantial and hidden price. There is more compatibility withtoday's technology than ever before because these major companies have spent time, effort and money to get users to a level where they can compete with their sighted co-workers. Research and Development is manditory and frankly it costs money. There's no cheap or free solution to good access technology people. You can't win if you don't play and that means you save your pennies and go with what works from a company that supports their product.

There.. I said it. Remember that this also comes from the guy who recognizes that Microsoft is the devil you know and Linux is the devil that's just inaccessible with today's Assistive Technology.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New CCTV By Ash On The Way

Recently we met with Ash Technologies and we were shown a new Portable CCTV Unit. The unit is still in the prototype stages and it might be shown publicly at ATIA in January.

The unit has a possible product name, which I can’t divulge, and it fits it’s space age look and feel. This new unit looks like a small Laptop and is 7 Lbs. in weight. It opens up clam shell/laptop like with the top half of the unit being the 7 inch LCD color display. The bottom half of the unit houses the mouse camera which some might recognize from the Liberty Solo designs. The mouse cam can be used inside the unit and the entire unit can be rolled back and forth like Optelec’s Traveler. The camera, however, can also be removed from the bottom portion and used like the Liberty’s mouse.

The unit is rechargeable and it can go 3 hours plus on a single charge. The 7 inch screen is wide like the Liberty and the camera may or may not be included with a retractable cord. The silver casing also makes it look like a Gateway Solo Laptop and this is said to be on course with the Laptop feel/design.

The unit has color filtering modes and a nice array of shading hues. It’s color chip had not been optimized in the prototype, however, what we did see was crisp and bright. Smearing was not as evident as in some models of it’s size plus the wide screen made line reading a breeze.

The price point of the unit had not been decided upon yet but we were told that it was to fall in line with other products of it’s ilk. Then we learned that it was to replace the Liberty Solo 7 inch model. That means it’s going to fall in line with the rest of the prices in the mid line Portable CCTV market.

I will post a link to this unit when it is publicly unveiled..

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

November 05 Tech Update: The Never Ending Patches Edition.

Steve’s Word Of The Month
Root Kit
Definition: A Root Kit is a piece of Malware [Malicious Software] used by Hackers to get your computer to do something without you knowing it when some other program is in use. Sony recently modified a Root Kit to have your computer block you from ripping Sony CDs and other Sony products. There’s now a patch out to remove the software, however, it’s harder than Gator to find the thing and remove it completely. See more about this on Slashdot.

Lightning Round

Again we have more quick bits to talk about so brace yourself for the return of the Lightning Round.

` I will be posting a bunch of content from people like former ATU staff member Bob Wiley and other poor unsuspecting ATU staff on my Blog over the next few weeks. Check out the Blog for stuff that doesn’t make it into the updates at:

` Scansoft is no more. The new company’s name is Nuance and you can find them at:

` The new J-Say Standard and Pro are now available. This program now garners full support from Freedom Scientific which means bad news for Jawbones. See the new version of J-Say at:

` Kurzweil has a patch up for the recently released 10.0. Download the patch at:

` There’s a new patch for Keysoft. This patch addresses a shutdown error with some mPower units. Download Keysoft 6.2 at:

` Zoom Text has updated it’s self on Halloween to For all intensive purposes let’s just say 9.01 and be done with things. The patch addresses a few Firefox and Office issues. It also disables the custom dictionary for Neospeech in 9x by the way. Get the update from here:

` Window Eyes 5.5 is now official and on line at the GW site. Get the specs at:

` November’s Windows Updates are up. Only two this month with entries in Security and Malware programs. There is also an optional Windows Media WMDRM update which is about 6 meg. Otherwise the updates are small this month. The update that is huge, about 22 MB, is the one for .NET 2.0. And it takes a long time to install as well. It’s optional and you don’t have to run it if your not a .NET fan.

` The new version of AVG is said to be fairly good with Screen Reader access. I am wide open to opinions on this by the way. Get the latest version from :

` Adobe Acrobat is now at 7.05. The update feature in Acrobat is problematic. You may have to uninstall and reinstall Acrobat to get to the newest version with greater ease. Also be sure to avoid the extra software that Yahoo and others like to attach to Acrobat.

` The dates for the next Trainer Workshop are semi set. Feb 23rd and 24th are our target dates. More on this soon.

` Check out last week’s Top Tid Bits newsletter for some interesting information:

` A great way to learn about the new stuff in AT is listening to Main Menu from ACB Radio. They have updated their archives and I highly recommend taking a look.

~~ “Hand Held Mayhem”

Be aware that there are some new versions of Hand Held CCTV units on the market. Remember that newer Telesensory Pico units display in blue and yellow Hughes as well as the standard color/Black and White modes. Ash Technologies updated their Quick Look unit in July. It now has multiple color filtering modes and a sharper display. Be careful not to mention these newer features with consumers who have older units as you might go down a path you did not intend to venture down originally.

~~ “iZoom To Your Wallet”

Remember that stuff about iZoom being free? Well the free version is very limited. now offers a new updated version for $79 with other features. Check out the info from the Screen Magnifiers Home Page:

~~ “UnOpened Office Accessibility”

The new Open Office 2.0 project has hit a few snags since it’s initial posting last month. Incompatibility with Access Software is one thing but try no compatibility with Microsoft Office. For once MS isn’t the bad guy.

~~ “You’ve Got A Seat In The Front Rowwww!”

Apple is working on a version of Windows XP Media Edition and it’s name is Front Row. Between this and Tiger’s Automator you could really impress the neighbors on Movie Night.

~~ “Today Is A Good Day To Buy Trek!”

Not exactly the Klingon battle cry but what Klingon wouldn’t love to own every Trek series and movie on DVD? 212 discs and over 600 hours of viewing pleasure. See the price of this thing at Amazon.;tagActionCode=trektoday

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Victory Taste Like Coffee For Texans Fans!

Just as a follow up to an earlier post. I thought it was funny that I wasn't cheering for the first win of the season.. but for some odd reason all I cared about was landing free coffee from Exxon due to this dam promotion they run on the radio every five minutes. Sad that millions of dollars in time, money and player's salries break down to $1.35 in coffee for me.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Zoom News For October


ZoomText 9.0 in the Real World
The release of ZoomText 9.0, featuring xFont and NeoSpeech, has created a wave of excitement throughout the low vision community. New and old users alike have been amazed by how ZoomText 9.0 has made it easy for them to see, hear and use their computer. Many are so thrilled that they felt the need to share their stories with Ai Squared. We'd like to share a few of these stories with you ...
Tom Evans owns a vending company in San Jose, California. A one-man operation, Tom splits his work day between servicing vending machines and researching potential vending opportunities on the Internet. Tom also has Stargardt’s disease, the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration.
Being visually impaired, Tom admits that he is slow to notice changes in the world around him. It once took him a month to discover the two pieces of furniture he bought for his home were not the same color. But when Tom tried out the new ZoomText 9.0, he noticed the changes immediately.
Tom told us, "I’ve been a user of ZoomText for over 15 years and have purchased each upgrade along the way. With some of the upgrades the changes weren’t immediately apparent to me. This was not the case with ZoomText 9.0. I noticed immediately that the text was clearer, way better than any of the previous versions. The new xFont is great!"
Tom reports that with ZoomText 9.0 he can now use his computer for longer periods of time before his eyes become tired.

Prior to receiving ZoomText 9.0, Carol-Ann would alter screen colors and contrast, and bold her fonts in order to improve the clarity of text. But doing so gave her a distorted view of her applications and documents. Carol-Ann now reports that with the new xFont magnification in ZoomText 9.0, she can easily read text without having to make any color, contrast or font adjustments.
"ZoomText's new xFont magnification is remarkable!" says Carol-Ann. "My eye strain is all but eliminated by the improved clarity. And I can type email in a regular font without my recipient interpreting my message as shouting."
Why not see for yourself what these three users have seen? Download a free 30-day trial of ZoomText 9.0 from When you are ready to purchased ZoomText 9.0, call us toll-free at (800) 859-0270.
NeoSpeech Gives ZoomText a Friendly Voice
By definition, speech synthesis is the artificial production of human speech. These words bring to mind an artificial human or a robot. In the past, that’s all text-to-speech technology could offer the assistive technology industry. If you wished to make a computer speak, you could do so only in a robotic manner. Lately, the trend in computing is to make everything friendlier, and the new NeoSpeech synthesizer brings that friendliness to ZoomText 9.0.
With NeoSpeech, ZoomText reads all of your applications and documents with voices that are clear and enjoyable to listen to. Whether you’re navigating menus, typing text, or reading your email, the human-like voices of NeoSpeech make it easy to understand what’s being spoken.
NeoSpeech also improves on the way numbers, symbols, acronyms and abbreviations are spoken. With these improvements, phone numbers, addresses, dollar amounts, and dates are read in a more natural and contextually correct manner.
ZoomText 9.0 ships with two NeoSpeech voices – Paul and Kate. If you haven’t already upgraded to ZoomText 9.0, we encourage you to download the free 30-day trial from and give a listen to the amazing clarity of NeoSpeech.
Already downloaded the ZoomText 9.0 trial without NeoSpeech?
Perhaps you downloaded a ZoomText 9.0 trial from our web site and in the interest of time, you selected a smaller download without NeoSpeech. No problem, you can download and install the NeoSpeech synthesizers using ZoomText’s "Download Program Components" feature. Here’s how ...
1. Start ZoomText 9.0.
2. In the Help menu, choose Download Program Components...
The Ai Squared web site opens with the ZoomText Program Components page displayed.
3. In the NeoSpeech Synthesizers (English only) section, click the link for the desired NeoSpeech Installer:
NeoSpeech Full Installer (Paul and Kate)
NeoSpeech Kate Installer
NeoSpeech Paul Installer
4. Once the download is complete, double-click the file to install the voice(s).
5. Follow on screen instructions and reboot when asked.
6. Start ZoomText.
NeoSpeech is now the default synthesizer.
Setting NeoSpeech as the Default Synthesizer
In the initial run of ZoomText 9.0 CDs, ZoomText was not configured (as intended) to use NeoSpeech as the default speech synthesizer.
We want to be sure that users experience the clear, human-sounding voices provided by NeoSpeech, so we are providing the following instructions for setting NeoSpeech as your default synthesizer.
1. Start ZoomText.
2. In the Reader menu, choose Synthesizer...
The Speech dialog appears with the Synthesizer tab displayed.
3. Make sure the Enable speech output box is checked.
4. In the Synthesizer list, choose NeoSpeech English.
5. In the Voice list, choose the desired NeoSpeech voice: Paul or Kate.
6. Click the OK button.
7. In the File menu, choose Save As Default.
Maurie's Corner: ZoomText on the Web
<> It’s hard to imagine using a computer without taking advantage of the infinite "World Wide Web". From the comfort of my desk, I can research any topic, comparison shop, set up travel plans, and read a newspaper from anywhere in the world. Once, I even ordered groceries online and had them delivered to my very rural doorstep.
Because of my visual impairment, I used to dread going online as it was difficult to find what I needed, especially when visiting new websites. For me, this really defeated the purpose of using the web, because for the most part you are always visiting new websites. Fortunately, with continued improvements in ZoomText, and particularly in the new ZoomText 9.0, I’ve become a proficient web surfer.
Here’s how ZoomText 9.0 helps me navigate and read on the web…
The new xFont text magnification makes it easy for me to read any text on any web page. Regardless of the font type, size or color, the text is always straight and clear, a tremendous improvement over previous versions of ZoomText. And when I enable the xFont bolding option the text really pops out, allowing me to work at a lower magnification level. This is a real bonus as I can now see more content on my screen.
Colors on web pages have always been an issue for me. Who selects those low contrast muted colors anyway? Are they blind or what? To work around this problem I start with my favorite ZoomText color enhancement scheme - ‘Invert Brightness’. This greatly reduces the glare and improves contrast. To enable this option, from the Magnifier toolbar, choose Color > Scheme > Invert Brightness. Next, I adjust the color of links in Internet Explorer. From IE’s menu bar I select Tools > Internet Options > Colors. In the Colors dialog, I select higher contrast colors for visited and unvisited links. No more light blue links for this web surfer!
Reading web pages with ZoomText has improved by leaps and bounds. I can now sit back and let ZoomText read to me. For reading long passages of text, such as newspaper articles, I use AppReader. Just press the AppReader hotkey: ALT + SHIFT + A, and then click where you want ZoomText to start reading. When you want ZoomText to stop reading, just click again. For reading small blocks of text, such as tables and sidebars, use the SpeakIt tool. Press ALT + SHIFT + I and then click and drag over the text that you want ZoomText to read.
Finding links on a web page used to be a real pain. But with ZoomText’s Web Finder, I can find the link I’m looking for in three quick steps. First, I press the Web Finder hotkey: ALT + SHIFT + W; the Web Finder dialog displays a complete list of links in the current page. Second, I type what I’m looking for in the Search For box and the list of links automatically shortens to matching items. And third, I select the link I’m interested in from the shortened list and click the Execute Link button to navigate to the new page. I can now get around on the Internet much faster.
Whether you’re researching, shopping, planning a vacation or reading a newspaper, ZoomText can help you get the most out of your web experience. If you haven’t explored the web much because of your vision problem, I hope I’ve given you sound advice and the confidence to go surfing.
Quick Tips: Adjusting ZoomText’s Reading Rate
<> With ZoomText Magnifier/Reader you can select separate reading rates for screen reading and document reading. This added flexibility allows you to adjust the reading rate according to the task you are performing, so that you can work faster and more efficiently. For example, you can choose a faster reading rate for screen reading related tasks – such as navigating menus and dialogs, and typing text; and a more moderate rate for reading documents, web pages and email with ZoomText’s AppReader and DocReader.
Setting up separate screen reading and document reading rates is quick and easy. Here’s what to do…
To select a screen reading rate
On the Reader toolbar, adjust the level in the Rate spinbox.
To select a document reading rate (for AppReader and DocReader)
1. In the Reader menu, choose Reading Options...
2. Uncheck Use screen reading speech rate.
3. Adjust the level in the Rate spinbox.
4. Select the OK button.
Note: If you would like screen reading and document reading to share the same rate, check ‘Use screen reading speech rate’ and adjust the Rate setting on the Reader toolbar.
To adjust reading rates using hotkeys
Whether you are in a screen reading mode or document reading mode, you can adjust the reading rate using the Speech Rate hotkeys:
To increase Speech Rate, press CTRL + NUMPAD PLUS
To decrease Speech Rate, press CTRL + NUMPAD MINUS
Ai Squared company logo <>
Ai Squared
P.O. Box 669
Manchester Center, VT 05255
Tel: (802) 362-3612
Fax: (802) 362-1670
© Copyright 2005, Ai Squared, All Rights Reserved.
Ai Squared and ZoomText are registered trademarks or trademarks of Algorithmic Implementations, Inc.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

October 05 Tech Update: The USB Thumbdrive Edition

This one started off small and then grew to be bigger than Bobby D usually likes. Oh well maybe next time things will be slower in the old AT industry.

Steve’s Word of the Month
“Brick” or “Bricked”
Definition: Term used when a device has been rendered useless through your own actions or actions by others. Often used in the Hacker community to express a bad file or download.
Example: “Don’t download this update or it will Brick your PDA.”

Roy’s Toy Box
Contributed By the newly married Dan Brown from Humanware. Congrats Danny boy!!

“Hello all,

This document lists the different key assignments which come into play when a USB keyboard is plugged into a BT mPower. A couple of my customers have asked about this, and I am hopeful that this might help when consumers raise objections to the type of keyboard which we use on our QT units.
Please share this with anyone you think might find it useful.

Most keys operate normally, with the following exceptions:
Left-Hand Alt: Read Key
Right-Hand Alt: Function Key
Left and Right Windows: No function.
Numlock: Although the Numlock status is correctly reflected as being either on/off, the keys on the Numeric Keypad are always restricted to their special functions. In other words, you cannot use the Numpad to enter numbers.
Caps Lock: This key operates correctly, but it is worth noting that you MUST be in a text document before the BN/VN will allow you to use it.
If pressed
while inside a Braille document, an error tone will sound.

Special Keys:
The following function keys are assigned to special operations on the mPower.
F1: Help
F2: Repeat last prompt
F3: Goto Main Menu
F4: Select Word Processor
F5: Select Calculator
F6: Select Planner
F7: Select Address List
F8: Select E-mail System
F9: Select Book Reader
Function Key+F10: Select Internet Browser (An unusual mapping to say the least.)
F11: Speak Slower
F12: Speak Faster
Control+F11: Speak Quieter
Control+F12: Speak Louder
Shift+F11: Lower speech pitch
Shift+F12: Raise speech pitch
(Note that these last six keys differ from the key assignments on our QT

Finally, when a consumer is using the USB keyboard with an mPower, they will obviously need to be inside a text document before the typing keys will respond as expected. So, when creating a document, instruct them to press Control with X until a document of Keyword, ASCII, or MS Word type is chosen before entering a filename. When I created or opened a Braille document, I was NOT able to type on my USB as though it was a Braille keyboard by using FDS and JKL as is sometimes possible with keyboards in Duxbury Braille documents.
This may well have been the type of USB keyboard I was using however.

Hope this helps.”

~ Lightning Round!

Sometimes we get some news in the Unit that doesn’t warrant me rambling on about it or listing the entire Press Release. So the following are some quick bits of info that may prove interesting to some. Also more of these lightning rounds will be up on my Blog at the following address.

` The new Windows Updates are up. Depending on how often you update you may see 9 Critical Updates or more. Average size for the 9 downloads in total is 14 meg all told. The largest of the 9 downloads is 7.15 MB by the way.

` Window Eyes 5.5 Beta 2 was released on 10/10. You can get it at GW Micro’s web site.

` The new Clearview Modular units from Optelec are undergoing a bit of an upgrade in their power systems/camera assemblies. Be aware that the original models of the new line of units can become hot or their auto focus can jump wildly. Notify the manufacture of these issues if you see them in the field.

` Dolphin has a new line of products, like Dolphin Professor, coming out over the next few months. Expect three new products in the Dolphin line to be announced all the way up to ATIA in January 06.

` Braille Note Transplants are being set up as we speak. The line is long and steadily increasing which says a lot about the mPower’s features. Expect late February or early March for your call to transplant your cells into an mPower if you plunk down your money today.

` Alva-VisionCue is now a division of Optelec. The original announcement was on the International web site, however, a North American press release is pending.

` We have spoken to three major AT venders in the last two weeks about a number of things. But the question I asked the most was of course related to Vista compatibility. It’s been said that Vista will be the first MS operating system we have ever seen be compatible out of the box with leading AT software. One vender even said their software was 90% compatible with the current Vista Beta build. So fears of access may be premature but the push for Vista rolls on as you can see from this link Roger Purdy sent me.

` We have gotten in some reports that the repair times on Elba units are taking longer than usual. Any feedback on this would be appreciated guys.

` Top Tid Bits has a link in last week’s notes that allows you to see all the new JFW 7 documentation, including scripting manuals, in text format. Check out the whole Top Dot post at the following link.

~ “Your All Thumbs”

Well all the major players in the Screen Reader field now have USB Thumbdrive access. But all are not equal in the way they work or access your system. Dolphin uses it’s license specifically to that USB drive. GW Micro allows you to have a separate install if you already have a CD version of Window Eyes. And Freedom utilizes it’s ILM functionality, however, you can use both JFW and Magic in demo mode if you don’t have a key available. The best advice we can give you is to research your options before you try, buy or decide on a path. All are good but some like chocolate, vanilla or strawberry and your flavor choice may vary. It’s still awesome that we have choices in this arena and I highly suggest you get to know these functions well as it’s the future of our industry. And using a 250 MB drive or larger is highly recommended if you decide to learn more about your USB options.

~ “EBay: Buying Your World One Auction At A Time”

We have joked around here about Google being the Borg. But honestly Ebay’s purchase of Skype leads me to believe they aren’t the only ones heading for the “Resistance is Futile” mantra. The auction site just bought a competitor to it’s own Pay Pal service to gain a 20% market share in the On Line payment space.

~ “Warming Up Your Hotmail Plate”

It seems that FOX’s entry with the purchase of My Space and IGN has caused many on the web to re-evaluate their offerings. And Microsoft is no slouch on that front either with the purchase of Giant last year. Google, however, has presented the biggest threat to MS in the oddest of places though. G-Mail took the world by storm and now Hotmail is seeing it’s second face lift in 3 years. Learn more in the link below.

~ “Sony Says Cheese to Losses”

A major problem with Sony CCD chips has been discovered by several camera and camcorder makers. The epoxy used by Sony is failing and letting in moisture bricking the units entirely. Check out this Slashdot story with the links and Sony’s estimated losses.

** Press Releases

JAWS Script Exchange (JSX) is a free, open source program intended to
assist and promote the sharing of script files among users of the JAWS
screen reader (from JSX facilitates both the installation and packaging of script files. If a set of script files are available in a zip archive, JSX will help you install them to the appropriate JAWS folder on your computer. If you have script files you want to share with others, JSX will help you package them into either a zip archive or a self-installing executable.JSX 1.1 is an upgrade that benefits from a couple months of real world experience by JAWS script developers and users. Every bug discovered since the initial public release has been corrected. Enhancements have also been made to meet almost any need of an installation program for script and other configuration files.

Introducing the ColorMouse-USB™

The Bierley ColorMouse-USB handheld video magnifier Recently featured at Exhibitions in the UK and Germany, the worlds first ergonomic, fully integrated USB 2.0 video magnifier, the Bierley ColorMouse-USB, which starts shipping later this month.

* Crisp clear image
* Smooth scrolling across text
* Simple on-screen menus
* Includes easy to use software
* Displays bright full color images
* Simply plugs into any USB 2.0 port with no other connection required
* Perfect for your home, school or office

The ColorMouse-USB displays it's image in a regular window which means that you can use split screen, full screen or any other size that you prefer. Just like the MonoMouse and other Bierley products, the ColorMouse-USB is amazingly easy to use and the best in it's class.

A notebook computer showing a split screen with text and the Bierley ColorMouse-USB handheld video magnifier In addition to being ideal for text books, documents, magazines and newspapers, it is now easy to read information on packets, boxes or round items such as cans, jars or prescription bottles.

One of the nice things about this device is that it looks really good on any desk. It glides across paper just the same as a computer mouse because we use the same hard wearing Teflon pads. The modern silver finish matches with any notebook or desktop computer and five feet of cable mean that you can use it comfortably with mini tower or floor standing PC's.

And just like all other Bierley products, you won't have to pay an arm and a leg for it! You can order right now if you wish by using one of our simple order forms .

Introducing Merlin LCD Plus
Joining comfort and computer compatibility

Built for users who want a full-featured system, this computer compatible video magnifier has it all! It uses advanced technologies that allow the viewing of computer files and magnified images simultaneously. The system uses superior auto focus technology that brings pictures and documents into clear, crisp focus instantly.

Merlin LCD Plus is perfect for the workplace, school, and in the home. Boasting an ergonomic arm this flexible unit allows the user to pivot and adjust the screen to offer the most comfortable viewing position.

* Now available with a 17” or 19” LCD monitor

* 5 to 61x magnification

* Features 24 programmable custom color combinations

* 3 year warranty on complete unit

HumanWare Announces Philip Rance as President and CEO of US Subsidiary President Emeritus, Jim Halliday, to Broaden his Scope

CONCORD, CA (September 27, 2005) - HumanWare, leader in innovative technology for people who are blind or visually impaired has announced the appointment of Philip Rance as the President and CEO of its US-based company. Rance has been Acting President of HumanWare USA since February of this year and this move makes that appointment permanent. Gilles Pepin, Acting CEO of the HumanWare Group said, "Phil is an excellent choice for CEO of HumanWare USA because he has several years experience working for both the New Zealand parent and its US subsidiary. He is an ideal blend of intelligence, action, and humanity. We are extremely pleased that Phil has agreed to assume this critical role within the company."

Jim Halliday, co-founder and president of the original HumanWare will assume a much broader role within the company. Pepin noted, "With nearly thirty years experience, Jim is one of our industry's most knowledgeable people. We need to capitalize on his expertise in three critical ways: 1) at the Group level with our future product portfolio, 2) as a resource to Phil in his new role, and 3) as an industry-wide advocate for assistive technology, which not only promotes HumanWare but the whole industry."

Rance worked as Manager, Corporate Services for the HumanWare New Zealand (then Pulse Data) and as Chief Financial Officer at HumanWare USA. Prior to joining Pulse Data, he worked as a member of senior management for various companies in both the United Kingdom and New Zealand predominately in a financial role. The industries varied from service and consumer retail companies to start up technology companies. Although these were outside the assistive technology industry Phil believes, "My experience enables me to better understand our industry and the drivers that make HumanWare successful."

Regarding Rance, Halliday said, "It is extremely important that HumanWare has a leader who cares about customers, listens to the market, and inspires the employees. I honestly can't think of a better choice that Phil Rance to bring these critical values to life throughout the company. I look forward to supporting Phil in any way that I can."

Jim Halliday retired from the CEO role in 2003, but has remained on the staff to provide marketing direction and to support the interim management. Rance stated, "I'm delighted that Jim will finally have the opportunity to use his experience to serve the company in a broader sense while also being an industry advocate and a mentor for me. People who know Jim can appreciate his passion for serving blind people, his constant advocacy for Braille literacy, and his thoughtful understanding of technology and its application."

These changes take effect immediately.

Friday, October 07, 2005

It Sounded Better On Paper..

I love to watch marketing trends. Even the Microsoft Viral Marketing schemes are oddly compelling to me if not a bit hard to keep up with at times. But nothing is funnier to me than when a big push for a product hits the wall with such impact that it’s commercials make me break out into open laughter.

Enter the bitter sweet Houston Texans current season. While being 0 and 3 is depressing as all get out the flip side is that some businesses look really foolish as a result of their record as well.

Exxon has this deal going on where if the Texans win you get a free cup of Bengal Traders coffee on the Monday after the game. The radio spot has these two fans saying things like “by some twist of fate if the Texans should lose you get your coffee at half price”. While this doesn’t sound all that funny here just imagine the gusto in which this line is delivered here in Texas. It’s like the idea was we had a real chance this year to take it all the way to the Super Bowl or something.

Now with no wins and this commercial spot running 20 times a day on local stations it becomes a declining slope of funny and abysmal sadness. Often by the third quarter on Sundays my wife hears me exclaim “Oh great no free coffee this Monday either”. Since we have very little chance at even a wildcard at this stage free coffee sounds pretty good to me. And the thought that millions of dollars in player salaries and commercial time are now only geared to get me to by a Bear Claw to go with my eventual free coffee tickles me to no end.

But realize that I am from New Orleans and I still have my brown paper bag from the 80’s Aints days. Oh yeah and I was a “Luv Ya Blue” fan too. Come to think of it I seem to be a Bride’s Maid a lot as a Houston sports fan. Sigh..

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Jordy Meets The Jordy

Enhanced Vision is the creator of the Jordy Head Mounted CCTV unit. And at a recent event in Virginia LaVar Burton got to see the real world device named after his Next Generation character.

My sincere thanks to Manny at EVS for sharing these with me.

Monday, September 26, 2005

September 05 Tech Update: The 0.1 Patched Edition

Lots of links and news on updates this time around. There's even some Duxbury news which I think is a first for the update.

Steve’s Word Of The Month
Stream Poisoning
Definition: The poisoning of streams refers to the deliberate use of bad or corrupted files on Torrent or P2P sites. It’s commonly the current tactic of choice by the RIAA and the MPAA in prevention of illegal file swapping. The file that you intend to view will have pieces missing or will play for a while only to suddenly end due to the corruption of that file. Files have of this type have been known to also contain viruses and malware [Malicious Software].

~ “JAWS 7. Now It’s Personal!”

The big sequel to last year’s hit JFW 6.0 is coming soon. Here are the release notes for the changes in the impending paid upgrade.

~ “A Patch A Month Is All You Need”

Three weeks out and the first of the Internet updates for Zoom Text begins. In all fairness though the version that shipped was just one build over the modified Beta. So it’s kind of understandable, and completely in pattern, for Ai Squared to release a .1 update. See the release notes here.

~ “Your USB Is Under My Compact Thumb”

We have been discussing a lot as of late on where to go with the path on external storage and note takers. USB is the future but power and drivers are a bit of an issue. Compact Flash still might be the way for some. Read this bit below to get a perspective from Humanware.

“Hi folks,

The drivers for USB drives that are in the ROM are Microsoft generic
drivers. I would need to investigate further to be more specific than that.
Most thumb drives will work but whether they work will depend on their power
requirements and whether they are compatible with the Microsoft drivers that
as I say, are in the image.

Dean Jackson
BrailleNote Product Specialist

~ “New Access World Online”

There is a great article on resources for Assistive Technology Trainers and a neat piece on my Mentor Curtis Chong. Look I know a blind celebrity who doesn’t play a musical instrument!

~ “Vistas Broadened By 7”

I am saying this on the record now so you won’t be surprised by it later. This next version of Windows will be the most difficult challenge for us yet. Microsoft will be releasing seven, that’s right SEVEN!, flavors of Windows Vista. And chances are good that the version your consumer has won’t be the one they want. Here’s a breakdown of the current differences between the products.

Thankfully it looks like there are only two versions of Office 12 in the works. But as usual there’s a downside. The number of toolbars will change and the context sensitive tab system resembles the Windows XP “Related Task” pane in the Windows Folders system.

~ “IZoom You To The Moon”
Contributed by Roger Purdy

Here’s a brief report on the free program called IZoom. It’s a Screen Magnification alternative that is far from being comparable to programs like Magic and Zoom Text, however, some may find it to be all that they need for limited tasks.

“iZoom free magnification and screen reader

It is free as mentioned and I could not find any pop ups asking for purchasing. The software. The magnification portion can be installed with one file and is pretty straight-forward however if you want to install the speech synthesized voices, you need to install at least one more file however that isn’t difficult either. All three files, the magnification application as well as the speech synthesizers are 11 MB so you can’t carry it on a floppy but you can burn it on a CD or carry it on a USB pen drive.

After the installation, by default it starts the speech and a large red square follows each word being spoken which many may find annoying. The speech is not very good and I couldn’t get it to read very well on web pages or menus. It should not be considered. The defaults can be changed.

The magnification isn’t bad, however. It goes from 1.5x to 2, and right on up to 16x. It also provides for various magnification Windows like MAGic and Zoom Text and there is a keystroke to change to those windows which is under each choice in the interface. It’s not hard to use the magnification as it’s fairly simple and seems to run fairly smoothly, at least on the machine I tested it on which was a Windows XP Professional machine with Service Pack 2, PIV 3.0 GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM.

Reverse video is available however I couldn’t get it to work very well in that when my mouse went out of a certain range, it quit working. Also, the pointer never changed from an arrow even when you hovered the mouse over a link. There was no “busy” cursor or anything else. This can be annoying for someone that is used to it and can also cause problems for someone who tracks what the system does by using the pointer.

This should not be used in place of the regular AT software such as Zoom Text, MAGic, or Lunar from Dolphin. This has only limited capabilities and does not allow for much configuration or changes. If the computer user is a novice user, doesn’t have any money to purchase the regular product or if we can’t purchase it, then this could be a good substitute. Otherwise, it should not be depended upon. The speech should never be depended on but only the magnification! “

~ “Your Software says “Yes” But Your Hardware Says “No”
Contributed by Roger Purdy

Years ago people freaked over the decision of Intel and Microsoft to use the Intel Chip ID system to identify a specific computer. Now it looks like not only will Vista and the Xbox 360 lock out hardware profiles but they will prevent specific software from loading. Here’s a bit of an email I got from Roger on something that we should all be aware of in the field.

“ When I loaded my street-mapping program, I got a peculiar message from Microsoft Windows: "Data Execution Prevention. . . . To help protect your computer, Windows has closed this program." What is this? How can I prevent the problem from reoccurring?

Art Hawley

You must have a modern PC with a cutting-edge CPU. Data Execution Prevention is a feature of Windows XP SP2, but it has no effect unless the CPU supports it. When a program attempts to execute code that's stored in an area of memory marked as nonexecutable, DEP prevents it. This blocks many types of attacks that viruses and other malicious software use to breach your security.

It can also, however, block programs that simply use nonstandard programming techniques such as self-modifying code. Here's how to bring this feature under control. Right-click on My Computer, choose Properties, click the Advanced tab, click the Settings button in the Performance panel, and click the Data Execution Prevention tab. The default setting is Turn on DEP for all programs except those I select. If you run into DEP trouble with multiple programs, you could change that to Turn on DEP for essential Windows programs and services only. Initially, however, you'd do better to click the Add button and just add that mapping software to the list of exceptions. And hey! Enjoy your new computer.”

~ “Broadband TV For Digital Lifestyles”

There is some good and free video content out there for those digital enthusiasts who wish to know more beyond what G4TV discusses. Enter NERDTV in many video formats in the link below.

~ “How Secure Is Your Security?”

A new study shows that Firefox has hit that level of popularity where hackers would rather hit it instead of the tride and true Internet Explorer. In related news the IPOD hacks number in the hundreds while Creative Labs just ships their units out with viruses pre installed. Either way the days of saying that one platform is more stable and or safe than another is just plain bogus.

~ “You Can’t Teach A New Dog Old Tricks”

Companies are finding out the hard way that down grading their IT Workforce while not upgrading their infrastructure has some serious side effects. The major one being that new and younger tech workers don’t know the first thing about older Mainframes. If ever there was an argument about Computing being experienced based learning..

~ “PSX Turns 10”

I thought this was a neat overview on how far we have come in the era of videogames. The Playstation turns 10 this year and it’s hard to believe the leap between this unit and the current level of technology being packed into Next Gen units.

`` Press Releases

Iowa's Project ASSIST With Windows is currently accepting applications for US residents for the ASSIST Online program. ASSIST Online is a distance learning program that offers free online courses which will prepare you for the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exams for Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Word. The Microsoft Word class for new students begins October 3. We must receive completed applications no later than September 22, 2005. For further information, and to download an application, please point your browser to HTTP://

** Duxsbury 10.5 SP 2

Duxbury Systems is happy to announce that Service Pack 2 for DBT 10.5
is now available. SP2 is compatible only with DBT version 10.5 and is
available at no cost, by download, to all who own DBT 10.5.

The service pack includes, in addition to all the updates in SP1, the
following improvements:

-- Improves support for new British Braille rules, including math and
computer notation (Please note additional important information for
British users regarding this change at
-- Adds translation support for
contracted German,
Somali and
-- Updates the LOC/NLS "Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribers"
partial-contraction series
-- Updates the translation tables for numerous languages.
-- Provides Braille-Build (font builder) support for Marburg fonts and
correctly spaced California braille.
-- Handles acute accents in Scientific Notebook files.
-- Provides additional French documentation.
-- Updates the JAWS macros, and supports installation of macros to JAWS 6.0.
-- Adds a utility (slsclock.exe) to help manage network installations
>with clock synchronization problems.

If you own DBT 10.5 you can download the service pack by going to
Help/Check for Updates... from the DBT main window. This will connect
you to a web page with links to download the service pack.
DBT 10.5 with the service pack is also available on the support section
of our web site

Monday, September 05, 2005

Once In A Lifetime Now Means A Bit More

We had a joke in the old electronics retail industry. We would call the cheap of the cheap units a "Once In A Lifetime Deal". What we meant was drop that thing once and that's it's lifetime. This was also known as the "Wal Mart Fall Apart" feature.

Now some judge has decided that closed box products can not be modded without you breaking the copyright rules. Refill your ink cartridges or tear the lable off the matress if you want to live dangerously these days.