Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Now your Mpowered!

That big Humanware news floating around went fully public yesterday. The newest member of the Braille Note family is the Mpower. And boy is it a big step up from the current gen of BN/VN units.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Oh so many updates and ho so little money

There is a wierd sort of product cycle in the AT Industry. Products are rumored at the ATIA convention around January. Then demonstrated in raw form at CSUN. And if they survive all of the hype and R&D they show up at the National Federation of the Blind or American Council of the Blind conventions. But some products, if your really unlucky, update themselves around all three.

This month will or has already seen updates from Ai Squared and Freedom Scientific. Ai Squared has released the public Beta of Zoom Text 9. And just recently they updated that Beta to Yeah I know build numbers get confusing. And that is even more so with ZT. Anyway, I have been using ZT9 since Alpha 3 back in March. I have to say that I am really happy with what I have seen so far in this new version. I have tossed out my other versions, good bye 7.11 you have served me well, in favor of using 9 full time. The main reason for this comes from the Mozilla support found in 9. It's not perfect but it's the only thing out there supporting the alternative browser scene. Expect the full real product to become available somewhere between now and August 31st. Or Ai Squared will have to buy me a new calendar as they say it's set for release this summer.

Freedom on the other hand is releasing their updates now. Or have been really. JAWS 6 came on the scene in Dec 04. Then it saw an update to 6.1 in March. Now 6.2 has arrived on June 24th in support of Pac Mate 3.0. Pac Mate and JAWS work together to provide compatibility for those who wish to use the Pac Mate as a mini laptop/PDA. The new updates use a remote desktop like interface that will allow you to connect to your wireless network and control your JAWS enabled desktop computer. I know this sounds almost trivial to those sighted folks out there who don't use this stuff on a daily basis but for those of us who have been shut out of a lot of common areas of IT... this is a big deal. The 6.2 update is up now and it's around 42 MB. Pac Mate 3.0 is a paid upgrade, $115 bones if you don't have a SMA, and it should be up some time before Friday.

The goodness doesn't stop there folks. Humanware has a major announcement to make on the 27th. Both the Low Vision and Blindness divisions have product info hitting the street and I think it will be the talk of the town in Las Vegas and Louivalle on the 4th. I will post this interesting development later on in the week as we meet with Humanware in our quarterly meetings on the 29th.

Still more stuff to talk about as well. The new Optelec modular CCTVs are shipping. They have this Ikea like design in that you have one base unit with all sorts of Lego like parts that are fully swappable. Tired of your CRT monitor? Pull that bad boy off and stick on a LCD. Need line markers? Add this feature pack into the empty slot on your X/Y table and your there. It's really a great concept for those who start off small and need more from their CCTV later on down the road. Just buy the parts you need and keep the base X/Y table. Now if they can only come up with Apple color schemes! Naa..

Enhanced Vision also has a new Merlin Flat Pannel unit. It uses the latest 8 millisecond LCD tech which allows it to smear or tear magnified text less than current models. The thing you have with LCD screens is that your taking a live analog feed of the materials being magnified and then your converting it to digital for the monitor. It just can't keep up with fast moving text and so you get this Etchosketch effect. The Merlin does this to a far lesser degree and it also lets you move the monitor up, down, left and right. It's part of the Merlin Plus family and you can see it on Enhanced Vision's front page.

We have a lot of the new products I mentioned here in our labs. Expect hands on reports over the next month or so as we put them to the test.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tele Sensing from the After Life?

Some may remember that the once great giant Telesensory fell to Earth in a blaze of glory otherwise known as a Federal Chapter 8 filing. But now it seems that the giant morphed into a Phoenix. The court awarded the company’s assets and the web site has returned. There is a lot more behind the scenes going on but I can’t really go into it at the moment. Just be aware that the site is up and there are people answering the phones. They aren’t zombies either!


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Avoiding the Real Work by Working on Something Else

The older I get the more blonde I become. By that I mean this brown haired guy has been so easily distracted lately by bright and shinny objects that I procrastinate the big and looming deadlines. Last week I decided for some odd reason to sit down and track this error I keep getting with Norton’s Live Update. Now I don’t really care for Norton, McAfee or any general virus program. I am a bit of a conspiracy theorist when it comes to virus companies. You can’t release a product yearly if you don’t have deadly viruses to fight off, therefore, the viruses have to come from somewhere. I an not completely X Files as we did land on the moon people and SARC.com is a great resource by the way..

Back to Norton and the lost weekend.

I spent five hours reading the Norton site with various methods of dealing with my issues. Then I, and I can’t explain this at all, started reading the various links for other unrelated problems. I don’t run an Enterprise server but for some reason I enjoyed a long discussion on Group Policy Editing through MS Server 2005.

And who in their right minds would enjoy that? Well me. A non networking, non system admin and a man who uses XP Home on his leisure system. All because I wanted to avoid, forget and all out ignore this major project I have due in September.

It gets worse though. I spent five more hours building a CD/DVD rack for my 450 plus CDs. Which I then alphabetized. Smiling all the way no less. Two mundane mind numbingly boring tasks made desirable by my blissful denial.

I can’t even say that I can blame it on laziness as that stupid cheap A$$ Target bought rack used non logical instructions and it is flimsy as all hell. Better yet the wrong pieces, the ones laminated, face the wrong way making it look like I got it from a guy who moved out of his dorm early. Still I didn’t care as I was not working on this project that is consuming my life at all other waking moments of the day.

The CDs sat in their boxes since the move to Austin six months ago. The Norton issue has been hanging around since March. Yet I decided to complete these chores instead of getting ahead on this project. Why? That’s easy. The great monster named Procrastination has to be fed.

Crasty, my name for him, has been with me since High School. I found that if I give in to his wily ways I tend to do better work under the pressure of impending failure. I kept him around through college and he is still hanging out on my couch begging me to play just one more match on WWE RAW Vs. Smackdown on the PS2. His sweet siren song even calls to me now as I write this. Wait.. he was the one who told me to start a Blog in the first place. That bastard. Always one step ahead of me! Now I have one more thing on the list to distract me from that actual real work I need to be doing.

I’ll get you someday Crasty.. someday..

Run for the hills because the Ranger has started a Blog.

So I am like what??? 4 years behind the times. Well I guess I can’t say that I am on the bleeding, cutting or perforated edge. I do however play with all manner of things that beep, flash and talk in the Assistive Technology industry. And that should account for something. Or at least I hope it will as this is going to be a very boring read for some otherwise. I have, as a gesture of good will to those long time readers at ISN and Booji, at least created these posts in MS Word before I dump them here. That means I actually used spell check outside of work. Another first for me. Man that’s a lot of work for a tech specialist on a lonely Friday night.

But when I am not at work breaking, uh lovingly caring for, our equipment I revert to my on line persona at isnnews.net. At ISN I have been lucky enough to be the Executive Moderator for more than six years. I think that is 42 years in internet time. Or dog years. Either way it’s a long time to be wasting on the net. But that’s not all. I go back even further to the days of the Pathfinder boards in the mid to late 90’s. It was at Pathfinder discussing good old Babylon 5 where the Ranger was truly born.

Ranger1138 is a combination of who I was at the time. It’s like a college frat name that you just can’t shake. And, like most screen names, it came to me in a haze after a 15 hour shift at Incredible Universe. More on that at another time. Anyway, the Ranger part reflects my love of the B5 universe and the 1138 is, of course, a love of THX. Not THX1138 the movie though. I like the film but I was studying to become THX certified at the time and well. Did I mention the 15 hours? Retail and Caffeine equals a name I have stuck with for almost a decade.

My secret plans with this Blog is to combine my insights on Assistive Tech and the passion I have for all things Geek. As being a Geek admits that you are comfortable with who you are and being a Nerd implies that you are in denial about the Midiclorions in your blood. Trekie versus Treker right?

So I plan on giving up some info on what I see in both of my two lives and we will see how bad it gets from there. I can’t break confidentiality on some things as I am an actual State Agent but I can skirt around the issues as best as I can. I did take debate in high school and that Lincoln Douglas training has to be used sometime I guess.

And since this is my first post, look another first I’m winded, on my first Blog I plan on committing all the regular mistakes early on..

"Today I ate an English Muffin. It was good."
"I clipped my toenail on my new coffee table. Ouch that hurts."
"Can you believe that Katy Homes?"

There! I feel much better. Onwards to bigger and more interesting content.. I hope!