Saturday, August 27, 2005

Here's One That Makes You Say Why Didn't I Think Of That. Selling Sleep By The Minute.

I saw this on this morning and just lost it completly. The Mall Of America is selling sleep for .70c a minute.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Tech Update Late August 05: The SMA Update Edition

Steve’s Word Of The Month
Definition: Broadband over Power Lines
Former FCC Chairman Powell believed very strongly that the only way to bring all of the US into the broadband era was to adopt the technology needed to use the internet from your common electrical outlet. He likened it at times to the way Roosevelt felt about the need for electric power for all at the turn of the 20th Century. Powell felt that having internet ready homes through your electrical system would also break down the need for tons of wireless access. The technology was stalled in Congress but it seems like things are getting back on track now from this article below.

Roy’s Toy Box
Contributed by Yours Truly

This came up a few times in the last few months so I thought I would pass this around. Ever have someone who doesn’t know that their Norton Anti Virus is screwing up and not updating properly? Samantec has a really well defined, notice that I didn’t say good, help system but to use it you have to be in the “Interactive Mode”. Some consumers may have been moved to the “Express Mode” by Norton it’s self. To get to the Interactive Mode do the following:

Go to Control Pannel. Then look for “Samantec Live Update”. There’s a radial button in the middle of this box that will let you switch from Express to Interactive Mode. Once you have changed this setting choose OK and run Live Update again. Generally Live Update can be accessed from the Norton menu in Programs. If the Anti Virus is having issues the Live Update will tell you at the end of it’s scan. It also shows you the error with a link to the specific issue on their support site [displayed right above the “Finish” button and this link is tabbable].

~ “Video Killed The Accessibility Star”

Be aware that the current run of HP computers that we use has a video update available. Remember that updating the video can kill the AT product’s DCM and you may need to reinstall the program if you receive calls from your consumer.

~ “I Will OCR You Later”

The new K 1000 Version 10 ships this month and should be out to many on 9/1/05. I placed the press release for this version in the Press Releases section. But did you know that there was another v9 update? Well there is and you can find it here.

~ “Updating In The Modern World”

Seems like we have been talking about this a lot lately but there’s yet another round of updates on the way. Before the year is out we will see the following.

Pac Mate 3.0 available on June 2005
JAWS 6.2 made available June 2005
Magic 9.5 August 2005
Zoom Text 9 on 9/1/05
Kurzweil 10 on 9/1/05
Window Eyes 5.5 TBA

And that’s not including any Keysoft or Pac Mate updates. Just remember that not all of the updates out there are free and it’s better to be sure that one is really needed before discussing it with anyone.

~ “Updates Appear Like Magic”

Here’s that link again for the Magic 9.5 release notes.

~ “Noting That Your Pocket Needs Upgrading”
Contributed By Sharon Ewing

HumanWare has today released KeySoft 6.01 for BrailleNote PK, which contains stability improvements in the areas of e-mail and networking support. This is a free update for all BrailleNote PK owners. You can find it, as well as instructions on its installation, at “

~ “Telesense Me Something I Don’t Know”

Telesensory is back. Well sort kind of. Here’s a bit from Access World on the press release that came out this month.

“Telesensory Revisited
When Art Bookbinder--senior vice president for the erstwhile
Telesensory Corporation--received the news that the company's CEO and board of directors had declared bankruptcy and were ceasing all
business, his first response was anger. His second response, however, was to phone all of the independent dealers he had shepherded and developed relationships with for the past 20 years.
In a conference call, the group decided to do everything possible to
continue making Telesensory products available in the United States.
Dubbing themselves the Bookbinder Group, with Art Bookbinder as their president, the newly formed enterprise announced on August 3rd that they "have made the impossible possible" and have secured continuity in the United States for Telesensory's line of low vision products. In cooperation with InSiPhil, the company that is to assume the manufacture of the Pico and Aladdin product lines, the Bookbinder Group promises not only support and service for former and current Telesensory customers, but offers continued availability of products to newcomers. InSiPhil, which has its headquarters in Singapore and its manufacturing facilities in Malaysia, is helping facilitate the new incarnation of Telesensory by establishing its U.S. presence in a low-overhead operation in Newark, California. "We are thrilled to be able to bring the Telesensory Aladdin and Pico product lines back to the low vision community," said President Bookbinder in a recentannouncement. Although the company called Telesensory is gone, its low vision product line has been revived! For more information, contact: Bookbinder Group;
phone: 800-535-9436.”

~ “MS. Mighty Mouse”

Here’s a review of the new Microsoft Optical Mouse that has the ability to switch on a magnifier right from the mouse it’s self.

~ New Apple Security Updates

Apple recently dropped a big security update that fixes 30 perceived holes in Tiger. Remember that there are Operating System updates, security updates and updates for your wireless Airport that must be maintained to keep your Mac in shape. Also Chris Chandler told me that the Mac Mini units have a new list of components for the same prices we already know and love. Here’s a bit on those security updates I talked about above.

** Press Releases

New DAISY Audio File Creation Reads Documents on Portable Players

Bedford, MA – June 28, 2005 – Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc., innovator of reading technology for individuals with visual or learning disabilities, today announced Kurzweil 1000™ Version 10, advanced scanning, reading and learning software for people who are blind or visually impaired. The latest version of the software offers numerous new features including the ability to make content accessible on DAISY players providing Kurzweil 1000 users access to a broader choice of reading material and the ability to take content wherever they go. Additional new Version 10 features and enhancements give Kurzweil 1000 users the ability to further customize the technology for their personal use, added access to online resources, the industry’s best scanning and OCR tools, and table creation and editing.

“Kurzweil 1000 users know the importance of being able to easily navigate books and other scanned documents. The ability to create DAISY audio files for use in portable DAISY players or computers with DAISY software now gives users the option of bringing their reading material with them wherever they go,” said Michael Sokol, President and CEO of Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc. “Such navigation and portability features demonstrate Kurzweil Educational Systems’ dedication to providing powerful, yet easy-to-use tools for the blind community to access the written word, anytime, anywhere.”

Kurzweil 1000 Version 10 new features include:
• Audio DAISY Document Creation – Users can read documents created with Kurzweil 1000 on a DAISY player or computer with DAISY software. With Type 2 DAISY file support, full audio and audible document navigation, such as a table of contents, indices and bookmarks, users can quickly access different parts of a document and navigate the document.
• Table Creation, Editing and Reading – Kurzweil 1000 users can access and work with tables with ease. They can create and modify tables using simple editing operations. In addition, the user can convert blocks of text into a table and, conversely, turn a table into text. Table Reading has also been enhanced to provide easier access to table-rich content, especially from Web sources such as Wikipedia.
• Improved Scanning and Recognition – Users can obtain better scanning and recognition results with Kurzweil 1000 Version 10 as it now incorporates ScanSoft OCR 12.6. In addition, a new noise filter option lets users ignore regions near the edge of a page that were incorrectly identified as text.
• Expanded Online Search and Retrieval – Kurzweil 1000 users can find the latest books quickly with’s New Books section and subscribers with institutional accounts can now download books for eligible students from within Kurzweil 1000. Also, Version 10 gives direct access to NFB Publications such as Voice of the Diabetic and Future Reflections, as well as Braille Monitor.
• Updated High Quality Text to Speech from NeoSpeech – Users can listen to the best text-to-speech on the market with updated versions of the Kate and Paul voices from NeoSpeech.

• Microsoft Word Conversion – Users with Microsoft Word can open and save any file format that Microsoft Word supports, making it easier to access and work with a wide range of files, in addition to the file formats currently supported by Kurzweil 1000.

The new features in Kurzweil 1000 Version 10 expand upon the extensive list of existing features, including color scanning, flexible writing and editing tools, the ability to send files to email, Braille embosser compatibility, and photocopier, fax and calculator applications.

Availability and Pricing
Kurzweil 1000 Version 10 is scheduled to ship to customers later this summer and can be previewed at the 2005 National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Convention being held July 2 - July 8 in Louisville, Kentucky at the Galt House Hotel Booth 3 and at the 2005 American Council of the Blind (ACB) National Convention being held July 2 - July 9 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Riviera Hotel Booth 75. Visitors to the Kurzweil Educational Systems booths at these two conventions will also have the opportunity to register for a drawing to win a free copy of Kurzweil 1000.

A single license of Kurzweil 1000 retails for $995. Volume pricing is also available.
Kurzweil 1000 can be purchased directly from Kurzweil Educational Systems at 800-894-5374 (within the U.S. or Canada) or 781-276-0600 (outside the U.S. or Canada), or from Kurzweil Educational Systems' worldwide network of resellers listed at, or by visiting the company web store at

ScanSoft Unveils OmniPage Professional 15, Raising the Bar for OCR, PDF and Document Conversion Applications

BURLINGTON, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 9, 2005--
With Accuracy Up to 50% Better Than Alternatives and Unique PDF and Digital Document Conversion Capabilities, OCR Isn't Just for Scanning Anymore

ScanSoft, Inc. (Nasdaq:SSFT), a global leader of speech and imaging solutions, today launched ScanSoft(R) OmniPage(R) Professional 15, a new version of the world's most popular optical character recognition (OCR) and document conversion application for Microsoft Windows. With superior accuracy and speed, OmniPage Professional 15 is the most accurate and efficient way to convert, edit, archive and share paper and PDF documents, replacing the need to manually re-create paper and image-based documents and simplifying document workflow and archiving through an automated, electronic process.

OmniPage Professional has long been recognized as the best solution for saving time and money by instantly turning paper and PDF files - such as letters, contracts, spreadsheets, magazine articles, research reports, manuals and more - into editable documents. With the release of OmniPage Professional 15, in addition to a host of new functionality, ScanSoft has enhanced the trusted features that continue to matter most to OCR users - accuracy and speed. Boasting accuracy improvements of 25 percent and new, advanced OCR and document conversion engines, OmniPage Professional 15 eliminates the historical trade-off between speed and accuracy. With the superior formatting and layout retention that can be 50 percent more accurate than alternatives, OmniPage Professional 15 makes it easier than ever to work between electronic and paper documents - even those with formatted text, columns, graphics, tables and spreadsheets.

"OmniPage has long been known for its first-rate OCR," said Ralph Gammon, editor & publisher, Document Imaging Report. "This release of OmniPage not only drives up accuracy levels even higher - critical to anyone using OCR - but it goes a step further to address the growing need for PDF support and complete digital document conversion. As adoption of scanning on the workgroup level increases, and interest in digital archiving continues to rise, ScanSoft is right there to meet emerging market needs."

Recognized as the most accurate and best-in-class OCR solution available, OmniPage Professional 15 expands the value of OCR well beyond scanning, providing solutions to a range of both paper and digital document conversion problems:

-- Accuracy improvements for paper and PDF conversion that are 25 percent better than the previous release and 50 percent better than alternatives
-- Patented One Button Scanning, which associates frequently used document processing settings to specific buttons on an MFP, all-in-one or scanner
-- The batch conversion of images and any digital format into PDF for document sharing and archive
-- Digital-to-digital document conversion between a wide array of formats
-- Automatic forms conversion to convert paper or static electronic form into fillable forms
-- Workgroup scanning using networked multi-function products (MFPs)
-- Integrated Google Desktop Search with unique OCR Indexing

Features include
-- The Most Accurate OCR and Layout Retention - OmniPage Professional 15 is 25 percent more accurate than the previous release and up to 50 percent more accurate than alternative solutions. Independent industry experts have consistently found OmniPage Professional to be the most accurate solution and the only OCR product that successfully processed all of their test documents. OmniPage Professional 15 also delivers superior page layout capabilities to ensure that a converted document is as exact to the original as possible. By delivering the highest accuracy, and processing all of a user's documents, OmniPage Professional practically eliminates proofing and editing - delivering unrivaled productivity benefits to an organization.

-- Batch Digital PDF Archive - PDF has become the de facto standard format for archiving documents into folders and content management systems. OmniPage Professional is highly valued for its ability to scan-to searchable PDF archives, using OCR to automatically create index data. OmniPage Professional 15 makes a significant advance with its PDF capabilities with Digital PDF Archive, which automatically turns any digital document format into searchable PDF archives. Now organizations don't need to pay $1,500 or more to batch process emails, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets into "flat" and secure PDF archive files. With OmniPage Professional 15, users get the core Digital PDF conversion capabilities found in Adobe Acrobat Distiller Server but in a more affordable and easier to use application.

-- Digital-to-Digital Document Conversion - No other product provides the complete document conversion capabilities of OmniPage Professional 15. With OmniPage Professional, users not only get the best in OCR and PDF conversion, but now can convert digital documents from their existing applications into any of OmniPage Professional's 30+ supported formats - such as Quark XPress to Word or WordPerfect to Word.

-- Automatic Form Conversion from Paper and Digital - According to some industry studies, replacing paper forms with fillable electronic forms can save an organization up to $150 for every form used by every worker, every day. However one thing has slowed the adoption of electronic forms - the cost of manually converting static forms into fillable electronic forms. OmniPage Professional solves this with its new Form Converter capability, which can turn scanned paper, static PDF, and even Word forms into fillable Microsoft InfoPath, PDF and XML forms - automatically.

-- Point and Click Document Capture and Workflows - OmniPage Professional 15 brings the power of professional document capture to desktop users - with point and click ease. Now users can set up a sophisticated scanning or document conversion process once, and use it over and over with a single click. Using the Document Workflow Wizard, users can automatically capture documents from scanners or hot folders, specify conversion steps such as OCR, zone OCR, convert to or from PDF, and process the results to email, Microsoft SharePoint, FTP and more. A user can even print barcode coversheets to automatically trigger specific workflows when a document is scanned.

-- Never Rescan with SET Tools - New Scanner Enhancement Technology (SET) delivers the power to correct and enhance scanned images, PDF files and faxes. Point and click SET tools improve the quality of scanned documents, faxes and poor quality copies. De-skew, de-speckle, adjust color and more - all helping increase the accuracy of OCR processing and PDF indexing. Straightening, despeckling and color conversion ensures that users get the results they demand.

-- The Most Editable Word Conversion - The new ExactWord capability within OmniPage Professional 15 uses information within Microsoft Word to make converted documents significantly easier to edit - complete with columns, tables, bullets and graphics.

-- Includes PDF Create! and PDF Converter 3.0 - Creating PDF files from any PC application is a powerful way to share documents more securely, and is made easy with PDF Create! 3.0, which is included with OmniPage Professional 15. Also included is PDF Converter 3.0, a powerful utility that can turn PDF into fully-formatted Microsoft Word and Excel documents, as well as Corel WordPerfect documents. Both products include an Assistant utility that simplifies creation and conversion of PDF files from the desktop, and within Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer.

-- Create Audio Documents from Paper and Digital Documents - With OmniPage Professional users can now turn scanned paper, PDF and even electronic documents into human-sounding audio-documents. Using ScanSoft(R) RealSpeak(R), the world's best text-to-speech technology, users can now listen to documents in the office, in the car, or on the go - with a PC, CD or even on mobile digital music devices.

-- One-Button Scanning - Scanning can't be any easier than simply pressing a button, and with ScanSoft's patented One-Button Scanning users get just that. Now users can easily associate separate OmniPage Professional scanning processes to the buttons on an All-in-One, MFP or scanner - such as "scan to black and white, 1200 DPI and convert into Microsoft Word. *United States Patent #6,480,304.

For more information on OmniPage Professional 15 features and benefits, please visit

Pricing and Availability

ScanSoft OmniPage Professional 15 is available immediately through ScanSoft's global network of reseller partners. ScanSoft OmniPage Professional 15 is $499.99 for individual users, with volume discounts available through the ScanSoft(R) Open License Program. Upgrade pricing and support products are also available. For additional information on features, pricing and volume licensing programs, please visit or call (1) 800-443-7077.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Magic 9.50 Released Today

I thought this was coming out much later on but at least it's a free download for existing 9x customers.

JAWS 7.0 Revealed In The Lone Star State.

[This came from our Freedom Scientific Rep today]

Dear Valued Freedom Scientific Christal Vision Customers:
It is with great excitement that Freedom Scientific and our Preferred Partner in Texas, Christal Vision extend an invitation to you to attend a presentation on the new and awesome JAWS 7.0. Adding to the excitement, we will be presenting to you Mr. Eric Damery, Vice – President of Software. Eric needs no further introduction to most of you, however for the benefit of all, Eric is known by many as Mr. JAWS.
Eric will be briefly presenting a few of the awesome new features revealed in versions 6.0 and 6.2, however a majority of Eric’s time with us will be to reveal the dynamic, powerful, and friendly new capabilities of JAWS 7.0. JAWS 7 includes complete Access to the Mozilla FireFox 1.5 browser, matching the support found today in IE6. To learn more, you will just have to come listen. He will illustrate to you how JAWS is the product that drives the complete line of FS products, including Magic with Speech, Open Book, SARA, Focus Braille displays and our awesome new notetaker, the Pac mate.
If you have never or haven’t recently been able to attend the major national conferences held annually throughout the US, now is your opportunity to see just what is in store for the current JAWS users around the world, that have SMA’s or seek upgrades, and those of whom will eventually gain access to the power of JAWS. You will have plenty of opportunity to make comments and ask questions of the JAWS Product Manager himself.
What: JAWS 7.0 Revealed, in the Lone Star State
RSVP: Planning to Attend,
Contact Bobby Lakey, Regional Sales Manager - to reserve your seat
(469) 360-1143 or 1-800-444-4443, Ext. 1122
When: September 28, 2005
12:00pm – 3:30pm
Where: Marriott Hotel South
4415 S. IH35
Austin TX 78744
Ball Room A
All is invited to arrive at 11:00am for a networking opportunity. This is your chance to gather, interact and attain contact data on other users that could prove to be very supportive in the future.
You are encourage to partake in the coffee, tea, water and variety of cookies that will be provided. Grab lunch before you come and join us for an exciting, interactive afternoon.
If an over – night stay is required, this 4* Marriott has agreed to extend the government rate of $85 per night for all reservations that qualify for this discount. For all others, remember that all things are negotiable.
Finally, feel free to share this invitation with whomever you believe would be interested. Your help in sharing this information is greatly appreciated. We would hate for interested customers to miss this presentation.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

More 360 Talk And Famous Eggs

Here's a super cool article from Gamespot on famous Easter Eggs. I, of course, found the first one on the 2600 with my copy of Adventure. And I knew about some of the others. I am sad to say I didn't know about the SMS egg though.

Here's an awesome freaking look at what the 360 has in common with the 3DO [no not the price] and Web TV.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Phantasy Star V ... Well Not Exactly..

I saw the big spot for MFGG, Mario Fan Game Galaxy, on AOTS, Attack of the Show!, this week and I thought about the awesome fan driven stuff at It seems that someone has taken on a new fan made game of PS and a demo is coming soon. Here's the link to PSCave.

Check out their emulated PS games. The Master System PS conversion rocks and it took up way too much of my time last summer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Two 360s At One Big Launch

I kind of figured that Sony's move not to include a HD in the launch version of the PS3 was based off of intel from MS's plans for the 360 launch. Well it looks like that assumption was correct. Save your pennies kiddies the next gen just went up in price. Remember that games come in at $59 as well.

Here's a bit more.

Even more and deeper insight..

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Rerecordable Revisionist History By The RIAA

It figures that the RIAA should hit the shuffle button on their legal battles now that they are making money on downloadable music.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

August 05 Tech Update: The Mighty Apple Mouse Edition

There’s about five pages of my words and links and another five in press releases and outside reviews. So we will just skip to the meat of the matter. And I can hear some of you now saying "don’t let this guy do this to us again when he comes back from vacation". Oddly enough I had some of this already sitting around. So you guys better run for cover when I take a week off. A 26 page update for sure. Or 13 two page updates. Hmm. I like that.

~ "Security Is Only One, Okay Several, Clicks Away"
MS released their annual updates, every second Tuesday of the month, to the world this week. Depending on how often you do your updates your looking at 3 to 8 files. Most are no bigger than 3 MB and most of the time it takes longer to install the darn things than download them. Remember that you will hit that Genuine Advantage thing if you haven’t done it already.

~ "Windows Love Or Format It.. I Mean Leave It"
I tripped on to someone who shares the same viewpoint that I have on Windows dominance and how this is really a good thing. Those of us who remember the 31 flavors of DOS know how hard it was to keep those versions and their switching commands in check. Linux for all it’s Open Source glory has the exact same problems that DOS had before it’s emergence. Without a common starting place we wouldn’t be as far as we are now. Hence my acceptance of Bill Gates as our Accessibility Enabled Overlord.
~ "Exploring Your Vista"
Don’t worry I will run out of Vista joke soon. I think it’s half the reason why they chose that name. I heard that a small company in California owns the product name of Vista for software by the way. I also heard that the Microsoft petty cash fund should clear that up and free the name by October’s 06 release as well.
Vista Beta 1 is out and many have some interesting views so far. One of the cool things I like about Vista is that it will have a Performance Icon in the Control Panel. Check out this one touch solution to Systray and Internet Congestion issues.

Another big feature of Vista will be the Vista version of Internet Explorer. Wait did I just say Vista version? Yep I did. There will be a Vista version of IE7 and a stand alone version that others can download. Others being XP, Server 2003 and Server 2005 that is. Windows 98, 2000 and NT support is gone with IE7. See more about this Beta from the review below.

~ "Running with Scissors In Windows"
A person with way too much time has found a way to run Windows XP with no services. Not even Winlogon if you can believe that. To see how this amazing feat was done check out the link below.

~ "How Mighty is your Mouse?"
Apple has finally released a mouse with the ability to right click. Well kind of right click. It natively doesn’t allow a context menu on a right click until you go into System Preferences and assign it that way but you get the idea. Here’s a great description and review of the new Mighty [yes that’s it’s name] Mouse from Apple.

Here’s the site for the downloading of Tiger 10.4.2. This is the latest release from July 17th 2005.

If you do that update and the consumer has an Airport running you need this site as well.

Also if your looking for a good OSX resource from the Blind perspective check out this link I nabbed from ACB’s Main Menu.

~ "Computer Voyeurism.. No Not What Your Thinking!"
Scientists are working now on object recognition with computers. Which means that your computer may act like the HAL 9000 the next time you do any pointing with a different finger.

** Press Releases
Sendero's GPS version 3.3 for the BrailleNote is now shipping including versions for the tiny PK and the new mPower. Version 3.3 introduces two huge improvements to Sendero's BrailleNote GPS, the Cadillac of accessible GPS systems.
* The Points of Interest database is being expanded from one to twelve million points in the U.S. and Canada with 108 categories. Additional functionality has been added to deal with this voluminous and newer data content. In addition to the restaurants and hotels common in previous versions, the GPS 3.3 data includes everything from beauty salons to nursing homes to churches. As our beta testers in the U.S. and Canada have said, "it is amazing how much stuff is out there and we feel like we can see it with our BrailleNote GPS, especially in version 3.3."
* We have enhanced the manual route creation software. You can now designate manual waypoints as Straight, Left or Right. You can add custom descriptions like "4-way intersection" or "slight bend in path." This makes manual routes created across a campus or in the woods extremely versatile.
For both manual and automatic routes, you now hear a natural voice telling you to "continue straight" when you are on course or, "Warning, off route" when you are not.
Directional information has been enhanced by averaging headings, making relative directions for waypoint and points of interest much better.
BrailleNote GPS has at least double the features and functions of other accessible GPS products and the PK GPS is the smallest and most powerful.
For more information, come see Sendero or HumanWare at an upcoming conference or call 1-888-757-6810. Details are on the web at

Visually-challenged computer users can now explore technical drawings
A well-received innovative, accessible system offers blind and visually-challenged computer users the chance to work on a range of digitised technical drawings and soon other drawings will be added.
Digitised technical drawings are typically presented and edited on standard PCs with appropriate software installed. However, blind and visually-challenged persons must access a user interface and presentation tool specially tailored for them.
The IST programme-funded TeDUB project has overcome the limitations of existing technologies by creating an innovative, accessible system. The Image Interpreter analyses drawings semi-automatically or automatically using image processing and knowledge processing techniques.
Project coordinator George Ioannidis explains that the system is capable of analysing and presenting diagrams from a number of formally defined technical drawing domains, primarily electronic circuits, floor plans and software (UML) engineering drawings.
Diagrams enter the system, are processed and transformed to the internal format of the TeDUB system and accessed by the Diagram Navigator, which allows users to interact via a number of devices, including an ordinary keyboard for input and textual output, either accessed through a Braille device or a screen reader.
The system also offers navigation using a joystick and sound notifications. Users can choose between interfaces. For example, the 3D sound interface provides spatial information relating to the user's current position, which allows them to 'walk' around the diagram.
An evaluation took place in Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands and the UK involving 35 blind or partially-sighted participants, including students aged 16 to 30 following courses on computer science or informatics, and professionals aged 21 to 60, working as programmers, software consultants and university lecturers.
"They were positive about how easy the system can be learned," says Ioannidis. "They also liked the simple operation of the interface when using keyboard commands and the combination of different interfaces to operate the system, as well as how to access information."
TeDUB can be integrated into available screen readers, avoiding the need to recreate completely new software environments. It also solves a problem that has traditionally demanded the more laborious solution of manually creating tactile diagrams.
Project partners are extending the number of types of drawings the system can handle and plan to include business bar and pie charts found in standard business communications.
"We are incorporating TeDUB processing and presentation technology into mainstream applications for creating technical drawings and enhancing accessibility," he says. Future plans include focusing on the educational domain, specifically e-learning content."
Dr George Ioannidis
Centre for Computing Studies
University of Bremen
D-28359 Bremen
Tel: +49 421 2187090
Fax: +49-421-2187196
Source: Based on information from TeDUB
Hands on with Roxio's Boom Box
By Peter Cohen
On Thursday Roxio announced a new $50 software package for Mac OS X aimed squarely at iPod owners called the Boom Box. It's a collection of pre-existing software that Roxio has put together to help users get more out of their iPod, and I've had a chance to put the software through its paces.
Boom Box includes five applications: Roxio's own CD Spin Doctor, MusicMagic Mixer, a playlist-building application, Audio Hijack, which lets you capture audio from applications, iPodderX, a podcast subscription management utility and iSpeak It, an application that can turn text-based documents into spoken word audio files.
CD Spin Doctor
CD Spin Doctor hasn't been available up to now outside of buying Roxio's Toast CD and DVD burning software. The software lets you digitize music you might still have on vinyl and tape - a concept that may sound odd to the college-age and younger set, but it's quite appealing for an old fogey like me - my wife and I have a ton of 12-inch singles of synth-pop from the 80s that we're really not interested in tracking down and repurchasing on CD or through iTunes.
To that end CD Spin Doctor is a very nice utility. The software lets you remove unwanted noise like clicks and crackles from scratchy records, or hiss from audio tapes, to help clean up your audio before you start playing it back on your iPod. It can also detect tracks automatically by listening for the gaps between songs, taking some of the manual labor out of having to import your analog audio into a digital format.
MusicMagic Mixer
Of the five applications included with this collection, I found MusicMagic Mixer to be the most appealing. iTunes makes it really easy to build playlists of different musicians and genres, but there's an inherent problem: It's only using the metadata attached to the individual song files to do that. This gets even weirder with iTunes' Party Shuffle feature - I've heard it to go from Dean Martin to The Beastie Boys to Scandinavian death metal, and just about then my head exploded, so I'm not sure what came after.
MusicMagic Mixer takes a very different approach by analyzing each track's soundwave, and matching songs that include similar acoustic personalities to the one you use to "seed" your playlist with. Contextual menus let you direct MusicMagic Mixer to choose more songs like the one you've selected, less songs like the one you've identified, and more. It's not perfect but it's very, very clever. Once you've configured a playlist you like, MusicMagic Mixer can export that playlist to iTunes with a single click.
If you have a really big music library, MusicMagic Mixer takes quite a while to categorize all your music. I have just shy of 3,700 songs in my collection. I let MusicMagic Mixer run over part of a weekend, since it told me it would take more than a day to build "fingerprints." The good news is that once it's done with the initial analysis, you can tell MusicMagic Mixer just to sync to iTunes to keep up to date with new music you've added.
Podcasting is the latest rage in the world of digital audio; thousands of them have popped up from news sites or anyone else with an opinion who feels like putting their thoughts down in an audio file instead of (or in many cases, in addition to) a Web page.
Trying to keep up with podcasts is a full-time job, and iPodderX helps with that by managing them in a simple application interface. You can browse podcasts by subject, subscribe to the ones you like, and have them automatically downloaded and delivered to your iPod. Finding content that's actually worthwhile to listen to, however, is your problem.
Audio Hijack
Audio Hijack is a clever application that lets you record any audio on your computer, then transfer it to iTunes and listen to it on the go with your iPod. Let's say, for example, that you're interested in hearing the play-by-play audio webcast of your favorite sports team, but the webcast is only available in a streaming format - you can set Audio Hijack up to record that audio. If the webcast happens at a specific time, Audio Hijack contains scheduling tools to help you manage that too.
And Audio Hijack works with any application, including RealPlayer, Windows Media Player or Apple's own DVD Player. This actually came in quite handy for me recently - my wife had borrowed an instructional DVD video from the library that I didn't have time to watch, but contained information I was interested in. I used Audio Hijack to snag the audio as I was doing other things, then I dropped the audio onto my iPod and listened to it in the car.
Audio Hijack also lets you apply special effects to your audio to improve the quality of the audio file. You can equalize, for example boost base and treble, and more. You can also specify sample rates, tell Audio Hijack how much space you're willing to give your files, and take specific actions like "encode to AAC with iTunes" once it's done.
iSpeak It
iSpeak It rounds out the utilities included in the Boom Box collection. This software lets you take text-based files and convert them to spoken word audio files using Apple's Text to Speech technology. The software's developers have included hooks to weather and news reports, as well as a way to download text from Web site URL's you specify, so it's pretty easy to grab things. And if you've got a text file ready - let's say, an exported Word document, or something else you want to listen to - you can click on a button and load it up, then transfer the spoken word version to iTunes with another click.
Getting the most out of iSpeak It depends a bit on being able to tweak Apple's Text to Speech functionality to work best for you - finding the right voice for example (Apple's quality here leaves something to be desired). What's more, iSpeak It also allows you to insert commands to control the rate at which text is spoken, volume and emphasis on specific passages of text to further customize your playback.
Excluding CD Spin Doctor, which Roxio hasn't yet sold as an independent application, the total cost of buying each of these applications separately is in the vicinity of $86 or so - so Roxio's bargain-basement price of $49.95 is an excellent value for all this software, especially if you include the coupons and offers that Roxio includes from Wiley Books, and Belkin Corp.
How much of the software you'll actually use is another question. For my own purposes, I found CD Spin Doctor, Audio Hijack and MusicMagic Mixer to be the standouts of the bunch. iPodderX certainly does its job effectively, but frankly, podcasts just don't interest me that much. And iSpeak It works as advertised as well, but it's hamstrung by Apple's clumsy Text to Speech technology.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

IGN's Madden 06 Review Makes Me Think Twice

I am predictable in this one thing that happens every year. I almost always buy EA's Madden in it's first week. I know that's sad. I fall prey to the marketing and the hype. I give in to hours and hours of Madden Card Collecting. Stat building and Stadium Improvements in Franchise Mode make me happy. Never did I think a pie chart in a videogame would mean so much to me. And I would have that MMORPG fantasy thing going on where I was exstatic that my new team for that season really had the goods to go all the way. Now I could afford to raise my parking prices again. Needless to say working next to me during these times of year can be unbearible if my star QB eats it big time early on in a new season.

This year's version of Madden is it's first under the new EA NFL deal. I was kind of on the bubble about buying this year and I even may just opt out for the 360 launch if this, and Gamespot, are on target.

Looks like Gamespot has pulled off the kid gloves as well. Seems like I am waiting for the 360 version for sure. That's okay because I didn't get rid of 2005 CE and I need a new RPG anyways.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

With A Stroke Of A Pen. A Dolphin Pen That Is..

The Dolphin Pen is the first full Screen Reader and Screen Magnifier to come on a USB drive. Some might say that the Freedom Box people have also released such a product, however, that product requires a bit more work to get it going and it is very limited in what it can access. The Dolphin Pen is the first full time supported USB based product that you can literally take to any computer and have it reading to you in less than 2 minutes. I say two minutes because you may need to install a .dll file and the computer will need to restart after this is done. But more on that in a second. Let’s look at the device shall we?

The Pen comes on a 256 MB drive and the software takes up 160 MB all by it’s self. The unit fits in the standard sized USB drive slot. Loading it is as simple as pie. Place the unit in a USB slot and then your off. Well maybe..

You see there is a little prep work that has to be done first. On three computers I loaded the Dolphin Pen. None had seen the unit before so the following steps I took to get it working was standard on all three systems.

Placing the Pen in the USB slot will most likely give you either the Windows Menu for selecting a media type from a removable drive or nothing at all but the USB connection noise. You may find yourself using Narrator to get to the drive menu if a Media Window Selection box doesn’t show up.

If your really lucky, however, you may get the boot up of the Pen drive. But let’s say you don’t what then eh? Well if you know what drive letter the Removable Drive is then you can go to Run and type in the following example minus the E:\ of course.


If you don’t know what the drive letter could possibly be you can browse My Computer for the drive. It’s usually called Removable Drive as the volume is 256 MB. Windows has an odd ability to assign drive letters straight on with no preamble once they get past 1.5 GB. Search for the above mentioned go.exe and now your really off to the races.

The software will run the typical Dolphin logo and then you will more than likely get a dialog box asking you to either choose the Escape key or the OK key. Escape lets you run the Pen without loading the Dolphin Interceptor software. If you’re a Screen Reader only user you can hit this and be on your merry way. If you utilize Screen Magnification then you want to hit the OK button. Honestly though it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and load the Interceptor for either side of the coin. In fact you might be able to avoid some Braille Display issues with the Interceptor running. So let’s just say we hit the OK button.

The Pen will load the Interceptor utility from it’s cashed list of programs. This takes only a few seconds and then a restart of the computer. When the system reboots, and let’s say there isn’t a network log on screen, Windows will find the Pen in the USB drive and it will then launch Supernova automatically. I believe the unit will work in the Windows log on menu, however, my time with our demo was limited and I will have to research this issue later.

The copy of Supernova now running is a full version of Supernova Pro. Our demo displayed it’s self as a Supernova Pen Edition at version 6.51. And for the most part it ran exactly as a CD copy of Supernova would. The Maps and the program it’s self can be updated like it’s hard drive counterpart. Additional Braille Drivers and Synthesizers can also be added to the Pen. But the best thing going for the Pen is that it saves your individual settings! That’s right no more reconfiguration of your Access Software every time you meet a new computer. I left Supernova at 5x with inverted text and a fast speech rate. Then I took it and added it to a new system. After loading the Interceptor I found my custom settings waiting for me on the reboot of the machine. Now just imagine what that means for those with portable Braille Displays. Two devices in two USB slots for full Screen Reader and Braille Access on almost any computer.

The Pen takes a snapshot of the System Volume Information and keeps it as a 1.2k file. It then loads this information when it is inserted into that same machine. So file A is set for my work system but the Pen loads configuration B when I place it in a laptop. The files are very small so hypothetically you can store hundreds of these files on the space remaining on the Pen.

The down sides to this device are somewhat locked to your user preferences. If you don’t like Dolphin’s speech then you will need to customize it’s voices, or use someone else’s, to your liking. If you’re a JAWS user then slipping Supernova into JAWS simulation mode is the way to go. And if you’re a big fan of Zoom Text’s App reader.. you’re out of luck. Supernova uses a Doc Reader styled auto reading pane. So you will have to take a non-visual approach to full screen reading of web pages and other fare.

The other downside comes from the price Dolphin software is notorious for being a bit expensive. $1,590 gets you the Pen and all the other extras that comes from Supernova Pro. That’s $100 to $190 higher than a CD copy [depending on your distributor]. If you are in need of quick access to multiple machines then this is worth it to you as Site Licensing is far more expensive. But if you’re an individual just looking for freedom then your gonna have to scrape up some pennies.

Dolphin is also adding a Cover Plan for the loss, theft or replacement of broken Pens. The plan is already working in the UK. It’s a small fee for a 12 month plan but that’s a nice price to pay for something that could be so easily lost. You don’t get a backup CD or anything with the Pen so it is going to be as important as a SMA to have this around.

The Dolphin Pen is the first of it’s kind in that it provides detailed support for Win Amp, Real Player and the full suite of MS Office products. The Freedom Box version called “the key to freedom” requires you to contact Freedom Box every time you load it on to a new computer. This becomes a real problem for systems with no internet access. So the Pen is the best solution for the Blind person on the go.

To learn more about the Pen check out Dolphin’s web site.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Zoom Text 9 Beta 4 Released

Ai Squared released their new Beta of Zoom Text 9 last night. This should be pretty close to the final gold release as the product should ship from Vermont in the next week or so. Generally a .01 release comes on the net about 30 days after official release. While some see this as a bad thing I find quick release updates are the norm for all products outside of the Assistive Technology industry. Just ask anyone who has patched Battlefield lately.

Street pricing will be $399 for Screen Magnification and $599 for Screen Magnifier with Screen Reader assistance. This is the same pricing for the other versions as well so no changes there.

I have been running Beta 4 all morning and I love how it's a lot quicker with typing echo and page loading. And I am very impressed with the MS Word changes. Text still gets lost from time to time and the Mozilla support isn't as good as I would like.. but at least someone is supporting Firefox in the biz..