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.

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.