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
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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..