Sunday, December 31, 2006

December 06 Tech Update: The Down N' Dirty Edition

My real list of links was left at work. So the following is a poor cobbled edition. I look at it this way. We have a bonus January 07 update on hand for next week.

Steve's Word Of The Month
Definition: I can't beleive that some out there still don't know what this one is but I do run into several *non wired* individuals who don't know this one. Vaporware is the term used for a product that has either been..
A. Rumored to come to the public for years but hasn't yet.
B. A product so great in scope that there is no way it can meet it's own hype.
C. A product who flies into production, stalls, resurfaces a year or so later, stalls again then disappears into the void never to be seen again unless it is on one of those Vaporware Countdown articles like the one listed below.,72350-0.html?tw=rss.index

BTW: I saw this on the origins of famous phrases and sayings. It kinda fits in here so I will just drop this below.

!! Lightning Round

*Ttop Tech Tid Bits for Dec 28th: Like Dean Martineau over at Top Dot I am enjoying a bit of a holiday. Unlike Dean I am doing it in the same city I live in every day. Still it's a break from the hustle of the AT rat race. Rather than me try to list a ton of news I think it's better to link to Dean's list of links for AT news. Besides he linked to me so it's only fair that I link back.

* Alt Key Symbols: With me in three private and three public betas at the moment it's easy to forget keyboard commands and features. Here's a page on doing odd characters on 104 styled keyboards.

* Vorizon To Distribute Ads On Your Cell Phone: The title says it all. Hope Talks and Mobile Speak come with ad filters in the next releases. If not .. time to argue out of your cell phone contract.

* 100 Things We Didn't Know Last Year: I can't stand Countdown articles yet I still read a few and .. I am working on one now. Yes.. start your groaning and cries of hypocrocy now. Most of the entries on the link below, however, were worth a mention though.

* Firefox Creator No Longer Trusts Google: The problem with companies that asert that Microsoft is the "great evil empire" is that they too become so popular that they also become part of the problem rather than it's solution. Enter Firefox, Google and their real Big Brother Apple.

* 30 Years of Apple Rumors: Speaking of Vaporware, evil and Apple .. hold for quiet applause at an actual theme for a last second Monthly Update.. Here's a telling article on what has and hasn't happened in Macland.,39029477,49286508,00.htm

* Mac Volume Control: Oh and I don't know if this works or not until we have our Mac back up at work. So just pretend this is one of those notes under a fridge magnet for Pizza Hut until I can verify the tip.

~~ Vista corner

Maybe it's the fact that Vista is out in the wild that has me not all crazy that the consumer launch is now less than a month away. Or maybe it is the fact that I have to spend a lot of money I don't really have on upgrades that I hope will be considered work related come tax time that has me down. Either way the Vista stuff can take a bit of a break for now. Here's some semi interesting links I had floating around through my travels on the net.

* Arrow and Vista slowdowns: Hype that Arrow REALLY DOESN'T eat up tons of resources on your new shiny desktop or laptop. Note I said *new* system. Older systems.. eat RAM upgrades at will!

* Beyond Vista: I posted a link to an article a few months ago about the new code names for the next lines of Windows in the V series. Well here's some concepts that may or may not be vaporware.

More of this update next week when I clean out the inbox and dig up the other stuff I had set for this month...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Public Domain Audio Books

Want to read a classic but don't want to do it through a DAISY or other such synth? Then have a real live person do the recording. Check out this link to download some classics fully read by human beings.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Freedom Scientific Has A Podcast

Take a look at what just came into my Inbox..

"Fee free to pass the word that Freedom Scientific now has a podcast RSS feed from our Web site. The first episode of FSCast can be accessed from a link on the home page <> or from the FSCast page <>.

Merry Christmas and have a great week!

Rosemary Kleske"

New Stuff Coming Next Week.. No Really!

Many people off line have said to me "Hey.. you were adding stuff like crazy in October and November. And now .. zip. What happened?". Ah what happened indeed.

Let's see I have been up to my ears in updates, betas, repairs and trouble shooting all that stuff as well. Mind you I am not complaining one bit. Bubble wrap is just as cool as gift wrap for me. But what I am saying is that time is something I need to be delivered to me by elves rather than more toys. For once i can say honestly I have enough toys.. for now. Although a New Year's Resolution for 07 may be to take on fewer betas. I actually said no to one major vender recently and it felt bad/good at the same time. Or maybe that was just the relief of one less bug tracking system to learn talking.

While I am on about this beta cycle mess let me say this. I am very excited about what products are coming in 07. There is some crazy competition going on the Screen Magnifier world the likes we have never seen before. There are real viable alternatives in Screen Reader land as well. And I think the Note Taker PDA universe is going to be even more exciting by ATIA or CSUN. In short there are some real good things in Assistive Technology ahead. And that ain't me blowin' smoke either.

So I used to say many years ago in radio "Please Stand By". Next week will be the December 06 Update, some thoughts on Hand Held/4 inch CCTVs and a fond look back at the big stories of 06.

Until then I wish you and yours a Happy Holiday season!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Microsoft: New Home Page, Windows Weekly Podcast and "Pay As You Go" Windows?

Either for the holidays, Vista, Windows Live or just because they felt like it, Microsoft has changed their front page.

One of the ways I stay in touch with tech is through that old time radio now known as a Podcast. Or as Leo at TWIT says "Netcast". Leo, in fact, has Paul from the Windows Super Site on a Weekly Netcast that is all about Microsoft and Windows. Check the latest episode out from the TWIT link below.

Remember when I said that the subscription model was coming for Windows and then AT? Well it looks like those days are closer than they appear in the rear view mirror.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Beautiful Vistas Means More Windows On The World

No I am not being poetic. What that tagline above refers to is the new trend for Microsoft to release versions of Windows that are tied to vistas. Before it was Whistler, Longhorn and Blackcomb. All were spots near ski resorts that the Seattle crowd like to hit on vacation. Now they have opened up their travel brochures to include other places they like to visit. Learn more about what vistas are ahead of us in the link below.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Upgrade Insanity.. And A Vista Story

Thought I dropped off the planet? Well it sure feels like it from here. I am so tired of watching progress bars. I have installed, uninstalled and trouble shot upgrades like crazy. And then there are the three betas I am in at the moment. Email piling up like unwanted Holiday Fruitcakes. It's not pretty. Here's some of the fun I have seen with some of the new, now shipping, versions of AT.

Kurzweil 11 says that it's Neospeech is newer than that of Zoom Text.
Kurzweil 10.5 won't let go of Dolphin's old synths when shutting down.
Magic 10 won't authrorize on a newly reformatted system running JAWS 8.0. They did once but now no longer friends I guess.
JAWS 7.1 Video Interceptor changes display resolution thereby knocking out the Merlin Plus Panel CCTV in the process.

And I still have to test a few Laptop CCTV units with the newly minted Zoom Text 9.04 update.
Run JAWS 8 and Magic 10 in some nasty applications like Firefox.
Install, test and optimize three systems with IE7 and sorted Assistive Technology..

Whew.. and then I have Vista and those three betas. Believe me I love my job but all these programs all at once has me thinking vacation for sure.

Oh and here's that Vista story on Sound Management BC will enjoy.

Hopefully in the next week or so I can catch up and post more interesting stuff. Just bare with me.. and wish me luck!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Window Eyes 6 Is Released!

G.W. has moved past the public betas and is now offering the full fledged versions of Window Eyes 6.0.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Adobe Issues Security Alert For Products 7.0 - 7.08

If there is one thing more than I dislike in this world more than Apple's stupid cries of "a world without choices" that would be just about any product from Adobe. PDF especially so. But during the holiday season it just feels so wrong to gloat. Okay maybe just onece.. snicker.

Below is a link to an Ars Technica article that shows that some hackers could use Acrobat Reader, Active X and Internet Explorer to do bad and nasty things to your compputer.

Where was this article yesterday when I was looking up good stuff for the update. Sigh...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

November 06 Tech Update: The "Vista Lives!" Edition

Some people love opening gifts. Me? I have enjoyed opening boxes and boxes of upgrades. Ah the smell of a newly printed bifold package. The rumble of three tape cassettes in a box. Mmm.. the super slowness of a progress loading bar as it just won’t freaking get to 100% fast enough. Oh the holidays are full of such wonders!

Steve’s Word Of The Month:


Definition: This is a term used to describe the watching of a TV program, or listening to a radio program as well, through a device like a DVR [Digital Video Recorder] at a completely different time and place than it’s usual airing. A Tivo or Slingbox are two such devices that allow you to view your media on the road or from different places in your home. A new cool thing is the ability to see Direct TV from just about anywhere in the US as long as you face South. See what I mean from the link below.

Direct TV On The Go:

~ Roy’s Toy Box

Submitted by yours truly.. Ranger1138.

Internet Explorer 7 in No Add On mode.

This tip is for those of you who use Internet Explorer 7. And it’s really important for those of you who use Zoom Text.

Kelly Ford offered that if you are having problems reading web pages in IE7 you can try and view those pages with all the “Add On” modules disabled. Macromedia Flash got you down? Bam! It’s not loaded when using this option. Here’s how to do this cool feature.

From the Desktop:

Right click or use your application key on the Internet Explorer icon. Select “Start with no Add Ons”.

From the Start Menu.

Choose All Programs then Accessories. From there go to System Tools and find “Internet Explorer with No Add Ons”.

Now this is very important for Zoom Text users. ZT reads Internet Explorer via an Add On module known as the AHOI system. Running IE7 with no Add Ons means you have no speech, App Reader or any other advanced functions in IE7. The same thing happens to you if you disable the Add On in IE6 by the way.

Blogging resources.

Lightning Round!

Everything is just in a Hodge Podge lump in the list below. Vista stuff is at the bottom on top of the Apple stories.

` JAWS 8.0: Here’s the process I used with some success for updating JAWS to 8.0.

* Use the program CD to load JAWS then restart.

* Keep the program CD in the disc tray and load the Training Materials when prompted. I have seen it ask for ILM right after boot as well. Your call on which to do first.

* Load the Realspeak CD. The Typical install option will load all the voices. You will have to restart the machine.

* Now start the new copy of JAWs .. and update it with the new patch that came out Monday.

` Norton Anti Virus: Check out this article on the fix to a fix on backing up your system.

` Sony’s sound through skin: I wanted wireless headphones but this just sounds creepy. Use your own body to conduct the signals from the player to your headphones. See more in the link below.

` Talking Crayons Perfect for the Blind parents of children or Blind Children themselves.

` Vista Adoption: An analyst predicts that the Vista adoption rate will be faster than Windows XP. Read more from Ars in the link below.

` Direct X 10: This is more of an information article on DX10.

` Apple Prototypes: See what never made it past the planning stages. And no they are not all Newton knock offs.

Side Note- I felt so bad about the bad press for the Zune that I almost bought one for my new Hard Drive player. It had a big bright back lit screen with color schemes quite like a hand held video magnifier. But Dell said one price and then try to charge me another. With my new found discount to make me be happy that I was still buying a Dell I chose the Archos 604 instead. For just pure entertainment value I give you a review of the Zune, that doesn’t work with Vista yet by the way, and the Archos unit I did purchase.

Zune Review:

Archos 604 Review

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Quick News: WE6 Public Beta 3, A Warning For JFW8 and Win 2000 And LOC Grants Copyright Exemption For Blind

WE 6: Window Eyes users need not feel left out of the whole buzz surrounding all these updates and upgrades. The third public beta release is out now and a little bird told me in a dream that the actual final release could be in Santa's bag or a little bit before his flight leaves the North Pole. Get the new release at the link below.

JFW 8: The Deseart Skies has posted a warning about JAWS 8.0 and Windows 2000. See the post about the conflicts in the link below.

LOC: Several copyright exemptions were granted yesterday by the Library of Congress. There are a few that are closely directed to "fair use" but the one that is really of note for Blind users is the ability to use electronic books with Access Software. Take a look at the link below to learn more.

Friday, November 17, 2006

JAWS 8.0 Released!

As I said yesterday.. JAWS was coming and now it's on line to download for those with updated SMAs. Remember that you can't use the new Realspeak synth until you get your CDs in the mail though. Happy weekend you early adopters!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

JAWS 8.0 "What's New Page" Up And Release Soon

The "What's New" page showed up today on the main FS web site. Expect the download links for 8.0 to go live very very soon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Patch Tuesday Brings 5

For those of you reading via dial up be warned that this will be more than 10 MB depending on which ones apply. Learn more from this Ars Technica article.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Quick News: Apple, JAVA And

Apple: All of this talk from Adobe, Symantic and McAfee is really funny now that Apple has closed down and reconstructed their ULA. But as you know it's not a problem because OSX doesn't have any viruses. And as addition to that humorus note Mr. Long the "Mac Guy" in those commercials was found to be too smug. So now he gets to sit on the sidelines with the Dell Dude I guess. Can you see it now? Geek Conventions with autograph lines for these men and the grown up Star Wars Kid? Nope me either. Read more from Slashdot..

JAVA: Also linking from Slashdot who links to another article.. JAVA is now Open Source under the GPL.

iPod Shuffle 2.0: Ars Technica has a good look at the now shipping newly revamped iPod Shuffle. I know a lot of Blind people with this and the Muvo. And since I was talking Zune the other day I thought this might be of interest to some.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Launch Woes: Vista RTM Leaked/Cracked, Zune Street Date Broken and Playstation 3 Naked Plus Firmware Updated

Within a day I saw the leaked copy of Vista RTM on Digg. The comments section of the post ran up to 100 fast with the Pirates chattering away on how to circumvent the installation. And within another day the semi crak appeared along with Office 2007 Enterprise RTM. The fact that this happened isn't astounding. The speed in which it happened however is another story entirely. But of course there were more than 3 million people on the public beta cycle and that's probably where the homework began on this crack. The thing is that the activation hasn't been done in yet and I would even say that the crak may be a honeypot situation where MS tracks who, what and when on how this is all done. Anyway check out the details on the soon to be patched crack at the line below.

Zune: Speaking of products that came out a little earlier than expected. A few months ago I thought I wanted a Zune. I have since recovered and I think I want a cheaper iRiver Clix. But check your local Best Buy because some have started selling the Zune early. I really want a Hard Drive based player, however, this preview from CNET [and some other just posted amateur reviews] have me thinking Flash based players a bit longer. The killer on the Zune was that you can't use it as a portable drive for non music files. Read more from CNET below.

Playstation 3: What I love about launch day is the time it takes for someone to sit down and crack their system open for all of us on the web to see. Patrick Norton, at that time on the Screensavers, bought an original Xbox and opened it's casing on live TV just hours after it went on sale. The chip did say "Intel Inside" by the way. The below link is a series of photos of the internals of the $600 PS3. I imagine "" will be doing the same in even more detail before Thanksgiving.

And even more scary is the list of things added or modified from the base firmware of the launch units. See more in the link below.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

JAWS 8.0 "What's New" Now On Line

So much for me taking a three day weekend with no thoughts of Vista, JAWS, Window Eyes or just about anything else. Maybe I will shoot for some quiet time in April 07. Thanks to Jeff Bishop for posting this info. The link below let's you download a zip file with 10 MP3 files.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Quick News: New Access World, Window Eyes 6 Public Beta 2 and Braille Note Upgrade

Access World: The November issue of Access World is now on line. I haven't read this yet but I soon will because they have a review of the KNFB Reader. As many know I am not wild about this device for several reasons. About 3,500 at last count. anyway the link below will take you to the latest issue..

WE 6: The process is moving fast towards release that is for sure. And nothing says Holiday Shopping Season like a new batch of Assistive Technology upgrades. Mmm.. shipping bubble wrap. Pop.. pop.. pop! Oh yeah and here's the link to the new beta for Window Eyes 6. Sorry that I am so late to the party on this news.

Braille Note: Even later news that has been sitting in the Inbox wating to be blogged is the news that you can upgrade your Voice or Braille Note to use the Oxford Dictionary. Read more about this cool add on at the link below.

Vista Corner: Vintage PCs Under Vista, The Sounds Of Vista AND The First Ultra Detailed Review Of All The Flavors Of Vista

A few months ago I kind of made some points with my mentor but I may have made Microsoft unhappy in the process. If you go back to my NFB Presentation post from July you will see where I said that the RAM of a given system would work best under 2 GB. Robert Sinclair didn't really agree and if you listen to the audio of that faithful day you will hear that he came down and stood next to me for a bit of a "point-counterpoint" mini debate. Well some initial tests of older hardware NOT RUNNING AT have been rolling in as more and more can talk Vista because their Non Disclosure Agreements end with RTM. Most of them state that RAM is the key to avoid taxing the hard drive. 1 GB is the very least you want on board before you upgrade to Vista and for those of us who use Assistive Technology I stand firm still on my 2 GB stance from July. Check out this Ars Technica article to learn more about what did and didn't run in RC2. Oh and remember that this is still beta code in the review.

BC has posted in the comments section a few times about 3d audio and other neat aspects of Vista sound management. A few months ago, I believe in a tech update, I posted an article on just how much sound management has changed in Vista. But for now let's skip all that techy stuff for a moment and let's get down to the nitty gritty. Are you going to change your default sound schemes in Vista? To aid you in the decision I post the article where I got the link to hear XP vs. Vista sounds. The first link is the article while the second link is the direct file in Quick Time format.

Hear the sounds of XP and Vista side by side below..

And if this wasn't enough Vista news for today I link to the awesomeness of the Windows Super Site. Paul has a very long and very detailed review of Vista RTM. In it you see the product breakdowns and, for me, the extras that come with the Ultimate Edition of Windows Vista. At least I don't have to worry about Plus for Windows Vista this go around. Again this one is long so grab a sandwitch... a foot long from Subway will do nicely.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Quick News: JAWS 11/8 Update, Nemo and System Access

JAWS: The new live update for Internet Explorer 7 is now available. Use your Automatic Update feature via the Help menu or go to the link below.

Nemo: The product page for the new Enhanced Vision entry into the Hand Held 4 inch display CCTV field is now up. See it at this site.

System Access: The new version of System Access that allows you to remotely use another computer running JAWS or Window Eyes was demonstrated this week on Main Menu. To hear this week's show click the link below.

Replay Wednesday

Monday, November 06, 2006

Zoom Text 9.04 Now On Line

Finally.. Almost everything I use is either use for work is either IE7 compatible by release or in beta. I can now cast off the old and truly embrace the new!

Here are the release notes..

Version 9.04

Released November 2nd, 2006 for Windows XP, 2000, NT4 (SP6), Millennium and 98

Expanded support for Internet Explorer 7

ZoomText has been updated for compatibility with Internet Explorer 7, including support for tabbed browser windows.

ZoomText now supports USB CCTV's

ZoomText can now be used with USB CCTV devices, allowing for simultaneous magnified viewing from ZoomText and a CCTV camera. When used together, ZoomText's magnified view appears in one half of the screen while the CCTV camera view appears in the other.

The following CCTV manufacturers have added or are currently adding support for ZoomText in their USB CCTV products: Ash Technology, Clarity Solutions, Low Vision International, Optelec, Optron and SynSupport. For information on using your USB CCTV device with ZoomText, contact your CCTV manufacturer.

Note: Some ZoomText features are not available when a USB CCTV device is active on the system.

ZoomText now available in Turkish

ZoomText Magnifier and Magnifier/Reader have been localized (translated) for the Turkish language.

Incompatible screen rotation software now detected

ZoomText now detects and alerts the user when incompatible screen rotation software is present on the system, including Pivot, Pivot Pro, EZTune and Magic Rotation. When any of these programs are detected, the user is instructed to remove them from the system in order to use ZoomText.

Fix for Internet Explorer crash when clicking in Yahoo website

When ZoomText was running, Internet Explorer would sometimes crash when clicking buttons and other page elements on Yahoo's website ( This problem has been fixed.

Fix for errors in DCM chain

On certain systems, if a video card was added or replaced, the following error would occur when attempting to start ZoomText:

"An error has occurred in the DCM Chain"

The error was caused by failure of Microsoft's "Driver Chaining Manager" (aka "DCM") to detect changes to the systems video card configuration. The Driver Chaining Manager (installed with ZoomText) has been updated and now properly detects and adjusts to video card changes.

Fix for miscellaneous AppReader problems

On certain systems, a variety of AppReader problems would occur, including: random freezing, word highlight sticking on the screen, and inability to exit the AppReader tool. These problems have been fixed.

Fix for typing echo and tracking in Microsoft Excel

In Microsoft Excel, ZoomText's typing echo and tracking would sometimes stop working. This problem has been fixed.

Fix for loss of activation when switching regional settings

With domestic versions of ZoomText, if you switched Windows' regional settings to something other than "English (United States)" or "English (Canada)", ZoomText's activation license would be lost the next time ZoomText was started. ZoomText now preserves the activation license and instructs the user to select one of the supported regional settings.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Quick News: JFW 7.1 Vs. IE7, Dolphin and Firefox 2.0

JFW 7.1 and IE7: Well everyone else has posted this already but consider me just giving in to peer pressures at this stage. Courtesy of the Desert Skies.

Dolphin: If you happen to be running a 7.0x version of HAL, Lunar or Supernova then you may or may not have noticed the flury of updates recently. If you are set to Automatic Update you may have missed that Excel, Word and like 18 other Maps have been updated. There's one coming for IE7 as well but no date or time frame has been mentioned yet.

Third Party cookies in Firefox: Patrolling Digg today netted me this little morsel on Firefox 2.0 tracking and just how you can go about with disabeling some cookies that can be tracked.

Oh and Mozilla comes out to give their side of the security flaw issue in 2.0 as well.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Quick News: NLS Digital Player, New ITunes and WMP11 Review

Every time I put a Tech Update to bed the next day I can count on some good info popping up on line. Today is no diferent.

NLS Digital Player: The pictures and descriptions of the new player coming to us in 2008 are now posted on the web. My thanks to Dan Brown for passing along this link this morning.

Windows Media Player 11: I have already run into the bug with streaming media when I decided to play Main Menu from work this morning. There is of course a work around but those who sit behind a fortress of security software may wish to look at the read me before jumping to the final release. Oh and the Windows Super Site has a detailed review of the new media player as well.

iTunes 7.0.2: Man they are updating this version like mad. Hope those $50/$60 JFW scripts work with this new version. Learn what's changed in the software that I refuse to use because I don't believe in DRM at Ars Technica.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

October 06 Tech Update: The "Ghost Of LP Windows Walks Amongst You" Edition

Honestly there’s just so much news coming in November that a short, sweet and far less verbose update just seemed like the thing to do this month. And no I haven’t figured out what I am doing to the format yet. Maybe by Xmas I will have it figured out. At least my good friend Steve gets his feature back this month.

Steve’s Word Of The Month Za Definition: Pizza. The phrase is often used in text messaging and you can see really quickly who used the one handed typing method to text on their phones when they say things in code like Za.

* Kurzweil 1000 v11: Here’s the official press release on the new version shipping really soon.

* Trekker 3.0: Here’s the low down on the new GPS software for the Note Family of products from Humanware.

* Hadley Distance Learning: Hadley On Line what a world we live in these days!

* Audible and Mobile 2005: Blind Confidential has a wild tale about using the new Audible Manager on the new Mobile Speak Pocket.

* Mobile Speak Pocket 1.0.8: Speaking of MSP here’s the official release on that update.

* Windows Media Player 11: The final version is out and available for download now. Grab it from this Microsoft site…

* IE7 Keyboard Commands: Just about everyone else has linked to Kelly’s blog but Desert Skies had a bit more on the subject. And I don’t think I have shown Jeff love in a link yet. Shame on me.

* Firefox 2.0: Some say it’s a dud and others say it’s as good as it ever was. Still version 2.0 is out now with version 3 looming for non Windows 9x machines. To get more info on the Firefox debate check out the ZDNet page.

* W3C: The group has come under fire by many in the Web 2.0 league of developers who wish not be constrained by a little thing like standardization. Read more on this issue in the link below..

* Apple Boot Camp 1.1.2: A new Beta of Boot Camp is now on line. Some in the know say running in Parallels is better though. Still you can find the Beta download links here:

* Instant FM: A new USB dongle allows you to record FM and Web Radio straight to your computer. See the article from Slashdot here.

~ Vista Corner

Well several Betas have begun for Vista testing with Assistive Technology. And while I can’t speak about that because of Non Disclosure Agreements I can at least say that all this blathering on about Vista for the last 18 months will finally come to pass on January 30th 2007. Expect some more hardware musings from me when I take a look back at the infamous NFB presentation I did back in July in a post to be coming very soon. Some 4 months later I still get a little flack over that one. Go fig! Until then here’s some bits on Vista. The “Road To Gold” being a fascinating read by the way.

` Final packaging revealed-

` Road To Gold:

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Truth About Windows Vista And The Assistive Technology Industry

So this morning I was drinking my new favorite coffee "Almond Joy" [a blend of chocolate, cocanut and almond slivers] and jamming to some unreleased song from Disturbed via their My Space site when I came across this article from Peter at

I have read this site for years, liked the old format more than the new redesign, and I have to say I was a little shocked at the tone of that post. And it takes a lot to get me motivated to write pages of stuff on a Saturday morning, however, I stopped everything to compose the opinion piece you see below. Breakfast will just have to wait!

Now before I respond to this post I want to say that I am not looking to start a flame war. Nor am I wanting to pick a fight steal internet cred or capitalize on this post. But I have seen many posts like this on the Yahoo groups and other places where we users of Assistive Tech congregate and I feel moved to speak out about these views that Microsoft is not trying to meet the needs of you and those like you.

The most important thing I want to say is that those folks at the Microsoft Accessibility Group are human beings and they do care deeply about making MS products accessible to all. Anyone who has heard or read what Kelly Ford has said in the last few months knows that he is a blind user of this technology first and a Microsoft employee second. To say that he and others like him within the company don't have a valid stake in making the world a better place for users of Microsoft products would be very off base.

I have met, spoke with and presented alongside Robert Sinclair who is the Director of the Accessibility Group and I can say first hand that he is very dedicated and knowledgeable of what it takes to make a Screen Reader and Screen Magnifier work. He has demonstrated Vista running with Window Eyes 5.5 Beta publicly at the NFB National Convention in July of 2006. And on Vista's launch date you can be rest assured that G.W. Micro will have their solution up and running for those who are crazy enough to join up with many of us in the early adoption launch phase of Vista.

But to accuse MS of blatantly ignoring the issues surrounding Vista's accessibility is just plain absurd. Mainly because they did back in the days of Windows 95 and it got them royally sued. Since then the company has always been open with Freedom Scientific, Ai Squared, Dolphin and the like. I have been in long discussions with Eric on Vista back as early as the launch of JAWS 7.0. I was involved in some high level talks with Doug and the gang in Vermont during the Zoom Text 9.0 beta. These companies have no choice but to make their products work in Vista because that's where the money is if they want to continue to exist.

When Vista comes on line it will be the fastest roll out in computer history. It's estimated, and not by MS by the way, that 400 million computers will be running Vista by 2008. That's a far shorter time frame than the same number with Windows XP. And that many computers is a virtual gold mine of upgrades and new product sales to companies like Kurzweil Education Systems and VisionCue.

Nobility in the Assistive Technology Industry as a whole is in short supply these days. Yes there are more blind and visually impaired people in the world than say five years ago. And yes there will be even more in the next five years. That doesn't equate to more money for these companies however. A quick glance at the CCTV arm of the industry shows us that there is four times the amount of serious players in active distribution than there was ten years ago. You have more choices, sizes and types of monitors. And the same goes with Braille displays. But that doesn't mean that all of them sell well and it doesn't mean that these companies are just rolling in the dough.

The majority of Humanware's sales, 97 to 98% I believe, are exported out of New Zealand. The NZ dollar is gaining on the US dollar. Therefore they are losing money every time they export a product to the US. Freedom Scientific on the other hand will have to develop JAWS 8.0 for Vista and still support 7.1 for the thousands of Windows 98/XP users who won't make the jump to a new operating system. This will cost truck loads of money in many hours on the technical support lines not to mention the time and resources spent on doing fixes and patches for both over the next 18 months. And while you ponder that think about the number of new programs these companies have to find ways to support as well. Skype, Firefox, Lotus Notes, Oracle, Remote Access, Citrix and a dozen or so AJAX Web 2.0 initiatives that have no web standards at the moment. Not to mention Governmental requirements for these programs and hardware to work with any Government purchased equipment under Section 508 as a part of the US Americans with Disabilities Act. To be quite blunt I am amazed that they get more of all this right than wrong with every sub sequential update and version of each product.

Making JAWS work with IE7 is one thing. You know at some point if a program is in 90% of the households in any given country these companies have and will find a way to make their products work. Where the gray areas become wider spread is in things like In House or Private software and Mash Ups. That's a different discussion entirely though.

To set the record straight Microsoft offered several meetings on their Main Campus to all the AT Venders. At these meetings they were told about the changes that would come in Vista. They were shown UI Automation, Mirror Driver models and the new "Ease of Access" center that would replace the "Accessibility Options" icon in XP. They were told that the former way of using DCM, MSAA and other hooks would not work with Microsoft's pledge to provide more security and stability with the Vista engine. Microsoft offered grants, resources and other materials to everyone all they needed to do was ask. Some Venders balked, some jumped on the bandwagon and others just sat noncomittal. Those who chose neither side were probably the ones who made out best for the short term because Vista, at that time code named Longhorn, would end up being delayed another year.

The companies that balked did so with good reason. The changes in Vista forced some Assistive Technology Venders to rebuild their programs from the ground up. That kind of development is not easy to come by and boy is it not cheap. Free lance programmers were sought out and the bids were pricy. Still like I said above there was no choice. The bad part in all this mess was every time Vista had a delay it cost these companies more time and money. At some point the investment will pay off but remember the time was pre $3.00 a gallon gas back then. No one knew what was coming. And when the announcement hit at CSUN that Vista would be delayed again there was open and visible anger on the floor of the Exhibit Hall at the prospect of not having a stream of cash coming in at the end of summer 06 [one of many Vista promised launch dates]. And as we see now the need for that revenue was too great for them to wait around for Microsoft to finally ship Vista. What is falling through the cracks a bit is that if you upgrade with some products now you will be covered when Vista does finally ship. You are not paying double if you go to JAWS 8.0, Window Eyes 6.0 or others that release in November.

There's two other points I want to address while I am on this rickety old soapbox. The first is this notion that AT in general should be cheaper than it is for the customers of these products. Let the word go far and wide that the largest purchaser of Assistive Technology is the US Federal Government. And while you may want to make jokes about $600 for a hammer remember that when you get right down to it there really aren't many copies of Magic, Open Book or Zoom Text being bought each year when compared to say Office 2003. The Assistive Technology Industry is a very small market. They have little wiggle room when it comes to creating, updating, marketing and shipping product. It takes a lot to keep the lights on in any business let alone one that may see a limited number of sales with a worldwide distribution model in place. Some Venders even rely on being back ordered on their most popular products because at least that way they know for sure just how much money they will get in the next month's budget. An upswing or dip in sales for these guys can be catastrophic and most people in the industry remember the recent rise, fall and rise again of Telesensory in 2005. So supply and demand dictate X number of dollars for any given product. Hence the reason why software Y has to sell 100 copies a quarter at a given price if they want to pay everyone's salary and keep the lights on along with research and development for something like Vista. And if you don't believe me about the daily operations and expenses of a global business just ask your favorite Vender how much it costs to make one Braille cell. The answer may surprise you.

While Governmental purchases via the Veteran's Administration and Vocational Rehab Agencies make up the bulk of purchases the number of private prchases is very very low in comparison. It's not due to the price either. It's mainly due to the size of our population and the skill level involved. I hate to use generalities but older people don't like using computers. Throwing them on Windows and the internet is scary enough but tell them they have to learn this other thing in order to make it work? Furthermore explain to them the amount of time needed to master all of this just to send their grandkids an email with a JPEG attachment? I work with populations like these for a living and I know that the numbers that can or who are willing to learn are just a fraction of those who are blind or visually impaired.

The way that the business model works is that your initial product, say Lunar Plus, is bought by the Government. As a part of the perception of rehabilitation in the US the responsibility of keeping Lunar up to date for your job is up to you. Upgrades and SMAs are far cheaper and easier to purchase than the original cost of the hardware or software. And in some cases, say the $95 that it takes for you to go to the new Kurzweil 1000 version 11 shipping this November, the cost is not so unreasonable that it will break your piggy bank. Some Dealers even have installment plans. But more importantly you have TO

PAY for good access. That's why the subsidized or open source model doesn't work for us who use this technology daily for maintaining their jobs. It's only as good as the money spent and community based projects, for me, are not reliable enough for me to base my needs for access on completely. Those who don't like the current way things work are just going to love the subscription based model that looms on the horizon. The software costs will come down but you will have to pay monthly or yearly for this concept to work.

The second point I want to make is this.. Microsoft is not the evil empire that some make it out to be in the blind community. If it wasn't for Microsoft leveling the playing field by giving us all a place to start when learning computers then more than likely a lot more of us would be unemployed. Before Windows 3.11 there was DOS and it wasn't as good as some would like to think. There was MSDOS, IBM DOS, Compaq DOS and about 16 others I can easily remember at this sitting. The command structure was not universal by any rate. Two or three standards emerged, just like Linux, and the rest just kind of sat there. Windows dominance forced NFB and others to act and demand equal access. This would have been much harder to do in a multi platform development cycle. So as much as people complain about Windows they forget how much it has done wonders for us in the areas of communication, entertainment and opportunities for work.

The flipside of this debate is not "look at Apple and Tiger". It's true that Apple has a Screen Reader and Magnifier within Tiger. But what other choices do you have? Better yet if developers do not use the Universal Access tools given out freely by Apple then you have no Universal Access what so ever. That means your Screen Reader may work in Safari but the third party program that is completely community supported doesn't speak to you because those developers did not follow the Apple guidelines. Last I checked most Windows based AT finds ways of making their products work via scripting, set or map files. My point here is that you do not want just one source for your access and you really don't want it to be solely in the hands of the company who brings you only so far to leave you hanging in other areas. And the second Microsoft does make a built in Screen reader or other such tech the current Assistive Technology Venders will cry Anti Trust so fast that it will make your head spin. I also have to say that having Tiger in only 2% of homes and iPods in 80% of the MP3 player market makes one pause about which one needs Universal Access.

Finally the last thing I want to rant on about this day, and congrats if you stayed with me this long, is that the biggest error in Peter's post was that the options in Vista's accessibility have not changed. This is not true. Narrator is far diferent in quality and verbosity. Magnifier, although not a full screen model, allows for smoothing and other Zoom Text xFont like enhancements. You can even change the cursor's length and thickness through Vista's control panel. But the biggest changes in Vista's "Ease of Access" is the on board Speech Recognition and it's Cognitive modifications. Both are new additions to the Access Group and they will go a long way into introducing disabled users to the world of Assistive Technology. Microsoft has been accused of abusing their power so much that they may never offer a true alternative to JAWS or Supernova. But in Vista if you find that Narrator isn't enough or if you want to learn more about Speech the "Ease of Access" options will link you to Microsoft web sites that list all the AT Venders. Thereby giving everyone a choice rather than forcing you to use just what's on board in their operating system.

I mentioned nobility several paragraphs ago. I have another rant on this subject coming in November after everyone releases their upgrades and patches. As a preview of that diatribe let me say again that Assistive Technology is a business. It needs money to survive. There will always be new programs and formats to support and I for one think it's admirable that each one of the leading companies in this industry will have some version of their product on line when Vista ships at launch. We have never seen this before in the world of blindness and for that alone I am thankful that I can go and buy a copy of Vista just like everyone else and use it on the first day it's available.

Okay rant over. It's a little late for Eggos but never too late for more good coffee.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

IE7, Patches, Updates, Money And You

So it's been a week now of IE7 and you might be wondering when you may see official support from a non beta release of your fave AT software. Well here's a quick rundown of what I have gathered so far from those in the know ..

  • JFW- 7.1: Well it sort of works. Much has been said on the lists about Virtual Cursor, Links Lists and some other sticking points. But honestly I don't recommend using JAWS 7.1 and IE7 for your daily work on your main machine. You can .. but good luck.
  • JFW- 8.0: The real official support for IE7 comes with 8.0 now slated for a Novemberish 06 release. This is a paid upgrade and it's leaving the world of Windows 9x behind. Of course IE7 does that too so no big loss there.
  • Magic- 10.0: Again like JAWS you *could* use 10.0 for IE7 but I don't recommend doing that either.
  • Magic- 10.5: It's in beta now but it should release around the same time as JAWS 8.0. It's a free update and it's going to support IE7 when it comes on line on it's Novemberish release date.
  • Window Eyes- 5.5: For the most part WE5.5 can work in IE7. Later beta releases added better support for IE7, however, you can use your current version of WE if you feel so compelled.
  • Window Eyes- 6.0: So you know that the beta is out and you can use that for free in IE7. But the official release is a little on down the line and it will be a paid upgrade. Like others in the AT Industry this new generation of software bids a fond good bye to Windows 9x. So smoke'em if you got'em.
  • Zoom Text- 9.03.1: Um.. it sort of works. To be honest it magnifies and tracks fairly well. No App Reader or other advanced features support though. So prepare to read from the clipboard .. a lot.
  • Zoom Text- 9.04: This is a free update and it will support IE7. Now if it would just be released. Grrr. I'm told that it's a scant few weeks away though. Just not right this minute.. sigh.
  • Dolphin Products- 6.0x: Some are good enough with the map files that making this version work with IE7 is so not an issue. But even with that said Dolphin will do a patch to add some official support to this version of their product line. This would be a regular Map update for free or download via
  • Dolphin Products- 7.0x: Same song different verse. Free updates are coming but no release dates have been spoken out loud.

So are you missing out if your not running IE7. The answer may surprise you. It all really depends on what you do on line with the net. Rumor going around the web is that if you like to view your secured data on the Social Security website you will need to upgrade soon, if not already, to IE7. But the flipside is that some major banking and E-comerce sites are IE6 only. Going to some of these sites gets you a neat little screen that says your browser is not supported by this site holder and you need *the latest* version of IE, being IE6, to view this page.

This kind of thing is unavoidable and it will be around for at least another six to nine months as IE7 begins it's roll out to consumers in mass. Part of the issue is that some sites use and exploit IE6 in ways that just aren't possible in IE7. Some of this is due to security flaws and others are Active X in nature. Bottom line is that IE7 will be the standard eventually and those sites will have to brush the crumbs off the Web Team and redesign their sites at some point. Lucky for all of us that this isn't a flip of the switch Terminator 2 "Come with me if you want to live" moment. Otherwise you would be asking Santa to leave you a SMA in your stockings this year.

In a semi related story..
Firefox 2.0 was released yesterday. No really the official real non Release Canidate version is out now for download. So if you want you could skip all this IE nonsense and start your troubles anew with wondering if your AT software works with this release of Mozilla's web browser. Ah the joys of Technical Support. They too need some big presents in their stockings this year to deal with all the calls pre Vista. And yes I can find just about any number of ways to slip a Vista refrence into just about any post on this blog.

If you like Firefox or you are just curious you can download it from this site..

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Winodws XP Service Pack 3 Delayed Until 2008

I had to go out of town on business this week. so a highlights of Window Eyes 6 on Main Menu is coming. But until I can catch up on tech news from around the net, takes about two hours a day of sheer mass reading generally, I thought this would be one of the biggest stories to get on the blog first. XP SP3 in 08. Well at least that's one Microsoft product I don't have to worry about testing anytime soon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Quick News: IE7 Hits Today, Vista Licensing and Window Eyes 6 Beta

Internet Explorer 7: Today marks the day where the quiet calm from Microsoft is broken with a storm of new product releases. IE7 is the first of several new products to be released over the next 8 months. And it's going to be out today via download. And then it will be added to November's Patch Tuesday list. Remember that your Assistive Software of choice MAY, KINDA, SORTA work with IE7 but the official versions that officially DO work with AT come over the next few weeks. Just keep that in mind if you are pondering the upgrade because going back to IE6 can be a messy process.

Vista Licensing: There's a ton on the web about this issue and I have hesitated in speaking my mind on it as it's still fluid until Vista's official release. But I have been reading the newly revamped Longhornblogs, called, for up to the second info on this story that has sparked a thousand bloggers. Check out the new site at..

Window Eyes 6 Beta: G.W. Micro has released the public beta of their new upcoming version of the popular Screen Reader. I know a gal who has been in the beta program and she raves about the new functionality in Office. Plus you can download this version and start playing with IE7 if you so desire. Shout out to Jeff Bishop as well as Main Menu will feature the new Window Eyes 6 as this week's topic. To find and download the new beta go to this link..

Monday, October 16, 2006

Allinplay Gets Ready For IE7

Got this in the old inbox today..

"Dear All inPlay Members,

With the upcoming release of Internet Explorer 7.0 the way All inPlay games are launched will cause problems. We have addressed this issue and released a new installer that you *must* download and install. In the coming weeks we will be upgrading the web site which is incompatible with older versions of the games.

To get the new installer go to

Download and install this file and you're done!

All inPlay Support"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Quick News: How To Stop The Automatic Update of IE7, Patch Tuesday and Happy Shinny Anti Virus Companies

* As you might already know IE7 is soon to be on it's way to you via the Windows Update feature. Currently very few Assistive Technology products support the new version of the popular browser. And in some cases you will have to obtain an paid upgrade for better support or compatibility to IE7. The danger of course is that you or your company may have Automatic Updates set on your computer or network. Which could be bad when you come into work and boot up to a whole new browser. Ars Technica has an article on a tool kit released way back in July that will prevent you from doing this little surprise. The Microsoft kit doesn't stop or prevent you from downloading IE7 manually though. so you can still use the browser once you are up to snuff with your AT product of choice. Find the article at the link below.

Of course you can also go into Control Panel, Automatic Updates and set them to "Notify me but do not download updates". It's a bit easier but you will have to be on the look out for IE7 in the Critical Updates next time Microsoft issues a patch. For that you must strike IE7 from the list of available downloads in Windows or Microsoft update.

* Windows Updates: Speaking of Automatic Updates at Microsoft.. You may have noticed that Patch Tuesday was kind of more like Patch Someday. There appears to have been some network problems at MS which prevented the automatic distribution of patches. It's all better now and you may either manually download or auto update yor copies of Office and Windows XP. The 10 patches are all under 1.5 MB and you will need to restart your system after running these updates. ZDNet has more on a patch that was supposed to come but didn't by the way.

* Anti Virus Nay Saying: A ton of press has been all over the net from the leading Anti Virus makers on how Microsoft is hurting them and ignoring real threats in security. For a very long time I have been a bit of a conspiricy nut on this subject. Part of me, the I used to work in high pressure sales part, says that these companies create the problems that they then magically fix thereby holding you at the throat to continue to the never ending subscription model that makes up the very core of their business model. Another part of me can't stand the bloatware that comes from things like System Works. But many on the web who are far more technical than I have come right out and accused these companies of being wrekless in their arguments to exist. ZDNet once again today has another article on this subject and it's a good read to see how the bucket doesn't always hold all the water it says it does on the side of the retail box.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

JAWS 8.0 Featured On Main Menu

Jeff Bishop interviewed Eric from Freedom Scientific on Main Menu and you can hear some demonstrations of JAWS 8.0 if you go to the link below and look for the "Replay" for Wednesday.

But if you don't want to listen to the 2 hour presentation, and you really should give it a listen, you can find some highlights from my notes on the broadcast directly below.

* The new “What’s New In JAWS will feature both Eric and Jonathan Mozen. It’s going to be released as a MP3 on the FS site and it’s about 90 minutes long. This will also be included on the CD in DAISY format.
* JAWS 8 will be downloadable off the web, however, this version will not contain the new Realspeak synthesizers. As a result of JAWS now being able to use Realspeak it will be shipped on CD to all current SMA holders.
* The version of Realspeak shipped is over 700 MB and it comes on it’s own CD. The JAWS bi fold package will contain the Realspeak CD on one side and the JFW program disc on the other. Nothing was said about the ILM disc though.
* Public Beta releases, like those with 7.1, will return after the release of 8.0.
* JAWS will now use the Automatic Update feature more often. The plan is to update JAWS every 6 weeks.
* 8.0 no longer supports older versions of Windows. Windows 2000, XP Home, XP Pro, XP Media Center Edition and Windows Server 2003 are supported.
* The older versions of JAWS will still be available on the web but not supported by Freedom Scientific. The archives go all the way back to version 2.0 by the way.
* Eric has stated that a version of JAWS will be available on the day and date of Vista’s release. His comments seemed to be directed at the January 30th retail versions rather than the upcoming Enterprise release.
* 8.0 will work with Office 2007, however, that program is still in Beta and better support will arrive in future updates.
* Realspeak is being adopted to give JAWS better international language support.
Bi Fold package with Realspeak CD on one side and JFW program disc on the other.
* The Realspeak English territory release will contain 3 American, 2 British, 2 Australian, 1 Castilian Spanish and 1 Latin American Spanish voice.
* Other languages will be sold regionally such as Italian and German.
* The new Realspeak voices can be used with the new Say All feature. This will allow you to navigate with Eloquence and switch on the fly to Realspeak for document reading.
* 8.0 will support IE 7.
* Some keystrokes have changed to avoid conflicts with IE 7 but nothing that as not already been seen with Firefox support
* Virtual Buffer and Document Server loading of dynamic HTML and other content has been improved from 7.1. You can actually read pages with tickers in real time .. and this is said to be amazing with a Braille display.
* Skim Reading will now recognize attributes and colors when searching through text
* The Startup Wizard will allow you to customize JAWS when you first launch the program after a new install. This is added from Magic and it allows you to set your preferences without you having to sort through many of the menus in the Configuration Manager.
* The JAWS Find Dialog now has a History list of the last 20 items searched
* Application Management from Magic makes the leap into JAWS. You can go into this tool and turn off JAWS scripts in say Firefox to see if the program is the problem or is the application specific scripts are an issue. Great for trouble shooting your computer.
* Lots of Office 2003 improvements in Excel and Outlook.
* Web Resources has now been added to the Help menu. This will take you to the JAWS HQ and other places where you can find up to date information on JAWS. The search engine now used by Freedom Scientific for web based searches of their site is now Google based.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Vista Corner: RC2?, Startup Noises and Title Bars

Expect Build 5744 to show up in the next 24 to 48 hours if Ars Technica and the Super Site for Windows are correct. If your keeping score this is the second release in the 57xx catagory which is considered the road to RTM schedule for October 25th. It will be released to the public for a very short time. So keep hitting refresh and you might get lucky.

There was this big deal a few weeks ago about Microsoft pulling an Apple in that you could not alter your startup/boot sounds in Vista. The net outcry was so great on this issue that in RC1 it was revealed that you could indeed alter your startup sound schemes. However those not running this build still think that it is an issue. Oh the joys of beta testing and those who do not upgrade their builds.

And then there's this from the Classic for Classic Sake department. Some can now rest easy because title bars will now look like title bars. Screen Readers ignore the link below because it's like this visual thing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

September 06 Tech Update: The "Better Late Than Never" Edition

What a month for news. It’s been feast or fanon lately. But I have cobbled together some bits of wisdom from around the net to make this update. Even if it’s a little later than I normally would like it to be.

Also after two years of writing this thing I am beginning to play with the format. So this month’s late issue is just my notes pasted into the blog. Sorry about that. Maybe by Halloween I will have figured out what I want to do next with the updates.

* September Stories: To catch up on Jonathan Mozen, Ai Squared’s sale and other big news hit this link for the mini updates I posted for September.

* More On Mozen: This is the article that has sparked debate on dozens of mailing lists since the Main Menu interview a few weeks ago.

* Telesensory: Baby steps? There’s talk that the revamped TSI has a new line under wraps for an 07 release.

Neat GW Micro article: Also take a look at some of their other great knowledge base articles for some good learnin’.

* Dragon 9: A great review from the awesomeness that is Ars Technica.

* New tool from Nuance

* Speech Recognition Chips? Speaking of Speech Recognition the future may be on a chip rather than a software approach.

* Happy Feet: Don’t like talking to your computer? How about dancing.. This article describes the mouse to foot interface. And no. I am really really serious.

* Sony gives away E Readers: Sony’s second attempt at an electronic book costs $349, comes only in black/white/gray scale, 800 by 600 resolution and will now play MP3 and AAC files. Oh yeah and it does some type of large print. Here’s an article about a give away of the product to Low Vision users.

* Windows Tools List: While a lot of these may not be completely AT compatible.. there are some here I haven’t ever seen before period.

* LCD Vs. Plasma: Ever wanted to know what the dilly’o was on why some like one over the other? Well I personally prefer DLP but for those others looking to buy this Xmas read this to know more about all these letters beyond those that make up TV.;c=Article&cid=1156024212895&call_pageid=968350072197&col=969048863851

~~ Vista Corner

* Vista Myths: This is a fantastic series of articles at ZDNet that tackles the rumors behind what Vista is and isn’t.

* RC2.. Sort Of:: Self explanatory when you read the article listed below.

~~ Apple Sauced

* Tiger 10.4.8: The new Tiger update, a big Security Patch and another Airport support download came out last month.

* Classic Mac OS on a Thumbdrive: Another file for that 4 gig USB drive of stuff you hope you never have to use in a bad situation.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Vista Build 5728 Released For A Limited Time

Just like those Disney DVD commercials for "The Little Mermaid" this update to RC1 is only available for a short time and then it's gone. Except I don't think it will be rereleased in 7 years like a Disney film. Mabye the next Operaiting System will.. but I digress.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Quick News: Mosen On Main Menu, Talking Microwave On The Cheap and Allinplay Tournement This Weekend

The saga continues on Main Menu. Mr. Mozen will be the guest and I am sure this will be a fantastic, no I mean it seriously, interview that we will all be talking about for weeks to come. Thanks to Jeff Bishop for posting this info in the comments section. And yes.. I do actually read and respond to comments. So feel free to say whatever. By the way here's a link to Jeff's blog with a preview of the Main Menu interview.

News of this new talking, and low priced, microwave is making the rounds at work. I have heard that this is selling between $80 to $94 at Wal Mart and Best Buy. Here's a website address and a rundown of features.

* Easy-to-use Instructive Talking Programmable Feature
* Interchangeable Voice Language Feature (English/Spanish)
* 10 Power Levels
* Eight Instant Settings for Common Foods
* Five Express Cook One-Touch Settings
* Five Memory Setting Buttons
* Blue Electronic Digital Display with Clock (LED)
* Turntable
* Time Cook
* Time and Weight Defrost
* Remind Signal
* Kitchen Timer

One of the quotes in an email had this description:

"Its just under 1 cubic ft and Its 900 watts too so quite
powerful. We're actually still getting used to that aspect of it since our last one wasn't nearly that powerful.
The buttons are totally accessible. They're easy to feel, and are much like the buttons on any other appliance or remote control. It also has a little knob that you turn to set the cook times, with a little notch you feel each time you turn it so you can easily tell how far to turn it.

You push a button on the knob and it'll ask you to set the minutes, then when you set the minutes you push the button again and it'll ask you to set the seconds. After you do that you push the button again and it starts. It is really easy to use."

All InPlay has a big tournment this weekend. Here's the press..


Dear Community Members,

This weekend All inPlay is hosting the back-to-back Draw Poker and Texas Hold'em tournaments sponsored by the American Council of the Blind and ACB Radio. There are over $1000 in prizes up for grabs, and we hope you'll be able to join us for the fun.

22 September 2006: American Council of the Blind Celebrate September Open (part 2-Draw Poker)
Location: Draw Poker Tournament Server
Start Time: 5:00 PM US Eastern
Duration: 24 hours
Flavor: Vanilla (
Open to: All
23 September 2006: American Council of the Blind Celebrate September Open (part 3-Texas Hold'em)
Location: Texas Hold'em Tournament Server Start Time: 5:00 PM US Eastern
Duration: 24 hours
Flavor: Banana Split (
Open to: All

These *free* tournaments are made possible thanks to the support of the American Council of the Blind ( and ACB Radio ( Please do consider visiting their websites and letting them know how much you appreciate the free tournament.

Also, if you haven't already learned the details of how our Invite-a-Friend promotion can earn you free chips and membership time, you can get them at:

If you have any questions about the tournaments or our Invite-a-Friend promotion, feel free to let us know by email.

- Paul and Jeremie
Chief Goof Balls
All inPlay"

Vista Color Coded Threats And Listen To Audio Books On Your Cell Phone

The marketing continues for Vista. Now you can expect the following colors for the following versions of Vista.

Light Green: Basic, Dark Green: Premium, Blue: Business, Silver: Ultimate.

It reminds me of the various colors for the SEGA Genesis, Saturn and Dreamcast. But if 32X Yellow shows up I am out of here.

LG does it again. Now you can download audio books on to your cell phone.. in Korea.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Quick News: new Access World, Zoom Text Enhanced Vision

The new issue of Access World is on line now. See it at:

Ai Squared: Zoom Text will have an update coming in mid October. One key feature in the 9.04 update will allow ZT to be compatible with the soon to be released Internet Explorer 7. This update will be free and I hope others in the AT Industry follow suit. IE7, as you might remember, will be released as a Windows Critical Update. And if you aren't paying attention you could select it in a mass download of patches thereby causing you some problems with your access software of choice. The 9.04 update will also return ZT to being compatible with the Magnalink Student software used by that particular Laptop CCTV model. You may have read on Access World recently that Dolphin was the way to go right now if you use the Student line from Low Vision International and soon you can use ZT again with little conflicts.

Enhanced Vision: Recently there was a change to the Jordy Head mounted CCTV. The company changed the monitors on the device to a 16x9 ratio over the standard 4x3. The result is a more panoramic look. We have the new model in at the Unit and I dare say the screens look a bit brighter as well. The optics/internal design, however, has not been altered. So those wondering out there need not be concerned if they just got one of these fine CCTVs.

Trade In Your Braille Note For A Pac Mate And A Order Of French Fries

And the Mozen Implosion saga continues. Honestly if you are a fan of either note taker you will come away with some kind of comment from the press release below. It's impossible not to really. But this is the first, minus the earlier official announcement of Jonathan joining FS, time we see the spin on why the Pac Mate is better than a Braille Note from a guy who effectively was the voice for the Humanware note takers during the last 2 years. I am NOT saying that he is good at promoting either unit better than the other. But I am saying that the irony is delicious and I can't wait for the convention discussions on the exhibit hall floors in 07. And honestly speaking as someone who used to be in high pressure sales many many moons ago.. I have to admire the effort that it will take to literlly go in the polar oppisitte direction when speaking about this technology. I wish Mr. Mozen all the luck in the world because this ain't gonna be easy!

Here's the release from Freedom Scientific. Link listed below..


Sales Contact: Charlie Madsen, Inside Sales

Media Contact: Brad Davis
Blind/Low Vision Group
800-444-4443 or 727-803-8000

Trade in HumanWare Notetakers with
Freedom Scientific's Open Plan

Trade in any proprietary HumanWare notetaker and get the features you want today with Freedom Scientific’s PAC Mate

(St. Petersburg, Florida, September 15, 2006) – Freedom Scientific’s Open Plan, announced today, will help blind users of VoiceNote, BrailleNote, mPower, and BrailleNote PK notetakers upgrade to an open platform that uses the familiar Windows interface and runs mainstream applications.

For the remainder of 2006, users in the United States and Canada can trade in one of the aforementioned HumanWare products and save more than 70 percent on a PAC Mate™ Accessible Pocket PC. Models with 20 or 40 cells of refreshable braille will be discounted 60 percent. Purchase prices after trade-in are:

  • PAC Mate BX400 and QX400 speech-only units: $700
  • PAC Mate BX420 and QX420 20-cell braille units: $1,500
  • PAC Mate BX440 and QX440 40-cell braille units: $2,250

The Open Plan is especially attractive to 18-cell BrailleNote Classic users thinking about transplanting their braille cells to an mPower. Transplanting to an mPower leaves you with the same amount of old cells, but trading in the old unit for one of the PAC Mate’s 440 models gets you 40 new cells. That’s 22 extra new cells for the price of a transplant!

If you want to save some cash, instead of upgrading your old 18-cell HumanWare unit, trade it in for a PAC Mate 420 model, and get two extra cells and all the benefits of the open platform for $700 less.

The Open Plan also gives VoiceNote users, who are excluded from the HumanWare Transplant Program, an inexpensive braille upgrade option.

Those taking advantage of the Open Plan will be able to choose from more onboard applications, read from more braille cells, and access mainstream applications and peripherals. Students learn the Windows operating system as they use the PAC Mate, knowledge they will draw from for the rest of their lives.

PAC Mate users can communicate via MSN and AOL instant messaging, synchronize with Microsoft Outlook's e-mail inbox, tasks, and notes, balance their checkbook, and manage spreadsheets. BrailleNote owners are still waiting to get in touch with those features. While they wait, PAC Mate users are working with a host of other features BrailleNote doesn’t have. Features like bar code scanners that identify and describe many common household items, support for all Word documents, Skype Internet telephony, reference materials like encyclopedias and recipe databases, virtual private network access, and support for a broad range of network cards and other peripherals.

“Since I became a PAC Mate user, I've used numerous exciting features that the closed nature of the BrailleNote prevented me from being able to deliver to customers when I managed that product,” said Jonathan Mosen, formerly of HumanWare, now Vice President of Blindness Hardware Product Management at Freedom Scientific’s Blind/Low Vision Group. “My PAC Mate has become an essential tool for me. Not only am I more productive on the job because of features like the full synchronization and VPN support, but it's my accessible remote control for all our appliances that use a remote.”

Mosen also said he likes how the PAC Mate gives him such a vast selection of entertainment options and supports all common streaming media formats.

“A closed platform can't possibly keep up with all of the innovation being unleashed by Microsoft and the many third party developers that write software for Pocket PC devices. I have no doubt that once BrailleNote and VoiceNote users get their hands on a PAC Mate, they'll be amazed at the world of possibilities on offer,” Mosen said. “I can even do high quality audio recordings on it!”

Find out more about the PAC Mate by visiting the Freedom Scientific Web site. Contact Freedom Scientific if you have questions or wish to take advantage of the Open Plan.

This program cannot be combined with any other discounts. The trade-in units must be in good working condition, as determined by Freedom Scientific. Freedom Scientific reserves the right to refuse any trade-in or to change or cancel any aspect of this program at any time at its sole discretion.

Office 2007 Technical Refresh Is Out And It Is Good!

It's a whopping 494 MB .exe file and it takes as long to load as it does to get it from the web on a slow DSL connection but it's a must have if your running Office 07 Beta 2.

Of interest to Low Vision users is the new Black color scheme for the Ribbon. The highlighting is better in that view and you get a real sense of navigation at lower magnification levels.

For Screen Reader users you will find that things tab, arrow and just plain work a bit more logically. Better yet more things were spoken without resorting to the Virtual Cursor.

So if you already have Beta 2 of Office 07 run and get this patch. If you are on the fence about Office 07 and you have a computer to spare for testing then run and download this new Beta. It will cost you a few dollars, like $5 at the most for shipping and the like, but you have the Beta until June of 07. That's just pennies a day for months of premium Office goodness.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Open Document Plug In For MS Office Delayed Until Jan 07

Ars Technica is again on fire with info on the plug in that will be needed by many in Boston, and other parts of Mass. as well, to read the ODF standard set for launch at the begining of the new year.

And Microsoft also explains a bit more on the volume license for Vista.. still set for a late November 06 launch. Hey that's like two months from now give or take.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ai Squared Sold For $22 Million

Well it was a slow news day for some yesterday but not for me. Looks like one of the big ATVs has a bit of a change in store for us this fall. Read this from Marketwatch.

And here's the official one just for grins.

Plus a little more from Blind News..

Friday, September 08, 2006

Windows Vista Audio Enhancements And Zoom Text Keyboard Ships

Wonder why I keep saying you should always use real video and sound cards even if you utilize Screen Reader software? Stuttering speech and drop outs can sometimes be caused by Direct X and the synk of video and audio devices. So a big sound card may have to wait for the video that comes along with some files to catch up with what's on screen. But with Vista your going to get one heck of a better experience if you have real honest to goodness cards on board. Below is an Ars Technica article that fills you in on the super cool fantastic audio enhancements in Vista. Take note those who like to run four sound sources at once.. this reeks of awesomeness!

Also I know for a fact that the ZT Keyboards are on their way to dealers and those who pre ordered their units. Below is the official sales press release.

From Zoom News at

"New ZoomText Large-Print Keyboard - Now Shipping!

Ai Squared is pleased to announce that the new ZoomText Large-Print Keyboard is now shipping and available for purchase.

Designed for the ZoomText user, the new ZoomText Keyboard makes typing and using ZoomText faster and easier than ever before. Each key and button label is easy to see, even in low light, thanks to its 36 point keycaps and high-contrast black on yellow color scheme.

The ZoomText keyboard also provides quick access to ZoomText 9.0 features. Sixteen dedicated buttons allow you to instantly start ZoomText, change magnification levels, toggle screen enhancements, launch AppReader and DocReader, and more, all without having to memorize hotkeys. You can even reassign each feature key to your choice of ZoomText commands, Internet and multimedia commands, or to open an application, document or web page.

Watch the video to learn more about the exciting new ZoomText Keyboard!

Priced at just $99, the ZoomText Large-Print Keyboard is the perfect companion to ZoomText 9.0. When purchased with a new copy of ZoomText Magnifier or ZoomText Magnifier/Reader, the ZoomText Keyboard is yours for just $79 - a $20 savings!

"The volume of orders for the ZoomText Keyboard has exceeded our wildest expectations" says Doug Hacker, Director of Sales and Marketing. "We now expect to sell out our first production run in less than a month. If you are interested in purchasing a ZoomText Keyboard you should place your order now."

Customers who have pre-ordered a ZoomText Keyboard can expect delivery within the next two weeks. To order your ZoomText keyboard, call us toll-free at (800) 859-0270, or place your order in Ai Squared's online store."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What'cha Gonna Do When Windows Vista RC1 Runs Wild On You

Five years in the making but now it's here. This version of Vista has been said to be the default build for making Vista applications. So we are really on our way now to seeing this in late November and late January 07 for retail customers. Remember if you are not in a Beta you don't have anything that will run stable as far as AT goes in this version of Vista. Narrator is not bad though an you can generally navigate with it through most Vista screens. But if your not crazy or a tech enthusiast I would just wait.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Quick Bits On Dolphin, Levelstar and Humanware

Dolphin USA has reopened their main site officially, it kind of changed a week or so ago, under it's new domain. It follows in the long list of site redesigns by others such as Kurzweil Education Systems with text on the left, middle and right side of the screen. Check it out at..

Levelstar has released pricing and will be shipping the Linux based Icon later this month. Read this nice blurg I found at Blind News.

I have been asked off line about my personal opinion in regards to Mr. Mozen's decision to make the switch. Well I don't think all the cards are on the table with the story just yet. Read this ..

"Dear Valued Customer

I want to thank you for entrusting us with your business and I want to let you know some of the important improvements we are making at HumanWare.

Since my appointment twelve months ago as President of HumanWare USA my focus has been on continuous improvement. Listening to your concerns has been the primary influence for change during my time at HumanWare USA. As we are a global company, Dr. Richard Mander, Group CEO, has reaffirmed this commitment to our customers internationally which has resulted in change across the group.

To understand your needs, we have engaged in discussions with end users, agencies and advocacy groups. Two common themes highlighted from these discussions were product reliability and improved customer service.

Product reliability has been addressed at the global level by Dr. Mander with changes in both manufacturing and development. We have recognized problems and communicated the resolution of those problems to keep you informed. The HumanWare group is now positioned to better ensure quality control and quickly respond to potential issues. In addition all HumanWare manufacturing is ISO compliant.

Although some of these changes may impact individuals there remains a dedicated team of developers who are now listening to all of our customers rather than the personal desires of any individual. This will result in future products addressing the needs of the market rather than the whims of an individual.

In the US, you're talking and we are listening. We have changed a number of things in response to customers concerns:

* Technical Support staff has doubled.
* The number of Service Technicians has also doubled.
* We've consolidated our customer service staff in one location and one toll free number.
* More experienced users of adaptive technology have been hired and now represent a third of all US staff.
* Product and customer service training has increased in all departments.
* We have joined the Better Business Bureau to facilitate customer feedback and ensure third party monitoring.

With these changes, you can expect a quicker response and a better overall experience when calling us.

Customer feedback is essential for this to be a continuous improvement process and I encourage you to continue. I am confident that these changes will improve your experience, so effective October 1st all technical support calls will be toll free and reachable though our standard 800 numbers.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Philip Rance
President and CEO
HumanWare USA Incorporated.

175 Mason Circle
Concord CA 94520
800-722-3393 "

Like I said up above. There are still a few more chapters to go..

Monday, September 04, 2006

Some Initial Impressions On The Zoom Text Keyboard

First let's look at the thing in question...

Photo of ZoomText keyboard Photo of Zoom Text Keyboard from Ai Squared

Let's get this straight right off the bat. This is an initial look. Not a review. The keyboard should be shipping to dealers soon and I urge, emplore and beg you to see this accessory, like I always say here, for yourself. Every eye is diferent. Every pocket book is diferent. So take my sarcasim with a grain of salt. I try to be informative and somewhat entertaining. Years of being in morning Radio has that effect on any presentations I do. So again "try before you buy".

Here''s what you get for $99 plus $10 shipping.

1 Zoom Text Keyboard
1 User's Manual
1 Program CD
1 PS2 to USB Converter [found on end of cord]

With that said.. It's a bright yellow in that picture eh? Well it's even brighter in person. Oh it's not a Humanware bright Orange but trust me even low vision people will spot this keyboard from across the room. Now most individuals respond well to blue and yellow color schemes. And a number of people work well when viewing white text on a black bacground.. this blog for instance. But I don't know about yellow and black lettering. So far in the three people I have let use the keyboard all have been indiferent to the colors.

The feel of the keys though ranged from mushy from one to stiff from another. Again diferent strokes.. get it.. key strokes.. nahhh. Anyway, bad jokes aside, the keys themselves are an office cubical nightmare. If you or someone you know are a heavy typist then hearing the pounding of these keys will be heard all the way in the breakroom.

The raised, for lack of a better term, dias that surrounds the keys themselves is wide and it makes fitting it into some keyboard caddies a tight fit at best. Using it's legs to tilt adds some genuine support for those who lay their hands rather than rest them lightly on the keys. Overall the three victims, eh, people we had use the keyboard said it felt okay to use for their daily tasks.

The layout, however, was said to be odd by everyone. The Six Pack is kinda sideways. Well I say sideways but not like you find on a Microsoft Natural Keyboard. If you look Home and Delete are not exactly in a logical, and by that I mean right next to what you would think they would be next to, place. Moreover, the new keys up at the top row that let you perform Zoom Text specific tasks are visually labled with no tactal dividers. When you throw your hands up there as a touch typist you will find yourself guessing at the key you want. Not fun when trying to write that all important blog post or email. In fact this is my chief complaint and has been since I saw it back at CSUN earlier this year. The one main purpose of this accessory is to make using the computer, and to some respect Zoom Text, easier from the low vision perspective. Unless your 2 to 3x in 800 by 600 resolution terms you kind of don't always see the keys clearly no matter what. Not having some bumps, spacers or just about anything else other than colors to divide the hotkeys is a tremendous oversight in my opinion.

But did others agree with my feelings about the issue? Well it ranged once again. Which tells you once more that seeing is believing. One person with a lot of residual vision had no problems using the top row of keys while another person with far less vision came to the same conclusion that I had come to earlier.

The keys themselves do work well and they are grouped in such a way that hitting one will put you right next to it's partner. Increase is next to decrease and so on it goes. The keyboard is not programmable which means if you have a specific hotkey not listed at the top you will have to remap it from the Zoom Text User Interface. Not a chore and now you have some other keys free to to that with besides.

The setup of the keyboard is simple and you don't even need ZT running to do it either. A talking install will guide you and the documentation for the keyboard is on the CD, you will have to browse it to find it, in case you want to read it with Doc Reader. The install is quick and painless with no real problems noticed on on either of my two test systems.

The real story will come when I get a room full of techies to look at it this week. But let's say that this is a great tool for beginners or others with little to no computer experience who don't know that Control, Alt, Shift, Delete and U refresh the Zoom Text Database.

More to come..