Thursday, March 23, 2006

Some Quick News From CSUN

As promised I am writing you from a hotel in sunny LA. And I can say that I am really happy to be here. First off the plane we took had a one hour delay. It seems it was held in Jacksonville for a “mechanical problem” but of course that wasn’t all. TSA evacuated the terminal along with the situation with the plane. Now those who know me KNOW that I am not a big fan of flying, however, to my credit my friend didn’t have to hit me with a very large mallet in order to get me on that thing with wings.

Anyway.. here’s some quick news on what we saw..

Yes it looks like Jan 07 is the new date. And the MS gang at CSUN looked as shocked as the rest of us at the story in USA Today. But that new date won’t stop the MS hype machine. At one of the sessions we saw the new “Ease of Access” features in Vista. This “Ease of access” replaces the MSAA we know now with a new icon and features. Narrator, magnifier, On Screen Keyboard are now enhanced by Speech Recognition and some cognitive options that were not shown to us in the short demonstration.

Narrator is better. By that I mean it sounds better and it’s easier to understand.
Magnifier now goes to sixteen X mag but it is not full screen as the rumors thought it was.
Speech recog is not as good as say Dragon but it’s not meant to be anything more than a bundled product. Still it works better than what you currently have in Windows Mobile products.

We made some in roads with MS and I hope to have more on this stuff as we approach the Beta 2 release in May.

Freedom Scientific:

FS has JFW up on Vista. MS announced the current 13 AT companies that are working with them on the latest builds of Vista. FS and GW Micro were both listed and both are showing Vista running with Screen Readers. But the real star of the show for me so far is the first working model of the Opal. This hand held CCTV is a wide screen unit like the Pico with good colors and a slightly dimmer display. It has a slider for magnification which is unlike the slider for the Compact as that is really more of a focus knob more than anything else. The real surprise about the Opal is that it has a video out which can also be connected to a LCD monitor or TV. So your hand held unit can now also be a mouse camera for a big monitor as well. We should have one in the unit in April or May. So expect a more hands on look later on in the year.

We also saw the Topaz. It’s okay. But it is really hard to be with another in the never ending line of desktop CCTVs. Still it’s not a bad unit and we will be looking at it in more detail next month.

Open Book 8 will be hopefully released this year. Dusty is in the midst of putting the finishing touches on Magic 10. Magic, by the way, is still thought of as it’s own product rather than JAWS with big words. It does now sport some of the quick use features of JFW which may give some users of both products the ability to use a system on some base levels if their product isn’t on the machine. Forms mode and the forms list from JAWS are just some of the features that came across into Magic. I didn’t get a chance to work on a system with Magic but I am now on the Beta team for Magic and Open Book. So expect some impressions at some point later on down the road.


The real news beyond the Money talks program is that there is an update to Talking Typing Tutor. TTT can now use ATT Natural Voices. It’s a fifteen dollar upgrade, 90 dollars new, but it’s a real improvement that deserves a mention.


We are going to a session today on where Mozilla is in the rumored Alpha of 2.0 but the real news is that Mozilla is doing a lot of PR in the shadow of IE7. Some AT venders haven’t done much with Firefox and the others in the suite and there are several sessions on the docket to show just how easy it is to use Mozilla. I also have it on good authority that there is going to be a neat article in possibly the Braille Monitor in regards to the state of the AT industry and Mozilla coming out soon.

Well we are off to breakfast but expect more soon!

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