Monday, May 29, 2006

A Test Of The New Blog Function In Office 2007

And so it begins…

Today I start my long path down the road of using Office 2007. I decided to try this new Blog feature that I have read so much about in recent weeks. A dip of the toe in a very large pool if you will allow the analogy. I also stuck my head in briefly into Outlook and was quite surprised to see what has and hasn’t changed. If you’re an Outlook 03 junkie then you’re going to love the new Mobile options. Contacts is more visually easier to understand as well. And the wider your monitor the better as you will be able to see and interact with so much more than a traditional square/block style format.

But let’s hop back to Word for the moment. One thing I am noticing off the cuff is that using spell check on the fly throws your focus around the screen. Mind you I am using Zoom Text as my first victim and it’s easily the worst program I could use at this early stage of the game. JFW/Magic will be next on the wheel of torture and I think they will perform much better than ZT. And my physical focus is still in the document. My view is being tossed around the screen when I make alterations. No real tracking as I create this either but again this is a worst case scenario to the tenth power.

The wife loves the new Office. She found it very intuitive and she took to the Ribbon quickly. She was doing things in PowerPoint that I haven’t seen it do before in mere seconds. She told me that from the sighted perspective she could easily see options open up on various parts of the screen. This encouraged her to explore and try the various styles of format on the fly without harming her original document. So in one session she confirmed what millions of dollars in product testing and tons of reviews have already told me. And sadly it also confirms the fears I spoke of earlier in that it’s a whole new landscape for those of us with visual impairments to learn. It is true that most MS Office 2003 hotkeys work which lessens some of the blow, however, learning how those keys and their commands react in the new environment can be a bit of a head scratcher.

Still this is a Beta.. things as always could change.. and more than likely they will.. sigh..


I have gone back and edited this post a bit via Blogger. The default settings of Word 07 put a ton of space between paragraphs and the header. And now I know and "knowing is half the battle" right? Also I was correct in that the latest betas of Freedom Scientific products ran a whole lot better than Zoom Text alone. That was my guess all along but it's better to be sure before I blog that info. Try as I might though some aspects of Outlook will just have to be modified as some Auto Preview features aren't being spoken at all.

I have also been told that if your a Window Eyes user you want to use their latest beta builds for Office 07 as well. Just be prepared from some options of Office not to be spoken as there isn't any hooks to latch onto in some parts of Outlook and Word.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Zoom Text 9.03 Released!

The good news:
Speech rates in Doc Reader and the like happen instantly when the rates are changed in Neospeech.

The bad?
If you like LH Mike and his female voice counterpart then you are not gonna like this update as the L&H Synths are no longer supported by Zoom Text 9.

See more about this and the new support for Japan here:

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Microsoft Office 2007 Pricing And Other Bits

So yesterday I spent a few moments downloading the new Beta 2 Edition of Office 2007. It's been released in a series of files with the smallest being around 220 MB. All together, excluding Server Apps, it was over 1.5 GB of data. So those of you out there without a DVD read device need to watch the Sunday circulars for a good deal on a USB 2.0 external unit because the days of the CD ROM for computer data are now officialy over.

Now if you thought the pricing structure and combo meals of Vista was confusing then your not gonna like the Value Meal Menu of Office 07. Take a look at this article..

While I haven't played with Office 07 as much as Vista I do feel a bit better about running it with AT. Mostly because I have read that all current keystrokes and hotkeys generally work from Office 03. And that you can run Office 07 in your current lives on XP. So if you feel bold enough to try the new office then back up your systems and give it a whirl. Just remember that this is a Beta release and no one in the AT industry is actively supporting any technical issues that may crop up from you going where few blind people have gone before.

If you aren't sure about Office 07 yet check out this nice review from the Super Site for Windows. It's part 1 of a very large series of articles that will spand the next month and a half. Pay special attention to the descriptions of "the ribbon" as it replaces the File/Tool bar. And also be aware that your options up there change as you add pictures, tables and other features to your plain jane document. Nice to see that right clicking/application key will get you the same options without jumping up to the ribbon.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New Access World Is Up.

If your lucky you got an email today telling you that Office 2007 is now available for public viewing. If not then you may have gotten an email saying that the new Access World is up. Or if your unlucky you got a few hundred email from Nigeria about some quick money oppertunities.

But if you didn't get nothin' at least you can read this month's Access World.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Your Gonna Flip In 3D When You Alt Tab In Windows Vista

So for the last two years I have been saying that Vista is going to be a real learning curve for a lot of Assistive Technology users out there. And I have stayed stead fast in my belief that all currently active AT Venders will find ways, upgrades or patches to make their products work with Vista. Either 3 hours, days or months after Vista emerges for said updates but it will happen. After all Windows is the standard in our industry and our lives. Therefore to make money everyone must be Vista compatible.

With all that said I have also stuck to my guns that the biggest issue regarding Vista for those who use alternative screen access hardware and software will be the fun, okay frustration that will come in getting to know the new desktop and features of Vista. Case in point below:

Now the Windows Key will play a role in tabbing from one place to another. Pretty neat eh?

You must be saying to yourself "I'm blind so why do I even care what happens with all this 3d stuff anyways". And that's not wrong of you to think that. However we are now moving forward in such a way that putting your machine back to "Windows Classic" hurts you competitively in the work place.

See everyone else will be doing this 3d thing and more. And that spills over to things like technical support or simple navigation. You just saw above that ALT + Tab now has a friend in Windows + Tab. And that is just a smidge of the changes in store for you in Windows Vista. The way you navigate through Windows Explorer is even diferent. So again retreating to Classic Mode won't save you from having to learn new hotkeys and methods of doing what you do now in a general Windows session.

Here's the real part that will get some steamed. The real losers in the next round of Windows won't be the totally blind. You read that right. Believe it or not low vision users will actually find it harder than those guys using that JAWS stuff. Now listen to me a bit longer before you throw a big old rock my way.

Screen Readers have come a long way in detecting multiple items on any given screen at one time. Virtual cursors, buffers, quick navigation keys,, modes and lists abound that can now give the Screen Reader user a leg up on navigating various applications. Low Vision users who rely on Screen Magnification programs, however, either must track accross vast areas of a page or resort to just looking at the center of the page with hopes that the info they are seeking is there in easy reach. And Vista prefers that you use a widescreen display [although this is no longer required now to run Vista] which in turn means that low vision users are now looking at a smaller amout of the screen than in prior versions of Windows. Think “Square in side of a rectangle” and you see that even at 2x a larger portion of the screen is not visible when you compare XP to Vista. I will go one further by saying that the minimum resolution continues to rise so even 800 by 600 isn’t the way to go because I doubt you can even get the display that low in the next round of flat panel monitors without making things look really distorted.

But that's not all . You see along with the Windows Taskbar Vista has a Windows Sidebar. The sidebar runs along the left or right of the screen and it displays a whole host of information that is not even closely related to what's shown on the Taskbar. RSS feed updates, instant messaging and tons of stuff that used to show up in various balloons at the bottom of the screen will now reside on the Sidebar. Better yet shortcuts to applications will sit there too. Some are similar to what we have now in the Quick Launch bar. Progress bars, battery meters, USB sync and other things that run actively can be seen on the Sidebar as well. Need the current weather? Just click on the Sidebar for a live updated look at what’s going on around you outside. Mac users call these little programs Widgets and Vista users will call them Gadgets.

Let’s take a step back though for a second. An example of how hard life will be can be illustrated below. First let’s set the stage. We have two users on the same Vista machine and the settings are the current big flashy 3D Arrow Glass interface we read about earlier in that above link. There is a widescreen monitor at 75% of it’s normal resolution and the Screen Magnification person is at 5x and the Screen Reader person has a Vista enabled Screen Reader. The lights come up on each viewing a Google Desktop like program for work. Visually the screen has three columns of text in the center with a row of links on either side of the page.

We see that the Screen Reader user ignores “Say All” and quickly jumps from column to column with quick navigation keys. They then jump to the specific link they want which sits right in the middle of the left side of the page through a list of links generated in a easy to navigate list by the Screen Reader it’s self. For an encore quick navigation keys are used again to jump focus to the Windows Sidebar and the person then gets a Podcast that’s been recently downloaded by Juice.

The Screen Magnification user finds that things are a lot more slow going for him. Not only is he losing his place on which one of the three columns he is reading from but he has to scroll the mouse over to the Sidebar to find if the same Podcast is ready for him. And he has gone through the trouble of memorizing how many links down on the left side of the screen he needs to be to find that one special one found by the Screen Reader user in seconds. His brains came out of his ears as well as he gave up on using his Split Screen CCTV which gives him only half of the computer display and half of the CCTV display.

The scenario above is quite real. And again I say that the Screen Magnifier user must be prepared to wear out a dozen mousepads that will come from excessive scrolling, zooming and panning due to all that stuff being on the screen at one time.

Still holding that rock? Is it heavy? Okay but I need you to hold it just a little more.

The future trend in the Web 2.0 metaverse will be to have as much info on the screen as possible. It looks cluttered and ugly as all hell but people love it none the less. I have actually seen a stock ticker, news feed, a small box with video, a download progress bar and two columns of text displayed all at the same time in one Vista demonstration. Is this the norm? Heck no, however, it’s possible which means that it could be the norm very very soon.

While Screen Reader users are at a disadvantage at first in any new application or document a Screen Magnifier user [at higher levels of magnification especially] is slower at taking in the entire view of any given environment. And I don’t mind placing a bet on the Screen Reader user at all in a race in applications that they know intimately.

The first rule in making something `accessible` is to build the program from the ground up with accessibility in mind. The old “build ramps rather than stairs so you don’t go back and build ramps later on” philosophy. And when we take the rose covered glasses off we know from our past experience that this rarely ever happens. So the task then becomes the long job of modifying something without breaking it down. I.E.: Windows Classic.

You shouldn’t have to lose functionality to make something more accessible. Moreover, you shouldn’t hinder yourself by taking away features and options that others will be using on a regular basis. I beat the XP Desktop Vs. Classic Windows argument drum pretty loudly in my work. And that’s because with the jobs I have helped to make accessible rarely can you take a machine back to Classic without it causing problems. But not from the mechanical or technical front.

Generally those darn sighted people get used to working in that big graphical world. And communicating with them means that you need to be in that world or at least know what they are talking about when you retreat back to the land of Classic Windows. You can no longer expect the world to come round to the way Windows 98 looks and feels when it’s about to be 2007 in six months. Oh and here’s a little hint. Windows 98 will lose it’s support from just about everyone when Vista rolls around.

The circle is now complete. While we know for a solid fact at some point some day your access program of choice will work with Vista you and only you will be the stumbling block on the road to using Windows Vista.

I don’t say that sarcastically or with malice either. With each new flavor of Windows we have seen more and more complexity involved in what the Operating System can do natively. The computer has gone from being a big calculator and holder of simple data bases to the current portal to the world of music, movies and information found on the internet. Wireless communication has increased the ease of setting up a network as well. And Vista takes all of that into consideration and more. So be prepared to learn a whole lot more than hotkeys over the next year as this is virtually the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

And yes.. you can put down that rock if you want..

I wrote this post as a pre cursor to a major presentation I am doing on Vista. I’m sure more of my diatribe on this subject will cross over from work to Blog. Just ignore the preachy ness of this and some other posts over the next month as they are written for a less tech savvy audience at my day job.

Friday, May 19, 2006

New Windows Vista Advisor May Lock Up Or Screen Dump Your Assistive Technology!

Yesterday Microsoft released their new Beta Vista Advisor which can determine if your hardware and software are able to run in the Vista Operating System. In a few instances the Advisor either locked up the system being tested or just plain screen dumped me all together depending on the Assistive Software being used.

As I always say your mileage may vary but be aware that you may just need sighted assistance to run this program. Or, gulp, you can do it somewhat with Narrator. At the end of the program you can save a file or print out the report for later viewing. And that can be read or scanned easily.

To download the Vista Advisor go here:

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor And Specs Updated

Check out this ZDNET article for info and links to the new specs and recommendations to Vista Beta.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

May 06 Tech Update: The Passing The Time Until Assistive Tech News Happens Edition

Most of the cool stuff I want to talk about is still in Private Beta. So it's just going to have to wait I guess. But if you feel left out check out the bit on the just released Windows Media Player Public Beta. It's neat and pretty darn accessible.

My friend Steve’s Words Of The Month
Definition: The act of buying up web site addresses that are generally easy to do typos of well known sites. or for example. Yahoo is being sued for breech of contract through it’s ad software because some businesses get shown on these misspelled web sites.

Definition: There is a new acronym roaming around the net in regards to Internet Accessibility. PWDS stands for people with disabilities. The NFB/Target suit is starting to be noticed by others on line and it will affect the Web 2.0 initiative drastically. I strongly urge you to read this give and take article on the subject.

And a more related and scarier view point can be found here ..

Definition: Dynamic content found in the world of Web 2.0. In other words, if your reading this through a dial up connection it really doesn’t effect you at all. Web 2.0 is the promise land of 3D websites full of audio and video which initially probably more than likely will be no where near accessible to anyone using adaptive software. Learn more if you dare below.

Lightning Round:

` JAWS/Pac Mate Blog: Said to be a new emerging place to go along with pacgear and

` Good Feel Update learn more here.

` I.D. Mate 2.0 Update: See the Press Releases section to see the details on the ID Mate update from En Vision America.

` Flipper Panel: Please be aware that the 7 inch version of this product is no longer being actively sold. No doubt this is due to the success of the Amigo as it’s the new *mid line* CCTV for Enhanced Vision. The same will more than likely happen to Freedom Vision’s Liberty Solo 7 inch as well when the Fusion ships.

` Designing Blind: A&E has green lit a new series for 13 episodes that features a Blind Interior Decorator aiding blindfolded people remake their homes.

` New Keyboards: Every month there is some story about someone out there somewhere who has made the bestest keyboard ever. Me? 104 is the way to go. And not that ergonomic round thing either. See the latest mousetrap below.

` Giant iPod Remote: Just about everyone and their dog is making a solution to the iPod’s interface. Apple it’s self recently patented it’s own audio interface. But one man found his own fix by building a giant remote.

` Firefox 2 Alpha 2: Need more stuff that isn’t out yet to break your computer with? Then take a look at the latest in alternative browsers.

` Star Trek Phone: It’s out in Europe and coming to the States. And it’s a Windows Mobile clam shell with normal buttons. I am so there.

` Wal Mart DIY Computers: Yes soon you can buy computer parts in the same place you buy bedsheets, towels and automotive cleaning supplies. And you think you can’t get anyone to help you now in the Video/Audio part of the store. Just wait!

` IT Certification no longer a big deal in employment: There’s that old saying "Those who can’t do teach". Well now they can’t do but they went to a school who says they can. Employers, however, are catching on and IT Certification for some jobs doesn’t mean as much as it did.,1895,1954198,00.asp?kc=ewnws042706dtx1k0000599

` Dot Com Duds: A really neat article on what did and didn’t make it through the .com bubble.

And a bonus "Gadgets then and now"

~~ "Windows Media 11 Playing Right Now!"
Well I have used the new Windows Media Player all day and I love it. The graphic equalizer is the same but sounds better. The interface is totally tabbable and simple to navigate. Some areas are completely tree view styled links and even better it’s free. The shuffle feature is even a bit more random. Not that I can really quantify that statement of course because what really is random. Anyway here’s two reviews of the player with corresponding links to the download page for WMP 11 Beta.


~ "Vista Users Accounted For"
I recently wrote about just how different Vista will be and how some should not download next week’s Public Beta release. Well to give you an idea about a controversy that has nothing to do much with AT but is pretty darn important just the same I show you a term you will become intimate with over the next year. UAC stands for User Account Control and it’s designed to keep you safe from malicious software. But it’s implementation will have some turning it off immediately. Learn about the big dust up here.

** Press Releases

i.d. mate Database Version 2.0

En-Vision America, Inc. is proud to announce our largest database update ever! We have added 278,771 items to version 2.0 of the database!! Items include hardware, pet care, grocery and a multitude of general merchandize items. Some stores and brand names include: Bob’s Red Mill, Cash & Carry, E Pet Pals (carries the most popular pet supply brands), Publix, Lean Cuisine (including nutrition information, weight watchers points and diet exchanges), Chloraseptic, Tofurkey, Cascadian Farms, Muir Glen, Western Family Foods, Shurfine Foods, and Nutrisystem.
Please note that you must have at least 36 minutes remaining on your card to accommodate Version 2.0. If you would like to purchase a larger card, please see the pricelist below.
Please specify which way you plan to up-date:
Do-it-Yourself. We will send you a compact disk. You will need a compact flash card reader & computer.
Mail-it-to-Us. Mail us your compact flash card and we will up-date it for you and mail it back.
If you have purchased your i.d. mate within the last year, you can receive your first database up-date for free. Please mention this is your first update when ordering. Each additional up-date costs $50.00 per request. Call or respond to this e-mail to receive yours today.
Also NEW-- Decks of pre-printed Barcoded Playing cards for $6.00.
i.d. mate Accessories Price List
Do-it-Yourself Database Up-date Version 2.0 CD Rom $50.00 or Free
Mail-it-To Us Database Up-date Version 2.0 Service $50.00 or Free
Deck of pre-printed barcoded playing cards $6.00
100 Adhesive barcode labels $15.00
100 Barcode tags $25.00
100 Iron-on tags $25.00
256 MB compact flash card $45.00
512 MB compact flash card $88.00
1 GB compact flash card $136.00
Battery Pack (recommended replacement after 2 years) $29.00
AC/DC adapter $19.00
To order to for answers to questions please call 1-800-890-1180 or e-mail Sharla at
Sharla Glass
Customer Service/ Operations
En-Vision America, Inc.
2012 W. College Ave. Suite 200
Normal, Illinois 61761
309-452-3088 ext. 112
New Merlin CCTV Design
y America’s #1 Selling Desktop Video Magnifier Has Just Gotten Even Better!
Because Enhanced Vision listens to our customers, we are able to provide quality products that are simple to use. The Merlin LCD’s NEW front panel is a true testament to this commitment.
<> With NEW built-in controls attached to the monitor – this is truly the most flexible desktop video magnifier available.
New Features include:
* A simple three button control panel.
* Easy-to-use sliding brightness lever.
* 5 digital color select options that provide clear crisp imagquality and contrast.
* Wider field of view and lower starting magnification (2.7 to 58x).
Enhanced Vision, a manufacturer of low vision equipment, is dedicated to helping individuals maintain their independence, and has leveraged leading technologies to develop a full line of superior, easy-to-use tools at affordable prices, such as our Merlin product line. Please reply or contact us at (888) 811-3161 with questions or to set up a FREE product demonstration.
<,k3c8,15l6,dlwv,bce2,ed1d,e5vc> <,k3c8,15l6,3lwo,2ejo,ed1d,e5vc>
Phone: (888) 811-3161
(714) 465-3400
Fax: (714) 374-1821
Nuance Speech Solutions

Find out how far voice recognition has come - hear Nuance speech solutions <> .
92% of all customer interactions happen via phone.
Every connection with a customer is a moment of truth. If you want to make an immediate impact on customer experience, the telephone needs to be the first step in your campaign.
But...there's a big problem.
87% of touchtone interactions fail, according to Forrester Research and Harris. Only 11% of respondents said they usually use self-service systems successfully, cited Harris.
Luckily...there's a better way to use automation
It's voice automation - your best opportunity to improve your customer's telephone experience and still save you money.
In addition, voice automation can:
* route calls more accurately
* let a caller make one request rather than forcing him to navigate multiple menus
* provide more accurate information
* reduce hold times by allowing more tasks to be handled in an automated manner
* remove the frustration of punching numbers to relay information
* create self-service options not feasible in touchtone systems
* offer a consistent, engaging, and supportive interface
It's simple: customers prefer voice, because voice works better.
Consumers characterize voice automation systems as more accessible, easier to use, and quicker than touchtone systems. 9 out of 10 say there is value added with voice automation. 9 out of 10!

Hear how Nuance speech solutions <> can work for you.

Sendero GPS Version 3.5 is released

DAVIS, CA, (April 10, 2006)
Inventor of the first accessible GPS for the blind, Sendero Group LLC, is releasing its sixth BrailleNote GPS version. The popularity of Sendero's GPS, since its release in March 2000, means that blind users are directly responsible for improving the accessibility of Sendero's GPS products. Now that blind users have detailed location technology, they are requesting even more functionality such as on-line maps, improved data and better route creation. Sendero GPS 3.5 has answered these requests and now has twice the functionality of any other accessible GPS system. Plus, the new Sendero Holux receiver is the most sensitive on the market.
You can now create a route from San Francisco to New York if you want.
Choose the mode that automatically triggers key information when you come to a stop. Hear the percentage of the route completed and estimated time of arrival. To read about these and dozens of other 3.5 changes, visit the Sendero on-line map site,
Here is what users were already saying about Sendero's GPS and 3.5 is even better.
"I can remember before I had my GPS, I hated even short trips! But now I wish I could go on a longer one. I knew right where we were, how much longer it was going to be, what was around us, and how much longer we had to go."
"I was able to recreate the walks to my elementary school, my father's hobby shop, and a park. These virtual walks allowed me to dust off many vivid and beautiful memories, from 50-60 years ago, without leaving my deck."
"Today we went to visit his father's grave, and I was honored to be able to mark that too. And the other fun thing is coming across a lot of Mike's POIs as I explore. It's like discovering familiar footprints and I find myself saying to myself, "Hey, I know that person, (smile). I'm actually enjoying listening to the traffic reports now, and I picture the locations they mention under my fingertips. I can hardly wait to see what it does when I go to New York in a few weeks. Of course there are so many points of interest that the poor BrailleNote will probably be talking itself hoarse."
"Sometimes I don't think sighted people truly understand what GPS does for a blind person -- how it expands our awareness of the world around us and allows us to "look around" our environment just like sighted people do."
"It was very windy and we stood on that path listening and feeling the wind whip around, and I couldn't help reflecting that I would never have done that were it not for my GPS. I wouldn't have even attempted to come to Arizona."
"I'm having more fun with the GPS than a monkey could on 40 feet of rope."
To sign up for a presentation or to purchase 3.5, call 1-888-757-6810 Email,

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Warning To Those Assistive Tech Users Thinking About Running Vista On Day Of Release

Okay it’s more of a plea really. In a word if your thinking about downloading Vista Beta 2 on May 22nd and you use any kind of AT product for your daily computer access hear this remark.. don’t! In fact if you answer my next question with “I don’t know” or “lost” or a five second pause stop reading this post immediately because you my young Pa’ta’wan are not ready. And my question is..

“Where is your restore CD or Windows cd right now and can you lay your hands on it in less than 30 seconds?”

Again if your answer is “I don’t know” or “I lost it” then do not pass Go, do not collect $200 because your going directly to Tech Support jail. Individuals like you should be ashamed of yourselves and you should march right upstairs and go to bed with no supper. Beta testing of any kind requires or even compels you to reinstall multiple times. And trust me you lose at least one file no matter how careful you are. So if your allergic to your 50 digit Windows serial number I can honestly say you should hold off even daydreaming about Vista until this time next year at the earliest.

Now if you do know where your drivers and all your backups are and you still feel up to the challenge I have another word for you… don’t! But seeing how you are going to do it anyway I will try and persuade you with Vulcan logic rather than the Vulcan neck pinch.

Chances are you might not have the specs under the hood to run Vista well. There’s a fine line between Vista Capable and Vista Compatible. One implies that your machine can take on the 3D super graphical and memory intensive aspects of Vista. Another says that you `could` run Vista but it will be so scaled down that you may end up fighting the system for resources every step of the way.

Still not convinced? Okay buddy let’s try this..

There are only 2 companies even close to working medium well, that’s a thin line of pink with a baked potato full of limited access on the side, with the current CTP builds of Vista. And even then you really need their private beta editions of software to have a better fighting chance at a halfway enjoyable romp through the land of the new Operating System.

I can guess that some are just hell bent on doing this no matter what I type here. So I already hear you saying “Who then works and who doesn’t?”. Fine you drive a hard bargain Dr. Jones. I your humble servant will tell you, however, it’s on your own head as to the fate of your hard drive and data. May a thousand defrags be in your future!

Window Eyes: If you’re a WE user then your in luck. WE 5.5 gives you some good support but rumor is that the impending WE 6 is even better. Out of all the choices in the non tech supported world of Vista yours is probably the easiest path. Easy being defined as a ride down a razor blade banister into a pool of alcohol that is.

JFW/Magic: Your road is bumpy enough with JAWS 7.1 public beta isn’t it? Well if you do decide to try your hand at things then baby your in for a rough ride indeed. Your best hope is to run the latest builds of JAWS 7.1 if your going to have any luck. Magic users should hold off as only the basics are available to those in private beta.. well not really but they have a better chance than 9.5 users do at any rate.

Zoom Text: No freaking way dudes and dudetts. ZT isn’t supporting Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 for Windows XP. With that in mind and the fact that IE7 is a key part of Vista.. I think you get the picture. An upgrade later on this year should have support for IE7 and some other programs but if you’re a ZT user save yourself pain and suffering now.

Supernova: Dolphin is just now starting their moves on looking at Vista. The guys at the Supernova family are hard at work on the 7x line of products. So making them look good for current generation is a priority. Their track record does show that they adapt well and fast, see Pocket HAL for Windows Mobile 05, and they too will probably go the upgrade route for Vista support sometime in the future.

Other AT: It’s going to be a real dice roll with no saving throw if your using other products I haven’t mentioned here. I don’t suggest anyone running Vista out of the gate no matter what they are using let alone them using it with a product that isn’t working closely with Microsoft to boot.

What does work you ask? Windows Magnifier and Narrator, you can hear it now “foreground window”, work fairly well with their own basic limitations that comes from using .. Windows Magnifier and narrator. I don’t belittle or knock these tools by any means. They have saved my bacon on numerous systems dozens of times and I am super glad their in all flavors of Windows XP and up. I just wouldn’t want to use them for daily applications is all.

Beyond the access issue..

So your going to ignore my warning and take the plunge anyway huh? Then again take heed at my recommendations at system specs for your attempt from the high dive with a degree of 9 on the difficulty scale.

Processor: P IV 3.06 with Hyperthreading or higher or AMD equivalen.
RAM: Start at 1 GB but better with more.. how much much as you can get actually.
Video Card: 128 is the VERY least I would attempt. 64 and below need not apply.
Sound Card: Running a Soundmax or any other integrated sound? Forget it as shared memory components will fight you every step of the way. A true blue Sound Blaster compatible card, made in the last year preferably, will do you much better.
Hard Drive: 60 GB or better, however, having all your files on an external drive or RAID array would be much much safer.

And some I know in the industry would tell me that I am actually underestimating those numbers. No.. I am not kidding. Some have told me point blank that in this stage of the game even 1 GB of RAM isn’t enough for some programs. Of course that’s why they call it a beta in the first place.

If you don’t believe me on this point then fine by me. Windows will be the ultimate judge, jury and executioner as it’s Windows Advisor will give you the news as to what will work early on in the process. Two year old components or older will find some hard terrain ahead as not all drivers will cary over into Vista. My brand new one month old Dell just posted an update for my motherboard 3 weeks ago for Vista compatibility. So ponder that nugget of joy for a second. What thrills me even more is that I have to upgrade my video card in 07 for me to be Direct X 10 compatible. Weird Al was right “it’s obsolete before you opened the box.. it’s all about the Pentiums baby!”.


This is a beta piece of software. It isn’t ready for general use. It’s buggy. It WILL CRASH on you. And it will do it often. And it’s not Microsoft’s fault, your AT access software’s fault or anyone else’s for that matter. It’s a beta and beta testing is a slow and generally frustrating process.

Just keep this in mind when you watch that progress bar flowing along on the gigs of data you will be downloading on May 22nd. And if you do decide to go it alone in the great digital blue yonder I wish you the best of luck. We’ll all need it!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Nothing Up My Sleeve.. Presto!

And just like that the fourth update to JFW 7.1 public beta emerges.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Third Update To JFW 7.1 Is Now On Line.

So go get it you crazy public beta testers you..

Ah but wait there a second eager beaver. Make sure you heed this warning first.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Has The Time Of The *Portable* Scanner Finally Come?

The 80’s pre industrial band Art of Noise had a line in between songs on their “In No Sense” record that repeated “How rapid is rapid and how quick is quick?!”. Often in this new fangled techno world of ours I find myself redefining the answer to that very question.

Recently we got our hands on a early Beta of the Kurzweil NFB Reader. This device is a combo hybrid of an off the shelf digital camera and a off the shelf PDA running a modified scanning engine. The two devices are connected via USB. The combined unit allows you to scan in documents, signs, flyers and a whole host of materials from virtually anywhere.

Sounds awesome doesn’t it? Well it kind of is and kind of isn’t. I will explain in a second.

The AdvantEdge Reader is another entry into this new arena of Stand Alone Portable OCR systems. It uses two units as well. The Reader connects to the Small Talk Ultra [that freaking sweet palm top computer from GW Micro] to perform the same tasks as the Kurzweil NFB Reader. Here’s the press release.

So again I ask is this cool or what? And again I say kind of yes and kind of no. Here’s why..

Whenever devices like these come onto the market you have to deal with some serious issues. I like to call these issues the “Sci Fi Effect”. In the late 70’s TV show “Battlestar Galactica” Loren Greene spoke into a microphone and his words just appeared on his computer monitor. People were fascinated and the drive for this technology has been on the forefront of bad typists minds ever since. Several years later these same people went out and bought the first version of Dragon Dictate and Dragon Naturally Speaking with anticipation of reclining back in their leather office chairs babbling away at their 486 era computers. The result? Well it wasn’t like on the TV that’s for sure.

At the 2000 CES Bill Gates said that voice recognition was some time off in the future for Microsoft. He mentioned that it wasn’t that the computer couldn’t hear you. It was that the computer couldn’t understand you. It would take tons of on board memory to allow the computer the ability to move through a decision tree [programming talk for what to do next] on the fly. So the red dog read the red book. May end up all being r.e.d. instead of the dog needing r.e.a.d. Now flash forward six years to Windows Vista. The new “Ease Of Access”, once called Active Accessibility, has some basic Speech Recognition built into the Operating System. It took that long for technology to catch up to the dreams of many in the keyboard impaired community.

So back to the whole Portable Scanner thingy.

These early units are just baby steps to a better life for all. But do they let you act like Loren Greene’s Commander Adama in their ease of use? Nope. In fact in the case of the K-NFB-Reader it can be quite frustrating.

Getting your document or material lined up, holding the Reader at a good enough distance [when it’s not docked in it’s reding stand] can be a challenge and after all that your accuracy can be about 70% of what K-1000 and Open Book hold in current performance. And using a traditional Stand Alone OCR solution is faster. Not portable mind you but faster. And for around $3,000 you have to really decide if you want to be an early bird adopter to the party.

Another thing you have to realize is that both Portables mentioned today require you to keep two separate devices charged. You can forget to charge the digital camera and have the PDA ready to go on the K-NFB-Reader and the same goes for forgetting to charge the Small Talk Ultra. In fact that’s easier to do because the Ultra only has a three hour battery if you are not using the extended battery option.

Don’t get me wrong this stuff is super cool and everyone will want to make a deal with the devil to get one, however, the resulting buyer’s remorse may have you wishing that you had waited for the technology found in the Battlestar Galactica remake on the Sci Fi Channel instead.

Always try before you buy on any Assistive Technology I guess is the ultimate point to be made in this long and normal rambling post.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Lone Voice Of Reason In A World Of Negative Press

All over the net for the last 24 hours has been this report from the Gardner Group about how Vista will be delayed because Microsoft has a long history of delays. While on face value I agree, Longhorn coming fall of 2003, I don't see where the report is getting the wisdom to make the call this time around.

In the report Gardner and co. state that Vista is more akin to the Windows 2000 launch than the Windows XP launch. And, if you remember, the Win2K launch was delayed after it's beta cycle. While compairing FAT to NTFS to WINFS kind of works I don't think it's no where as bad as they make it out to be.

Vista was delayed for a number of reasons. And what we will get is a distant cousin from what was originally promised. Service Packs will probably end up meeting the middle on all of that. But what is already done is almost ready to go. And Microsoft has a lot more resources in 2006 than what was on hand in 1999. For one thing internet distribution and more advanced error reporting makes things a whole lot easier than the days of shipping out thousands of CDs.

Even more so the real big diference is that several other key components are almost complete. Direct X 10 is set, Office 2007 was ready to ship in August and IE7 moved their release back only because it made since to launch it closer to Vista and the other new MS products.

Something is fishy in Microsoft, however, I don't see another delay on the horizon. And it took awhile to find someone else who agrees with me on the validity of the report... but I did and here he is..

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Asleep At The Wheel or Kurzweil 10.04 Was Released And I Forgot To Post That Info.

Looks like this missed that ultra late April update. Kurzweil posted a patch to version 10.4 in mid April. Support for the new $10 bill in currency mode, fixes for Bookshare's On Line Magazines and new DAISY 2 features have been added. See the whole list of release notes and download the patch from here..