Thursday, August 31, 2006

180 Degrees In The Other Direction

Oh man if this is true you are talking about serious change in the sounds of Blindness AT. This is big. No wait .. it's epic.

What the hell am I talking about? Well if you know AT then undoubtably you have heard of Jonathan Mozen. But here let me let him tell you the news in his own words..

Hi all,

I no longer have access to the HumanWare e-mail system, so no
there are people not receiving this message who should be, and probably a
few misspellings along the way.

This message is to say goodbye, as today I left HumanWare. I have been
offered, and after some reflection have accepted, a position as a
Vice-President of Freedom Scientific. While making the decision hasn't
easy, having put my heart and soul into the BrailleNote, to have the
to sit around the senior management table of such a significant technology
company was, in the end, irresistible, and an opportunity not available to
me at HumanWare at present.

The last three years have been an incredible journey in so many ways.
to the people who've developed it, manufactured it, promoted it, supported
it and sold it, the BrailleNote has gone from strength to strength. While
it's always difficult to single people out, it has been a particular
for me to work with Jonathan Sharp, who has been one of my heroes for over
20 years. Similarly, I've known Maurice about just as long. His infinite
patients and profound knowledge is a marvel to me and I envy it. Working
with such brilliant people up close has been amazing.

While lots of international travel may seem pretty glamorous to people who
don't get to do it too often, it's pretty hard work, but the rewards are
great HumanWare people I've had the honour to get to know as friends all
around the world. Whether it's Pedro trying to do Lewis Armstrong, Jim
introducing me to an exciting new wine, or Dominic making me wish I hadn't
forgotten my BrailleNote GPS, I've had plenty of precious memories that I
will always recall fondly.

There've been tough times too, particularly the deaths of Russell and
Marian, and later Dean Jackson, and those times have reminded me how
protective and caring the HumanWare family is.

To those of you remaining, what you do truly makes a difference. Not
everyone can go home at night knowing that in some way, they've helped to
make life better for someone. I think everyone in HumanWare can.

I will miss you all, but believe that this is the right career move for me
to make.

To those of you who attend the conferences, I guess I'll see you as you
by the FS booth.

Take care, and thank you all so much for your friendship and your hard
for the BrailleNote.

With very fond regards,


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Beware The Ranger Is 5536 Bound!

Reading Ars Technica today granted me a cool bonus beyond it's normal goodness of excelent reporting and entertainment. Today they ran an article saying that Microsoft would be allowing 100,000 downloads of Build 5536 to those who already had product keys. Well I was one of the lucky callers and tonight my friends I will be eating hot dogs, watching stuff on my DVR all along the side of the glowing progress bar on the laptop. Multi tasking is the phrase that pays..

See you soon with new Vista thoughts.

Humanware Says Keysoft 7.2 Next Week And Classic Series EOL

Check out the posts made to the Braille Note lists recently..

HumanWare will be releasing KeySoft 7.2 on Wednesday 6 September New Zealand time, making your BrailleNote or VoiceNote even more useful and efficient. Whether you have a BrailleNote or VoiceNote mPower, a BrailleNote PK, or a BrailleNote or VoiceNote Classic, there is a version of KeySoft 7.2 that will be available for you.
KeySoft 7.2 takes one count from your Software Maintenance Agreement (SMA). An SMA allows you to receive two major versions of KeySoft for the price of one.

Remember, an SMAcan only be used for a version of KeySoft if it is purchased prior to the release of the software concerned. So if you are currently running KeySoft 7 and not yet an SMA holder, ensure you get the best deal on KeySoft 7.2 by purchasing your SMA now. Those running version 6 or lower will first need to upgrade to KeySoft 7 to be eligible to purchase an SMA.Contact HumanWare or your distributor for KeySoft 7.2 pricing.

What's in KeySoft 7.2?
DAISY Support (available on BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower, and BrailleNote PK) Your BrailleNote or VoiceNote is about to become your digital book player.

HumanWare is the world leader in DAISY playback technology, through our Victor Reader products. Now, we have incorporated Victor Reader technology right into KeySoft. Listen to DAISY audio books, with the flexibility to speed up and slow down the narration and change the tone of the audio. Set bookmarks, and create text notes. Text only DAISY books are instantly translated into your preferred grade of Braille.

With books that offer both text and audio, you have the best of both worlds. Choose to read in Braille for detailed study, and let the narrator read to you when it suits. Move through DAISY elements, or use the familiar KeySoft sentence and paragraph navigation commands in text DAISY books if you prefer.

Working with Files Is Easier (available on all models) KeySoft allows extensive manipulation of files from any file list.
Anywhere you can see a list of files, you can copy, erase, move, protect, unprotect and rename a file. Now, it is possible to mark files for action. Move through a list of files, mark those files that you need to take action on, and the file manipulation commands can be applied to the group of files.

Now, when you look through a file list using the Directory option in File Manager, pressing ENTER on any file will launch its associated application. Pressing ENTER on an mp3 file for example will immediately cause it to start playing in the Media Player.

In any file list, it is now easier to get it sorted. You can still sort files alphabetically as you have always done, however you can now also sort by date and by size. Sorting by size is a great way of finding those pesky large files that are consuming FLASH Disk space. Sorting by date makes it easier to trace the progress of a project whose files are contained in their own folder.

e-mail Signatures (available on all models) KeySoft 7.2 adds the ability to set up two e-mail signatures. Configure an e-mail signature for messages you generate, and another for messages you forward or reply to. You can see the text of the signature right in the body of any e-mail message you create.

Statistics Support in the Calculator (available on all models) KeySoft 7.2 offers intuitive, powerful statistical functions in KeyPlus.
Create data sets within the Calculator using a special data entry mode.

Enter your
data into a KeyWord document, and paste it into data entry mode from the clipboard. Import data sets from many common applications. Save data sets for later use, and export them for use by other applications. Perform a wide range of statistical functions on a data set using an intuitive KeySoft menu, or with hotkeys.

All this in KeySoft 7.2, available next week.
Jonathan Mosen
BrailleNote Product Marketing Manager



In June 2005, HumanWare released the next generation of information management systems for the blind, BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower. To thank our loyal customer base for their support, we made two commitments.

Firstly, because we appreciate that funding for assistive technology may only be available to an individual once every few years, we undertook to release new versions of Key Soft for the BrailleNote and VoiceNote Classic for as long as possible.

Secondly, we introduced our extremely popular transplant programme, allowing BrailleNote Classic customers the chance to have our latest technology for around a third of the cost of a new unit in the case of those owning 32-cell models.

The transplant programme will continue into the foreseeable future , giving customers access to the many benefits available exclusively on BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower. However, as we start to plan for exciting future enhancements to KeySoft, it is becoming clear that many of the features we wish to add are not technically possible on the Classic platform. On that basis, HumanWare is giving notice that KeySoft 7.2 will be the second to last upgrade available for the Classic family. There will be a final update for BrailleNote classic released next year. For this reason, once KeySoft 7.2 is released, software maintenance agreements will no longer be available for the BrailleNote and VoiceNote Classic.

We wish to stress that technical support and servicing will still be available for BrailleNote Classic, which continues to be a powerful information management tool.

Please also note that should you take advantage of the transplant programme, any counts remaining on your Software maintenance Agreement will be transferred to your BrailleNote mPower.

Should you have any queries, as always, please don?t hesitate to contact your nearest HumanWare office.
Jonathan Mosen
BrailleNote Product Marketing Manager

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Reviews Come Rolling In Pre RC1..

Some say that the proof is in the pudding. Well get your spoons ready as there's a Snack Pack of goodness heading our way very soon from Microsoft.

The new public release of Windows Vista hits sometime in September and like Beta 2 before it you will have a chance to download it and suffer with the rest of us testers. As I have said before don't even think about this if your not a very experienced user because it will be rough seas. And most AT Venders are not in Beta yet. So running your fave software of choice may not even be an option to you when RC1 hits the streets. I can say with some confidence that Narrator is better. No .. really it is.. stop making those faces!

Today, in my attempts to post content on a regular basis again, I give you some musings from around the net that are Build 5536 related.

This first one is posted as a bit of vindication of my NFB presentation back in July. Robert Sinclair wasn't really happy with me when I said that 1 GB of RAM was good for as a starting point. This article even goes so far as to agree with one AT Vender's assessment that 2 GB is better. And it discusses the Flash Memory option that will have me either upgrading my not even one year old Dell or have me shopping for a Windows Vista Logo system. Sigh.. obsolete the day I cracked the box I am affraid.

Next the Windows Super Site gives us a quick glimpse of 5536 as a precursor to Paul's RC1 Review.

And then we have my fave new site on everything Vista. Longhorn Blogs has their take on 5536.

Also check out the 5536 Guide. It's a nice way to pass the time until we all hit the refresh key for Vista downloads next month.

Oh yeah.. Someone asked me off line about what I will do when Vista finally comes out and I have nothing else to grumble on for hours and pages to no end. The answer my friends is simple.. Office 2007.

Actually I will probably move on to Blackcomb, renamed Vienna, which is slated for release in 2009-10. But why get ahead of ourselves. We still have..

Magic 10.5, Magic 11, JAWS 8, Zoom Text 9.1, Open Book 8, Kurzweil 11, Window Eyes 6, Dolphin 8 and so many other programms to get to first.

And hey if that doesn't scare you enough here's a link to an article where Toyota gives it's cars the ability to see objects.

I don't want one until they can fit it into a Black Trans Am. Although it would be cool as all get out if Toyota brought back the red moving Cylon light for the hood. "KITT.. I need you budddy!".

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The New Windows Live Writer And This Test Post

Well I am a little behind the times but two current Beta tests have me dividing my time between posts. You have to admit the little posts here and there are better than the big honking ones every so often. Still I have seen some new CCTV units and I will try and put some thoughts down on what's new in the land of Humanware and GW Micro. For now humor me while I play with the new Blog creation program from Microsoft.

How The Stones Broke Windows...

95 that is..

Before U2 ever disfigured an IPod and way before the Beatle's were used to start a sneaker Revelution the Rolling Stones told the world that Windows 95 just needed to "Start Me Up". Digg today had a link to the story behind Microsoft's long process to get Mick and Co. on board and it's a great read.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wierd Al's Newest Takes On Digital Downloaders

If you read the Ranger Station then you already know that I am a Wierd Al fan. I grew up on Doctor Demento and I actually saw Al live on Tom Schnider's show on NBC ages ago. I also saw Wendy O'Williams with the chainsaw, a school bus and a wall of TVs. What can I say we only had three major networks back then folks. But back to Al. He recently explained how he makes less money on ITunes than the actual sale of a CD. This is because the current contracts for most established stars still eat money out songs sold for packaging, marketing and other Record Company BS. So Al makes far far less with downloads than physical media sales.

Other bands know of this too and acts like Radiohead do not release their songs or backcatalogs for digital distribution. I REFUSE to use ITMS because of DRM, moreover, I don't like how the artist gets canibalized with per song downloading. But more than that I am not paying money to Apple because I don't use IPods either due to lack of accessibility to those with disabillities. Yeah.. I have issues.

Well Al has a new CD coming out and he has released a new song via My Space. Check it out ..

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pebbles Becoming Boulders.. Vista Is Rolling Along!

Looks like RC1 is very early September. Here's a bit on that from the Win Info site.

And hopefully you're AT of choice will have a patch on line soon for IE7. Why? The code is now in lockdown with release soon.

That rumbling sound is getting closer my friends...

A Victory in Beantown! ODF Rollout Delayed And Plug Ins Move Forward

Best news I have heard on ODF since Mass. decided to create an AT Lab just for research on ODF.

Friday, August 18, 2006

August 06 Tech Update: The "Ready For The Weekend!" Edition

Hey everyone!
It’s down and dirty and quick this month. Well it’s late on a Friday at least. Enjoy!

Steve’s Word Of The Month

Definition: The term used to describe a fake Grass Roots marketing or internet driven campaign.

Special Note:

The Dell laptop battery situation seems really bad but Dell isn’t the only one who has endured battery issues of late. Humanware, Telesensory and Ash Technologies all had bumps in the road over the last year with these types of batteries. One major shipping company almost lost a plane when a shipment of these batteries caught fire in mid flight. So please don’t think your immune to this problem if “Dude .. you don’t own a Dell”. Read this Ars Technica article for more.

And here’s a good article on how to spot if you have one of the batteries amongst you..

@@ NFB Presentation Live!

It’s a shame Mr. Chong could not post the Microsoft presentation but what is available from IBM is really worth a listen. Oh yeah and read my notes on Vista because I think they make more sense than my live show. Geez I used to be in radio..

Download the three files from this FTP:

~~ Lightning Round!

* Pac Mate 4.1: Free for 4.0 users.

* DBT 10.6 Released: Freed if you bought 10.5SR2 before 6/1/06. $$ for everyone else.

* Smartview Xtend FAQ: Think there’s not much to using a CCTV? Eh think again.

* Top Tech Tid Bits for 8/16: Good issue Dean!

* Windows Office Updates: Patch Tuesday brought us 23 fixes. Or 9 depending on what you have and what you have updated already. Largest one was like 4 MB by the way.

* Windows Live Messenger Review: Here’s a good look at the new version of what used to be called MSN Messenger.

* Zero Tention Mouse: A neat idea for those who have Carpel Tunnel or other hand disabilities.,1697,1994914,00.asp

` Firefox 2.0: Looks like the next release of this popular browser has been pushed back until October. Right about the time IE7 is said to come out of Beta. How interesting.

* Web 2.0 Security: Java can be dangerous. Yes too much caffeine is bad but I am talking programming here. Get an eye full of the downsides behind Web 2.0.

* Flash into HDD: The future young one lies in RAM. No more hard drives even if Hitachi is releasing that 1 GB by Xmas.

* Best Tech Jobs:: Thinking of IT? Well read this first before you decide to join the Geek Squad.

* Game Crazy Training Video: One of the funniest things I have seen in a very long time. Reminds me of my days as a Corporate Sales Trainer.

!! “Viva La Vista!”

Looks like RC1 is on it’s way. Those in the gilded halls of Redmond are already on a later build of what we commoners get in RC1 but still you have to admit.. anything is better than running Beta 2 at this point.

` Longhorn Blogs: My new most favoritest blog on Vista.

` Direct X 10.1: WTF? Can we please see a DX10 card first!

` Vista free with purchase:

` Vista Authentication Made Easy: Someone asked me for positive stuff on Vista. Um .. here’s one.

` Windows Live Marketed In Vista: This one may make you ill.

` Windows Live Services 40: And if you thought that was a little much…

` Undelete in Vista and Office: It’s like that Apple Time Machine thingy wich is like that Windows Server 2003 tool.

` One Note in Office 07: Um I am not even going into this again. But it’s worth reading.

` IE7+ Now With Longer And More confusing title:

~~ “Mactacular!”

Okay maybe not. But there was enough news out there to give Apple it’s own section. Plus a good buddy of mine is recovering from eye surgery and I want to give him an incentive to read my opinion on all things Mac. Get well Chris!

` Apple Security Fixes: Yes Apple does have security issues no matter what those dumb commercials say otherwise. 29 patches in fact.

` Apple to change compilers?: Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon?

` Mac Service Outages

* Apple Hotkeys link,00.shtml

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Digesting Bits of Apple. Thoughts On WWDC 06.

I have some friends who belong to the Cult of Apple. They love those new and highly inaccurate Mac commercials. And they often try to use these crass bits of flotsam to persuade me that all in life would be so much better if I would drink the Kool Aide that Steve Jobbs has poured for so many others. I tend to give these people “Friends don’t let Friends use Macs” yellow signs for Xmas. It’s a love to hate thing I guess. But the smugness of this small user base just erks me at times.

Recently at the Black Hat Convention hackers showed how they could break into a Mactel’s wireless drivers in less than a minute. Why a Mac? When asked that question the hackers said it was solely due to those insipid ads. No viruses? Then why release 29 security updates last month. Near as I can remember there hasn’t been one month in Windows history where 29 patches were needed. So take that you “I’m more secure” adverts!

Where this comes into as far as Assistive Technology goes is the *earth shattering* announcement that OSX 10.5 will support Braille. Wowie! Really? Braille? Oh man whatever was I missing with no Mac Braille.

Truth is that Mac Braille could have been on line with OSX years ago had Apple not cut out ALVA Access from development with Enlarge and Outspoken. Which happen to still run in 9x and lower products. But years ago a friend who used to work with ALVA, before VisionCue/Optelec came along, told me that they were barely selling enough of the Apple software to cover development costs. So to them it was no big loss that they didn’t have products to release for OSX 10.

And let’s also recap a bit more. Support for Apple products was next to none, except for community based products like Biggie, in 10.0 to 10.3. It wasn’t until Tiger, 10.4, did we see the revamped Universal Access. And that really came along because of Section 508 standards for Government and School purchases. The Borg comes to mind “Compliance is required” and “Aqua is irrelevant”.

Many like to say that Microsoft is this Evil Empire that must be stopped. I, however, take a different stance. I came from the days of DOS and I remember what it was like to have to remember each flavor of DOS’s commands. We had IBM DOS, MSDOS and about 16 other variants. And rarely did we have commands that would work universally in all of them. Then along came Windows and it’s market dominance. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not a socialist monopoly promoting kind of guy. But having one platform for all of us to learn or adapt with technology for employment makes life a tad easier. This philosophy of mine can easily be converted to figure out my feelings on Linux and Open Source if you hadn’t guessed.

There was a Wired article some years ago that said that Linux would never reach an acceptance point outside of it’s Uber Nerd status until a way could be found for low level tech support jockeys to walk an 84 year old Grandmother of 4 through an email setup the day after Xmas. I think that statement is still true and it’s one reason why none of my family will be running Open Source.. ever!

But back to Apple. There’s always been a friendly rivalry between Mac and Windows users. Now with the rise of the IPod Generation things seemed to have changed. Apple once the hippie free love company now holds the biggest lock on capitalism and fair use with their crappy ITMS DRM. Ads that once showed how things would be in 1984 have changed to base insults of both Windows users and Mac users as well. And then there was this year’s WWDC. When you have to mention the competitor often to distinguish yourself and your message.. then your message is you don’t believe your better than your competition. See the Vista Envy comment laden blog post below for more.

While I appreciate that Apple is moving forward with changes in Universal Access it’s not nearly enough to offer a serious challenge to the variety of AT products available to 700 million of us who for some reason stubbornly stay with that flawed Windows software.

And while I am at it let’s just clear up a few things.

Microsoft didn’t steal from Apple. Apple stole from Xerox Park.
Macs and Dell Laptops are unsafe for laps.
Computers are computers. Viruses, hijacks and crashes happen to all of us. But bragging that you don’t get them as often to the world at large only ensures that your batting average will be rising soon if some code monkey in the Netherlands decides differently.

Well I feel better. I knew I had an Anti Apple post in me brewing but it took Leopard to bring it out of me. I guess this won’t be the last rant on this subject for awhile. Or at least until 10.5 rolls around at least. Here’s hoping Windows Vista doesn’t slip back to Leopard release. Yikes!

Monday, August 07, 2006

OSX 10.5 To Have Native Braille Support!

Those guys at Mac Visionaries must be going nuts about now. Looks like Universal Access gets a Braille upgrade. See a run down of the Jobbs Keynote from Ars Technica below.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pac Mate 4.1 Released

Free for 4.0 users. $$ for those who aren't in the 4x universe.