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..

Friday, September 01, 2006

Windows Media Player 11 Beta 2 And Zoom Text Keyboard Arrive

Hey all. Just a real quick one. We got in the ZT Keyboard. I will write more on that this weekend. Promise. But for fun this holiday weekend you can download and play with the WMP 11 Beta 2 release. Word of warning though. I recommend unloading the older Beta of anything before playing with the new release version.