Tuesday, February 21, 2006

February 06 Tech Update: The Calm Before The Storm Edition

All is somewhat quiet as most of the big names in AT are in sales meetings for the gearing up to CSUN next month. But I found some neat info to pad this issue out to a “cup of coffee” reading length.

Steve’s Word Of The Month
Definition: Not Safe For Work. Files that could get you into serious trouble at the work site will have this phrase listed in the header so you don’t accidentally open them. Or, if your really bold, you can at least turn your screen around to the wall and lower your computer’s volume.

Fragmented by Sharon
A delightful and insane co worker of mine asked me if she could contribute to the Tech Updates on a regular basis. And I, desperate for good and somewhat original content, relented and said “Yes!”. So I bring you the first of Sharon’s take on Assistive Tech.

Alternatives to Audible?

As a 5 year member of Audible.com, I was excited when they revamped their website and, for the most part, it was still accessible. The combo boxes that replaced having to go to different WebPages for each library listing were a much better solution, in my opinion. However, the website and price increases for new accounts and updating existing ones, wasn’t the only change they made. The different packages one could subscribe to in the past were a nice economical way to get books not offered by NLS, in a professionally recorded audio format that could be played on your computer and/or Audible-ready players. Legacy accounts are still honored and you can still, if you are presently a member be pretty satisfied with things as they are, just beware of updating to a new account. The catch now is that the new packages offer you the same amount of credits (1 or 2 per month or some yearly packages as well with roll over options) depending on the price you want to pay. What they don’t seem to be making clear to folks is that the credits are not worth what they were before. You could get an unabridged book, divided into several parts to make the “download faster”, according to Audible, and you would only use one of your credits. Now, when some of the books are divided into “parts”, the cost is 1 credit per part. This is not true all the time, but it seems to be a trend with Audible, so be aware if you subscribe or have consumers that do. Some alternatives to Audible are Simply Audio Books


And, Recorded Books.com


You will want to check out the pricing on these sites, but they offer some alternative solutions and several pricing plans both for rent and download.

Lightning Round

iZoom: The new USB enabled iZoom2 Go edition ships on the 27th. To learn more go here:


Victor Reader/Recorder: The new Victor Reader with Recording features is now available. Around $400 it’s far cheaper than a Plextalk. And there’s a new one of those shipping as well. See the Victor at:


Freedom Vision: The Fusion, the unit to replace the Liberty Solo 7 Inch, is officially listed on the web site. And so is the return of the Opti. The Opti was the first of the Laptop Assisted CCTV units on the market but it had a major issue with video drivers and Zoom Text which stopped it’s production cold. See all of the units at the link below:


SAL 2: The SAL was an amazing Braille teaching tool that I thought was going to just take off. It didn’t and Freedom Scientific dropped the unit a few years later. It seems that others have picked up the torch now as here’s a release on SAL 2:


Firefox Memory Feature: Remember that joke that goes “that’s not a bug it’s a feature!”? Looks like for Firefox the joke is on them.


Mactacular: A major player in the Screen Reader field was contacted directly by Apple recently. Looks like Apple is well aware of ITunes not being accessible and they have asked for help to get it there. And if that wasn’t enough here’s a link on a Daisy Player for those Mac users in your life.


~ “As Clear As Windows”

It looks like the feature complete beta of Vista will be available sometime in April. But I know your itching to know more about all the changes in Vista and Office. You may want to bookmark a few of the links below [like the FAQ] as they will be updated often over the next few months.

Windows Vista Features

IE7 Beta Review

Office 2007 FAQ

Office Live Article

Windows Defender Article

~ “Time Flies At The Speed Of Light”

I saw this on the Screen Magnifiers home page and a co worker said it belonged here this month. I think he is bucking for a belated Xmas present.


~ “The World Of Work Needs More Ramps”

As we are all well aware our primary goal is to aid others with their search for employment. Below is a Blog that has an interesting story about someone who lost their job due to access issues. And the other link is a detailed look at what new HR rules go into effect for job searches and how to be good at doing them.

Job Access Issues Article

Job Hunting article

~ “When Is A Virtual Postage Stamp A Real Postage Stamp?”

A lot of people have asked me about this whole AOL Goodmail thing. Below is an article and a blurb from Ai Squared on what to do to keep getting their bulk mail. With some modding you can apply this to other mailing lists as well.


From Ai Squared’s newsletter

Add Us to Your "Approved Senders" List

Many email providers are beginning to crack down on unsolicited email or "Spam". In the process they are making it more difficult for legitimate companies like ours to communicate with our users. To make sure you continue receiving your copy of ZoomNews, we ask that you add our email address, sales@aisquared.com, to your address book, thereby validating us as an approved sender.

Accomplishing this task differs depending on your email provider and how you receive and read your email. Below are instructions for the top three email providers. If you use a different email provider, check the help system of the email client software you are using.

To add us to your list of approved senders:

AOL Logo For AOL Users: While reading this issue of ZoomNews, you’ll see a row of buttons on the right hand side of your window. Click the "Add Address" button. This will display the address entry and editing screen. You don’t need to make any changes here, just click the "Save" button and our address will be added to your approved list of senders.
Yahoo Logo For Yahoo Users: While reading this issue of ZoomNews, you’ll see address information at the top of the message. The "From" field should display our address – "sales@aisquared.com". To the right of the address, click the "Add to Address Book" button to display the address entry and editing screen. You don’t need to make any changes here, just click the "Add to Address Book" button and our address will be added to your approved list of senders.
Hotmail Logo For Hotmail Users: While reading this issue of ZoomNews, you’ll see a row of buttons above the "From" field. Click the "Save Address" button to display the address entry and editing screen. You don’t need to make any changes here, just click the "Add to Address Book" button and our address will be added to your approved list of senders.”

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Amigo Wants To Be Your Friend!

We recently got one of these neat little guys into the unit and I have to say I am very much impressed. In fact I believe my first remark was “It’s a real shame my Pico has to fall down a flight of stairs later today”. Naturally I was kind of kidding. It will be run over by a bus as the quote from Aliens applies “it’s the only way to be sure”.

The Amigo is another in the “mid line” price point CCTV units. It’s around $1,800 which is double the price of say a Pico or Quick Look. But the Amigo is far more than those hand held guys.

The unit lays flat on a document like the Traveler, however, the rollers are a bit more responsive to the touch. The folds like a clamshell with the lid of the unit being the actual display. And what a big and bright display it is my Amigo.

The unit has the same color filtering options found on the Merlin or Acrobat, however, unlike those units the Amigo has wheels to activate it’s false colors. The unit also has wheels to roll through it’s several levels of clear zooming action. Both of these wheels sit on the right side of the unit. And, as a nice touch, the unit has a freeze frame feature located on the back right of the unit.

The real odd bit is that the power button is located on the bottom side of the Amigo. When the display is open you can not gain access to the power button. In a way I guess this is good because you can not accidentally turn the unit off while reading. But it does throw you off at first that you can’t find the unit’s power control easily.

The Amigo runs on the same rechargeable batteries found with the Jordi and other Enhanced Vision products. The unit can also be used while charging which is always a plus.

The weight is a little more than a hand held styled unit. But again this is a “mid line” product here. You want to feel that weight for the extra money you know? Even so the unit is not really bulky for everything it has under the hood. It’s smaller than most of the units found in it’s category and it has a few more features to boot.

The Amigo comes with a sort of writing stand but honestly none of the Portable units on the market are designed for creating the next manuscript for a great novel. Still it’s a little easier to write under this unit than say the Flipper Panel or Liberty Solo.

We will be putting the unit to work over the next week or so and I will give you an update on what we find. For now check out the official product web site at Enhanced Vision.


Friday, February 03, 2006

What To Watch For In 06: The CCTV Implosion

If you read my little take on 2005 then you know that one of the top stories was the fall and rise of Telesensory. A byproduct of the TSI saga is just now being felt by the industry. At ATIA more than six new CCTV units were shown openly or behind closed doors. And, of course, Freedom Scientific announced it’s plans to enter the field in December 05. The crazy thing is that most of these units are just a duplication of what already exists in the market today. But who can blame a company for taking advantage of a market leader’s absence? Well almost absence now that TSI is somewhat back.

The fastest growing area of CCTV growth comes in the mid line category of Portable Units. This generally is considered the 7 to 10 inch display at around $1,500 to $2,000 price point by the way. This category has been mostly the domain to units like the Olympia, the Traveler and the Flipper Panel over the years but now even those units are seeing competition from their own manufacturers.

Freedom Vision [Ash Technologies], who offers the Liberty, is working on a unit that will replace the Liberty Solo 7 inch display. Enhanced Vision has the Amigo which is a mid line unit that offers a more compact unit than the Flipper series. And again Freedom Scientific has their own entry into this category if you read up on the Topaz and Opal lines.

Then there is the whole new explosion of Laptop Assisted products. Here are the ones I have seen..

Optelec Clear Note
Low Vision International’s Magnalink series
Clarity’s PC Mate
ABISee’s Mousvision Zoom EX

And that’s not including Enhanced Vision’s ability to use the Smart Video accessory with the Acrobat or Flipper. In other words there’s more than I am listing here.

The question becomes now how many people can possibly buy these units and how many units is too much for the market to sustain? And if you’re a CCTV dealer just when does the pressure to move one line over another begin? Okay so there’s more than one question on the table, however, the big one will always be which one will a person buy when there are so many choices available?

The general phasing out of products has already begun. Optelic bit the bullet last year and ended the traditional Clearview series in favor of their modular units. Vision Technologies is in the process of doing the same all be it that their equipment is lighter and somewhat cheaper feeling overall [solely my opinion on that one]. Some out there now have to abandon older units in favor of having these better and cheaper units in the pipeline. So now the EBay factor shows it’s ugly head. There begins to be a gray market, a used market and the new market in what is essentially a nitch market.

Oh sure the Government Rehab Agencies and the Veterans Administration buy many of the new units. In fact Government and Education make up most of the sales out there. But there is a large contingent of people who buy privately. And for them their only exposure to this technology may come from the Eye Doctor’s office. But we keep coming back to the questions above. Is the aging population large enough to buy all these darn CCTV units? Or is an Arizona land fill destined to house more Traveling Executives and Meva IIs over the next five years.

The rambling point of this entry is that watching the sheer number of participants throwing good money into the fray just to bolster their portfolio of offerings will diminish the industry as a whole. The rush to take a foothold in the TSI vacuum may just be the undoing for some. My hope is that someone will always build a better mousetrap, however, my belief is that there may be too much of a diluted market out there already for that person to make any money on the thing.

Now if you excuse me I have to go and count the ever growing numbers of Hand Held CCTV units lying around the office.