Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Serotek Announces Two New Options To Obtain Your System Access


Serotek Corporation, the Accessibility Anywhere people, is proud to announce two exciting new options to extend accessibility to everyone. Serotek now makes its complete product offering available to people on a budget with two Software As a Service (SAS) options. For those who feel uncomfortable making any commitment, the entire Serotek offering including System Access Mobile with Neospeech and the System Access Mobile Network is available for the low, low price of $39.95 a month with no obligation. You can discontinue usage at any time and owe no cancellation fee. For those willing to commit to a forty-eight month relationship the price is just $24.95 per month. After forty-eight months you will have a paid up license to System Access Mobile with Neospeech. On-going use of the System Access Mobile Network (SAM Net) and continuing software updates will cost just $129.95 a year, guaranteed beginning in year 5 and beyond.

If you or someone you know has been caught in the dilemma of not being able to afford the accessibility tools you need and want because government agencies will only fund screen readers that are too complex and require too large an investment of your time to achieve minimal proficiency, this offer is for you. System Access Mobile is more than a screen reader, providing all the standard accessibility functions including access to the major Microsoft Office productivity tools including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and Outlook Express, and many other popular applications like Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer, Skype, Windows Media Player and much, much more. And, with System Access Mobile you get Neospeech, delivering naturally sounding voices. In addition, System Access Mobile, in conjunction with the System Access Mobile Network delivers connectibility as you’ve never experienced it before. Access your home computer from work or on the road; exchange files; interact on-screen with friends and colleagues. System Access Mobile takes social networking to a whole new level.

Best of all, System Access Mobile is easy to use. In minutes you’ll be up and running, browsing the Internet, sending and receiving e-mail, and accessing your favorite productivity tools. Additional training is available for those who want to really put the software through its paces.

You also get full access to the System Access Mobile Network (SAM NET), the world’s most complete compilation of accessible sites for news, entertainment, shopping, information, and social networking. With SAM NET you can launch your own Web site, create and participate in Blogs, customize your news and entertainment. SAM NET puts you right in the center of the digital lifestyle, helping you enjoy the independence and productivity you crave. On SAM NET you’ll find a community of like-minded individuals who are taking control of their lives.

So if you’ve been hesitating because of the cost, now is the time to act. You can enjoy the digital lifestyle for less than a dollar a day ($.82/day actually). You’ll save that and more just by using an Internet telephone service like Skype, which is fully accessible to Serotek SAS subscribers. Why not give yourself (or someone you know) the digital lifestyle for the holidays. It will be the most liberating gift you’ve ever received.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Open Book 8.0 Is Coming.. Soon!

The long awaited update to Open Book will be hitting the streets soon with new features and some other functionality I can't talk about yet. However rather than I just tease you about things I have seen from the near future I give you the newly posted preview page from Freedom Scientific. Oh and expect more info in an upcoming FS cast as well.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Press Release: Dolphin Celebrates Win At CSUN With New Promotion


Lunar from Dolphin named the World’s Best Screen Magnifier at the CSUN conference - Celebrate with this incredible Promotion
Over 10 million Americans are blind or visually impaired and every seven minutes a new individual in America will become classed as blind or visually impaired. However, only 1.5 million of these 10 million individuals can actually use computers!
Increasing the individual’s independence and mobility combined with finding a solution to the difficulties and barriers that are encountered as a result of blindness and visual impairments is the philosophy of Dolphin Computer Access and its award winning software solutions.
In the battle of the screen magnifiers at the 22nd Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN) in Los Angeles, Simon Lakin & Steve Plumpton two accessibility experts from the RNIB in the UK chose Lunar as the clear winner over six other screen magnifiers. To celebrate, Dolphin Computer Access is delighted to announce an incredible promotion aimed specifically at increasing the number of visually impaired PC literate users within the US and Canada.

Purchase a Dolphin Pen edition of the award winning software Lunar or LunarPlus today and receive a free complementary CD license edition, saving an incredible $235 on Lunar & $355 on LunarPlus!

What is Lunar?
Straining to see what’s on your computer screen? Lunar screen magnifier from Dolphin Computer Access can help you work for hours longer without getting tired eyes.

With just a click on Lunar’s innovative control panel or a push of a hot key you can instantly magnify everything on your screen, so whether you are typing a document or simply reading an email the days of having to strain your eyes are long gone.

Lunar can also greatly reduce glare too, thanks to its built-in color changer. Whether it’s inversing the desktop colors to give you white text on a black background or choosing from over 20 different color schemes, you are sure to find the one that’s right for your eyes.
Why did the judges love Lunar?

Below are just a few of the reasons why Lunar easily came out on top:
• Line view mode, ideal for relaxed reading or those with peripheral vision.
• Responsive, stable and reliable.
• Magnification at login. No need to manually load Lunar’s magnification software, just sit back and relax as it automatically loads.
• Fractional Magnification, more fractional magnification levels than any other magnifier in the market.

What is the Dolphin Pen?
Take Lunar or LunarPlus with you wherever you go without needing to install it ever again, simply plug it in and Lunar will automatically load directly from the pen drive. All thanks to Dolphin’s software being pre-installed within the new 1GB robust swivel cap design USB powered Dolphin Pen drive. It truly is the perfect assistive software solution for any low vision person who regularly uses different computers. In addition Version 8.01 of Lunar and LunarPlus work seamlessly in conjunction with all of Microsoft’s 32bit flavors of Windows Vista.

What are the advantages of a Dolphin Pen?
Increase your mobility and independence by taking your preferred screen magnification software and personal settings with you wherever you go. With the Lunar Dolphin Pen you can hot swap desks or buildings without the inconvenience of having to re-install Lunar and avoid the frustrations of inaccessible technology.
What’s the benefit of a FREE CD license edition?
If you ever forget to take your Dolphin Pen home, don’t worry you can still access the internet, email friends or maybe occasionally continue with your work as Lunar or LunarPlus could already be permanently installed on your home PC thanks to the free CD license edition.

What’s the difference between Lunar and LunarPlus?
LunarPlus includes all of the unique magnification features found within Lunar, combined with the added bonus of speech. Whilst LunarPlus is not a full screen reader, it does include the popular Eloquence and RealSpeak voices, making it ideal for those long passages of text.
LunarPlus has been specifically designed to give the user that little bit of extra help when their eyesight starts to flag towards the end of a busy day.

Notes for Editors:
1. ABOUT DOLPHIN COMPUTER ACCESS GROUP – Dolphin is one of the largest companies in the computer access industry with over 60 employees in the USA, UK and Sweden and dealers in over 30 countries worldwide. The company offers a complete range of software solutions, including screen readers, screen magnifiers, text scanners and readers, Braille translators, educational software to help with reading and writing, speech synthesisers, DAISY talking book software and mobile solutions for Windows Mobile enabled Smartphone’s. Dolphin also has the only complete solution which includes speech, magnification and Braille in a single product. Dolphin packages are developed to operate seamlessly in many different environments including education and business networks, stand-alone PCs and laptops. Dolphin is the world leader in the development of DAISY software players and content creation tool, including EasyProducer, EasyReader, Dolphin Publisher and EasyConverter. Dolphin software supports over 20 languages as standard and comes complete with Dolphin’s own synthesiser. More information about Dolphin and its products is available at .
2. Press Contacts:
Archana Bharathan, Dolphin Computer Access
231 Clarksville Road, Suite 3, Princeton Junction NJ 08550, USA Tel: (866) 797-5921
Neil Woodcock, Dolphin Computer Access
Technology House, Blackpole Estate West, Worcester, WR3 8TJ, UK Tel: +44 (0)1905 754 577
3. Statistics used in this release are available from the AFB website at .

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Apple: Classic, Older Macs, Hacks And Vista Vs Leopard

Eek! This is the most info I have ever posted in one month. Eek! This is the first time I have ever dedicated two whole posts to Apple. What's next? Dogs and cats living together .. mass hysteria?

Bye Bye Classic: If you were thinking about upgrading to Leopard and you are an older G4 866 MHz or lower well.. Welcome to Vista envy! Older applications below 10.0 are also out of luck as they can not be upconverted to Leopard. Yeah Steve. Tell me again how OSX is not like Vista.

Faster, Faster Leopard, Kill, Kill: Just how fast will your experience be if you do upgrade to 10.5? Take a look at some early field tests in the link below.

Put A Leopard On Your PC Drive: What happens when your fave company who lived by the slogan "think different" becomes mainstream? Well for some people out there they woke up to a very chilly morning in some very hot places. Hackers have moved their attention from unlocking the iphone back to hacking OSX on a Windows based PC. Being popular has it's disadvantages I guess. Sure this has been done before but I don't think it was done this well this fast. See how to load the hacked copies below.

Vista Vs Leopard: The title of this Engadget article is self explanatory except for one point. . Vista has sold over 88 million licenses and I don't think the copy-cat will do that any time soon.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The JAWS 9.0 Public Betas Keep On Coming..

One of the things I learned from all my time in working with AT Venders on private beta testing is that the info we testers submit is limited to the equipment we testers have at hand. When you go public then, and only then, do the training wheels come off and you find out that this code doesn't work with some piece of equipment from 2001 or what not. My hat is off to the gang at FS for responding and reposting to the public beta so much this go around. I hope the info they are getting continues to be valid!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Quick News: IE8, Vista DRM, Real Player, Web Fonts And Why The 21st Century Makes You Miserable

Today I start off with a theme "all about the web" then I tear that asunder with a purely non web humor story at the bottom of the post. In my days of being an aspiring radio personality they called that last story a "kicker" to end your newscast on a high note. When I start writing posts like the copy I had to create for morning radio I totally understand if you delete me from your RSS readers.

IE8: The Windows Super Site now has a blog and it gives us some idea of what changes come in the UI for the program in it's next whole number version update.

Vista DRM: Another blog from Ed Bott at ZDnet has a really long but really neat series debunking the rumors about some of Vista's high def DRM functions affecting some of Vista's overall speed and quality. Well sort of.. check out the blog and then check out the next episode of TWIT's Windows Weekly as Ed is set to be on to discuss his 3 part series of articles on the subject.

Real Player: In many of the recent training sessions at work that I have conducted or assisted with in the last six months I have railed on about the fact that viruses are not unique to email and MS Word. Now a days the bad stuff can be found in MP3s, PDFs or even audio and video streams. After all everything on the computer is just 1s and 0s. And malware, spyware and virsuses are ... 1s and 0s. Back on topic, someone did a Day Zero attack on Real Player.

Web Fonts In Vista: I thought this was an interesting Slashdot article that points out Vista's updated Web Fonts and how this carried over to Vista's new look.

7 Reasons Why The 21st Century Makes You Miserable: Remember MAD Magazine before it became MADTV on FOX? Now do you remember it's big competitor CRACKED? It is okay if you don't because it doesn't effect the funny article below about technology woes. I just haven't thought about CRACKED in years nor did I even think for one second it was around and on the web.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Apple: Leopard Security, Leopard Impressions And Leopard Universal Access

This post goes out to an offline friend named Chris. He is one of the few Apple fans out there that isn’t a full on zealot to the “Cult of Apple”. Yes Virginia there are normals out there. So I’ll throw him a bone and post some interesting Leopard news.

Security in Leopard: Ars Technica takes a closer look at the new security features found in OSX 10.5.

Leopard Impressions: This article from Mac Rumors has been sitting on the Digg Top 10 long enough for me to read it.. so you know it is a slow day for me then.

17 Universal Access Features And More: Neat blog on AT for the Mac. And this article outlines other features in the recent Apple announcement that would also aid those of us who use Magnifier or Voiceover.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Quick Bits: Code Factory, JAWS, Humanware and OSX Leopard

So what happens when I make a sarcastic statement about the volume of available news? More news comes a rollin' on through of course.

Code Factory Mobile Magnifier Beta: The Desert Skies has posted two Code Factory press releases. The first about Mobile Magnifier for Smartphones. To me magnifying those incredibly small screens versus quickly hearing info with speech has me saying "Speech" every time, however, to each his or her own I guess.

Mobile Speak Public Beta 2.0: Since we are talking about speech the second press release covers the new public beta phase for Moble Speak. I am really excited by their new licensing method and I think I may finally break down and get a real phone.

JFW 9: No one can say that Freedom Scientific isn't listening to feedback as they posted another update to the on going JAWS 9.0 public beta.

Classmate Reader: Humanware has announced a new device that will aid the Education market with reading and language comprehension skills. The link below takes you to the press release.

Keysoft 7.5 Build 20: I guess I have been under a rock. I'm a little late on posting this but Build 20 is up and the link is below.

Leopard System Requirements: Apple has recently said that 10.5 will drop on 10/26. If you aren't running an older G4 at 866 MHz or lower.. rejoice. If you are running an older G4.. You will be taking a trip to the Apple Store for hardware rather than software. See more of the requirements and an overview of some of the features at the link below.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Random "Microsoft" Goodness

More than 10 posts in a month. Wow, I either found a bunch of news or I found a little more time to post content. Hmm.. I am sure its not the latter. Oh well here is some random news that just so happens to be centered around Microsoft and it's many products. Minus the Zune 2, HALO 3 and Windows Home Server stuff. Ooo.. I may have another post in me this week yet!

OOXML: A month or so ago the Open XML standard was up for adoption in Europe. To say that there was some controversy around the voters and the voting process would be a very large understatement. It seems that the same endgame happens anytime money is involved with standards, format adoption and [here comes the nasty comments about me] Open Source initiatives. Check out the story below.

Office 2007 Online Converts: No its not what you think. Mary Jo Foley's Microsoft Watch is a good blog that is worth a read on some of the inside moves with the company. In a recent post she gives some NPD numbers on retail sales of Office 2007 and how people buying it through Microsoft via the method of converting their trials is somewhat affecting retail sales. Looks like Office 2007 is a hit and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Even Mac owners are buying Office in droves and they don't even get the Ribbon until next year. See the article link below.

Vista Out Of Memory .. Again: Remember those posts from May, June and maybe even July about Vista and it's hotfixes on moving files? As usual in life you fix one thing and one other thing breaks. ZDNet is saying that memory gets eaten fast when moving files. C'mon SP1..

SP1 Spoofing: Speaking of SP1 for Vista.. Did you know that if you are really crazy and really desperate you could actually fool Windows Update into giving it to you.. right this second? Ars Technica links to another site that tells you in detail on how to do just that, however, just reading the Ars description gives me a headache. So those who live in their registries go forth and conquer.

Whew! All this posting. It has been soo long since I went mad with info. Shout out to one individual at a particular company who always reminds me when we talk that I don't post enough on my blog. Now the conversations will switch to what I *AM* posting right? I tell ya there is no pleasing the internet.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Talking Microwave On Clearance At Wal Mart?

I picked up the silver version of the Hamilton Beach Talking Microwave last week for $40. I found it in the Clearance Rows at my local Super WalMart. I asked the management if this was just a move to clear inventory or if there was a new model on the way to replace the sku. Take this as plain rumor but I heard that there is a new model on the way. So if you were looking to pick up this awesome microwave head out to your nearest big box retailer as it may be on the cheap right now.

Here is the print version of the manual by the way.

Find a few other manuals from the same site here.

NewsGator and Bloglines Join APML Workgroup

I know a lot of people who use Bloglines. Take a look at some of the support that is coming to the service in the link below.

Humanware Offers A Keysoft 7.5 Presentation

Here's the press release


Please join us for an interactive on-line presentation highlighting the
new KeySoft version 7.5 for the BrailleNote family of products.
This interactive on-line presentation will take place on Tuesday,
October16 at 3:00 PM Pacific / 6:00 PM Eastern time in the HumanWare on-line
meeting room.

To participate in the event, visit the following link:
After downloading the small conference software, simply enter your name
to enter the room. No password is required, so you can leave it blank
when entering the meeting room.

We will be available to answer your questions regarding KeySoft. So
please join us to hear all about the new features of KeySoft 7.5 that
will best benefit you!
During this presentation we will discuss the new visual display
software, "KeyView," the expanded support for SD cards and USB memory
drives, and the implementation of the Unified English Braille Code
(UEB). We will demonstrate the new audio file queuing capability within
the media player.

The BrailleNote and VoiceNote have gone multilingual with the
integration of foreign languages in to KeySoft. We will demonstrate the
ease of switching between languages and Braille codes on the fly. Many
internet service providers are moving to SSL encryption for user email
accounts as an added security measure, a step by step account setup
process will be shown.

If you are unable to attend, this presentation as well as other previous
presentations will be archived at Follow the link for
Products then Presentations.

175 Mason Circle
Concord CA 94520

Monday, October 15, 2007

Windows XP: Vista Features In SP3, SP3 FAQ and Easter Eggs

You have your Vista in my XP. No.. You have your XP in my Vista!: Looks like a few more Vista features are being back ported to XP. This isn't anything new as some of XP SP2, IE7 and Media Player 11 were all stuff that at one time was said to be "Vista Only". Check out the link to learn more..

XP SP3 FAQ: Paul at the Super Site for Windows has updated his FAQ on XP Service Pack 3. You may want to bookmark this one for updates as we get closer and closer to it's full release.

XP Easter Eggs: These are mostly visual in nature, however, I thought they were kind of cool to know about none the less.

Where Did All My Friends Go?

From Oingo Boingo's mid 80's album "Boi-ngo"

My revelations - have lost control
My better judgement - has gone away
Our evolution is full of holes
Has something gone astray
(Tell me where our friends go)

From "Where Did All My Friends Go

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around does it make a sound?.. That age old question comes to mind for me at times this year in so many ways. A couple of weeks ago a major VP for a big AT company and I discussed just who and where former friends and colleagues have gone in just the last year. If you remember a while back in 2006 I wrote a piece on what the fallout may be when everyone in the industry decides that they can build a Video Magnifier. And now the survivors of a great sales war are starting to emerge from their bunkers and examine their losses. The results of which are still being played out every company quarter. And it's a reason for why your software upgrades come in little envelopes instead of big boxes with manuals. Everyone, I mean everyone, is having to make changes or cut costs.

Think about this for a second. We saw more movement in management and ownership in this field in 18 months than we had seen in .. well years. Humanware, Ai Squared, Freedom Scientific and Kurzweil Educational Systems all saw changes in ownership. Enhanced Vision and Optelec have seen management changes. But sadly I don't believe some companies have taken their fingers off their chess pieces just yet.

Amongst the general day to day operations stuff that goes on behind the scenes there is two more forces at work that are silently stalking the famous names in our industry. Retirement and it's old friend "Burn Out". Over the last year or so a few names in my Contacts Folder needed to be edited from Professional to Personal. And each time I made the changes I thought hard about the knowledge and experience we were losing in our wierd wild world of Blindness technology.

Don't get me wrong change is inevitable. I am a Vista fan as you know. so I don't fear, resist or deny changes. I just think that we are at a crossroads and it's always good to stop and look at the map every once in awhile and see where we have been before we venture further to where we haven't gone. And a moments reflection for those who drove this old bus there is worth a mention time to time as well.

I salute those who started the mailing lists, the forums, the podcasts and the web sites. I honor those who stood in the hot stinky convention halls of old. Who drove, rode and flew all over our great nation to demonstrate their products to 1 or 100. I pay my respects to those who sat in the bars, answered outlandish questions or who towed the party line on the rumor of the month. To sum up.. I will miss your banter, advice and direction as I stumble forward through the field you have all created. For I have many more miles to tred before I reach the same plateau. And the trip just got a little less familiar without my tour guides.

"Where Did All My Friends Go.."

Link to the lyrics of this song..

Link to the album on sale at Amazon..

SATOGO: The Public Beta Ends While Phase 2 Begins

For those who have been using the Public Beta you will find things are no longer the same starting today. But! That doesn't mean you can't continue on without SATOGO. check out the announcement on pricing and other features coming in the product as it enters it's second phase of development.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Update To JAWS Public Beta 9 Now Online

They must be getting some good feedback in Florida as the note went up that there is a new beta online as of October 4th.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Some Thoughts On Hardware Upgrades And New System Recommendations

A bit of a warning on this article. I had a hour to kill between work and home tonight. And I thought I would put some answers down to the same questions I get over and over again. I thought if I put the answers here I could just send them out via link or email when the next poor soul came to me with the same question. And that question you might ask is.. "I want to upgrade [blank] or buy a new computer from [blank]. What should I look for?".

I have been thinking a lot about hardware, upgrades and all the things involved in a decision “to buy or not to buy”. And I think that’s where the new poll question came from this month. With the holidays fast approaching I know the real deals will start appearing in all the Sunday ads and sales circulars. So here are some things to keep in mind when considering an upgrade or new system purchase all together.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows my feelings on this subject. But for old times sake let’s go over it again for any newcomers. If you are thinking about upgrading your computer to run Vista and you bought it before January 2006 I have only one word of advice for you….. Don’t! Yes, Vista will run on older hardware. Yes, the compatibility of older programs is working better than most online media claims. And Yes, we as Blind users can ignore all that stuff about graphics and Flip 3D and all that jazz. The problem is that older hardware really struggles with Vista and unless you like trolling around on the Internet looking for drivers, fixes, forums and tech support info you are just better off staying right where you are at currently.

If your system is post Jan 2006 don’t think your life is any easier under Vista’s rein. I have a Creative X-Fi Music and a NVIDIA 7 series card. My life has been just peachy looking for drivers almost weekly for both. And my system was built in April 2006. Believe me I love Vista and I won’t go back but the trip to get here wasn’t fun. In some spots back in March during my big battle between Creative, SAPI 4 and SAPI 5 I almost broke several inanimate objects. Newer hardware that came on line in the last few months is better designed to take advantage of Vista’s requirements. The path of least resistance won’t be found in just a straight upgrade though.

If you do decide to go it the upgrade route here is what I recommend for both Screen Magnifiers and Screen Readers. Also this applies to both desktop and laptops purchases where applicable for the type of system you want.

  • 2 GHz Processor or AMD Equivalent
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • Dedicated Video Card with No Less Than 128 MB of RAM
  • Dedicated Sound CARD! Not a Chip! If You Can Get One
  • 80 GB or Higher Hard Drive

Okay my real rule is 2 + 2 + 200. That’s 2 GHz or higher, 2 GB of RAM and a 200 GB hard drive if your system will support all that of course. The same thing almost applies to a new system as well. However on new computers I have a few other things I am looking for..

New Computers..

  • 2.4 GHz Dual Core or Core 2 Duo or AMD Equivalent
  • 1066 MHz or Higher Front Side Bus or FSB for Short
  • At Least 2 GB of RAM with Possible Upgrade to DDR3 RAM
  • 256 MB or Higher Dedicated Video Card
  • Dedicated Sound Card
  • 200 GB or Higher Hard Drive

Now I know what you are saying and it does sound like a lot at first. If you do decide to move on up to Vista it will be a far better ride if you can swing most of these items in your configuration. And most newer systems have a good bit of these recommendations on board already. Where this would work against you would be if you considered one of those “all in the box” deals you see in some ads or on store shelves at your big box retailers.

Many of these packages are not Assistive Technology friendly due to their lower system specs. Plus a lot of these systems are made from older parts which may or may not see good or even fare Vista driver support. There are some exceptions, however, it's rare to find a good deal in these situations when buying the "all in one box". An example of this would be the inability for you to upgrade these low cost units with more RAM or another video card. I've seen times where the power supply is too weak to handle the new suped up video card or that the motherboard doesn't allow you to go past 1 GB of RAM due to it's lack of extra memory slots. What you end up with is a system that can only take you so far before you end up haveing to replace that one with another that has the features you needed on the previous computer.

Let’s drill down to why I am recommending all this stuff..

If you go Vista, and now with XP getting a little longer life span no one says you have to, you need to have a faster multi threaded processor. True no Assistive Technology takes advantage of Dual Cores at the present time. In the future.. okay in like a year.. that will change with other Non AT products. Many Microsoft products are going multi-core. Several Virus Protection Venders are heading that way as well. Everything changes in the next hardware generation and you want to be ready.

Front Side Bus:
This is just as important a feature, if not more so, as RAM. The FSB is the part of the system that ships data to and from the various parts of the computer. You could have a huge amount of RAM on board with an ultra fast chip but you could find yourself moving slowly if the pipes aren’t wide enough to let all that fast moving data through freely. The FSB is the size of the pipeline for your data. A higher number is a good thing. Just remember that lower than 800 MHz is not advisable for newer or older systems, in my humble opinion of course, running Vista. If you like to have more than three windows open at one time with several other programs running in your Systray then you want a higher number on the FSB and a good bit of RAM.

2 GB? Yup. 3 would be even better but 4 is overkill in any 32 bit based version of Windows. RAM is where most of the heavy lifting is done with Vista. No matter how hard you try you will always have something running in the background with Vista. Power Management, indexing of files or waiting for the Sidebar to update. It’s all running all the time. Even when your computer is in Sleep Vista has something hanging out in RAM to make your return to an awakened computer faster than in XP. Plus everything you run on a computer takes up a little piece of RAM. This is even more true when you have integrated video and sound. More on that below.

Video Card..
So you Screen Reader users must be laughing at me for this one. Well sadly you aren’t immune from having to run higher video cards in Vista. See all of Windows, visual or not, relies upon Direct X or Direct Draw. The Internet, the look of MS Word, Win Amp or whatever you run has a Graphic User Interface with need for a graphics display driver. Even without using that AErO Glass stuff with Assistive Technology active on your system you still end up using video RAM for all tasks in Vista. If you scrimp on your video card Vista will just take what it needs from your available 2 GB of RAM. That means if you have a card with 64 meg on board but the card allows for it to share 64 MB or more of memory.. you lose that 64 MB from what you have out of the 2 GB pool. A pool that can see almost 500 MB used by Vista alone. Now toss in 60 MB for your AT software, another 40 MB or so for Virus Protection and 25 for Firefox and so on and so on.. You can see that the 2 GB pie of RAM gets eaten up quickly by all the hungry hungry hippos on your new computer system. Having a dedicated video card saves you some problems with resources. Especially in longer sessions with a laptop. Whew.. you don’t want to be on a plane with all of that plus a few RAM clearing reboots on a low battery to boot let me tell ya.

Sound Card..
It’s the same deal as the Video Card. However I have seen with some laptops that Screen Readers just don’t do that well with some on board sound card solutions. I have met some out there who are using headphones with a built in sound chip, like those from Plantronics, who say that their speech is far more clean and easier to understand via the chip in the headphones. The big thing here is that you will notice more static or clicks running through your audio if you stay with an on board solution for your audio needs. Dedicated audio devices, and I stress this one, CAN! but not always aid you with speech. This gets a bit tricky because some speech synths work better than others. Via Voice has caused me problems and a few others seem to dislike my Sound Blaster X-Fi all together. Like I said above it took me awhile to learn that my audio card hates being in Vista Basic. Which is a shame as just about any AT product short of System Access puts you in Vista Basic Desktop as per the mirror Driver. oopss. . I got a little off course. To repeat.. Dedicated good or USB Headphones with their own sound chip better for some laptop users.

Hard Drives..
You plan on doing a bunch of those Audible, NLS or other E Books? How about podcasts? Or video in high def? Yeah.. you need either a big drive or a series of little ones you can dump those files off to because them files get awfully big awfully quick. We are talking about 600 MB for 1 hour of low grade high definition video. Or a few GB for 320k or Lossless MP3 files. And burning all that on disc takes more money and time. Nope.. go with a bigger drive and ask for an external back up drive for Xmas. Always back up for safety.

Well I hope these words help you out when considering upgrades or a new system. I am sure I will end up expounding more on this subject again eventually. Feel free to disagree in the comments section if you think I am off my rocker though. After all the first key to learning Vista and Office 2007, or so Microsoft tells me in their demonstrations, is "Experience". Your mileage will always very..

September's Poll Results And New October Poll Posted

Here are the results of the first Ranger Station poll.

Poll Of The Month: If money were no object I would buy which Screen Reader/Review program first?

G.W. Micro's Window Eyes: 10 votes (38%)

Serotek's System Access: 3 votes (11%)

Dolphin's Supernova or HAL: 3 votes (11%)

Freedom Scientific's JAWS: 9 votes (34%)

Other: 1 vote (3%)

Looks like the gang in Indiana has a following. Remember those of you who would like to own a copy of Window Eyes may want to look into their installment options for a low cost method of buying this Screen Reader. See more at the G.W. Micro homepage at..

Now for this month's question. Tomorrow on Main Menu the topic will be hardware and upgrading your computer system. Since Microsoft just gave a reprieve to the death of XP for a few more months I think this question should be asked..

If you were to buy a new computer between now and this time next year you would choose which Operating System??

Windows XP for as long as I can get it
Windows Vista Basic/Home Premium/Business
Windows Vista Ultimate
Windows Server Family of products
I'm buying a Mac with OSX 10.5 Leopard
Some version of Linux
I'm not buying a computer anytime soon

The poll is located at the top right of the page. Even if you aren't buying a system next year you can still toss in your opinion. And thanks to everyone who voted in the last poll too!

Monday, October 01, 2007

JAWS 9.0 Beta Now Available For Download

I am sure it's all over the net by now but .. If you haven't heard elsewhere JFW 9 Public Beta is now ready for download. To get the English ILM 64 MB release click the link below.

JAWS 9.0.348 - October 2007 English ILM Release (64 MB - HTTP download)

Remember to fully read the release notes at this link as well..

Spoken A Web Tool That Works And I Actually Like

When we first got a look at the updated I.D. Mate Omni Bar code Reader from Invision America last year the new office pastime was to scan in just about anything to see if it had the info on the product right there in the on board database. "Guess Your Lunch" was a great deal of fun. Well it was until the I.D. Mate went on to spoil things by reading the Nutritional Value of what we were eating. Then things got very depressing very quickly. And I thought that it was kind of funny that the worse the food was for you the more likely you were to find it on board with all the nutritional contents read aloud for anyone to hear. So much for cheap TV dinners I guess. Tip: Never read anything that says Salisbury Steak if you ever want to eat again that day.

Another new tool we are all playing with is the web application located at This app will take MS Word, PDF and PowerPoint files and convert them into speech. You can even have it converted into a small or large MP3 file which you can then download and use on MP3 players. The recognition engine has trouble with tables and PDFs that contain images. So you won't be throwing out your OCR program just yet. However if you travel this tool may be a lifesaver if you have to convert a file to a useable format in a pinch.

You must register on the site in order to use this tool. Find it and more info at the link below.

Vista Tip: How To Get The Juice Podcatcher To Work In Vista

On last week's Main Menu Live there was a discussion on which Podcatchers were suitable in today's world for AT programs. Like Darryl I too came back to Juice for all my podcast needs. The problem is that Juice is not officially supported in Vista. What I came up with were some steps you can take that will allow you to install Juice in Vista. I go one extra step than others out there and for me this seems to be the magic bullet for making the program more stable for my needs. One warning though.. If you have already tried to install Juice under Vista these steps may not change your Juice's current status. You may have to remove Juice entirely from your system in order for this to work. Also if you have tried to install Juice with Vista's Shadowcopy enabled this tends to make the steps not work either as Vista returns them into the active registry under a reboot. My best results came with doing this method on a clean drive or one that had never seen Juice before.

So first thing is first. We need a copy of Juice. You can locate the Windows version at the link below. Download the .exe into a file you can easily find.

Now that you have the file on your drive you want to browse to it and do the following steps..

  1. Find the file in your folders and Application Key or right click on the file then go to "Properties".
  2. Next, find the Compatibility tab up at the top of the box. It's right next to General which is where you are now.
  3. Tabbing once will place focus into a check box for running this program in Compatibility Mode. If this box is not already checked then do so now as we need this to make these steps work.
  4. Tab once into the combo box and select the "Windows XP Service Pack 2" option.
  5. Tab out of that box and look for another check box entitled "Run this program as an Administrator". Place a check mark in this box.
  6. Go down and click OK.
  7. Next you want to go ahead and install Juice as you normally would under Windows XP. You may or may not have to restart your system depending on a number of outside factors.
  8. Now here is where things go a bit more like what others have suggested on other blogs. You want to go to "Computer" and then to the drive where your version of Windows Vista resides.
  9. From there browse down to Program Files then to the Juice file folder.
    Once inside that folder look for the "juice.exe" and right click/Application Key that file. Go to "Properties".
  10. This will sound very familiar but go back to the Compatibility tab, select the check box for running the program in Compatibility mode, tab into the combo box and choose Windows XP Service Pack 2, select the "Run as an Administrator" option and then click OK.
  11. We are not done yet. We want to now run Juice from the desktop shortcut or from the Programs Menu. Hopefully if all went well you won't see any User Account Control boxes if we did all are steps right. Don't be concerned though if you do see one as this isn't a sign that things didn't work.
  12. Once inside the Program we have to do one big thing. Go up to File and then go to Prefrences.
    In Prefrences you need to go down to the area that asks you where to download your podcasts to on your system. Click Browse and choose your Downloads or Documents folder. Just about any other folder will work. You just don't want the default option. Once done choose OK. When you close Juice for the first time after all these steps it is not uncommon to get a log error. You haven't broken anything and the program should work just fine the next time you run Juice.

It took a few tries on a few poor unfortunate unsuspecting computer systems before I found a method that works more often than not. Feel free to put a comment below if you have a different way of making this work or if these steps lead you astray.