Monday, December 31, 2007

Accessorize Your Life With The Sense View Hand Writing Camera

Before I start... Most 3 to 5 inch Hand Held Video Magnifiers are for spot reading tasks. I mean you aren't going to read or write the "Great American Novel" under them in most cases. With any Video Magnifier there are limitations either technological or physical in nature. Having realistic expectations about what you want and what the technology can actually do will be the key to finding the right fit for you and your vision. Always, always and oh yeah ALWAYS! try before you buy anything! With that said...

Looking for a way to spend some of that holiday cash that Santa left you? Do you have my CSUN Pick from 2006 on hand? If the answer to both questions is "Yes" then you may want to think about picking up the Hand Writing camera accessory for the Sense View.

SenseView Camera                                                  

Picture of a Sense View with the camera attached [on left] and a Hand Writing Camera by its self [on right]

The camera attaches to the right side of your Sense View via the expansion slot. As you can see from the picture above the camera is small and it is surprisingly lightweight. There is really only one way to attach the camera. And once you get it onto the unit you won't have trouble connecting it the next time you need the attachment. After you have it on board you can toggle the camera on and off by the use of the power button located on the front side of the camera. Don't worry about finding the button as it generally faces you when holding the unit to where the main power is on your left and the Snapshot button is at the 12:00 position. Once on board you will find that the easiest way to tell that you have the camera on is to look at the lights under the unit. When you turn the Hand Writing camera on the lights located on the Sense view will go dark and the lights on the Hand Writing camera will light up. Toggling between the main camera and the Hand Writing Camera can be performed on the fly by turning the Hand Writing Camera on or off. Sliding the camera off your Sense View may be difficult at first, however, the connection feels firm when it is attached to the main unit.

Now a few minor quibbles. When you have the unit attached one of the lips on the clamp that holds the camera onto the Sense View almost, but not completely, covers the button for switching color modes. If you read in say negative color and you write in true color then it might take some doing to toggle between the modes at first glance. The pouch that contains your new camera is something you might lose easily if you don't cary a bag or if you don't tie it on to a case for your Sense View. And for some users out there they might find writing left handed has its own drawbacks, however, when do leftys get a break anyway? Still for the low price this is worth a look for those of you who already have a Sense View. And if you are considering one you might want to throw this in with your purchase. 

Here's the link to the page detailing the Sense View Hand Writing Camera..

And to see the specs for the Sense View see the link below..

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Quick News: RAM, WHS, Office 07 And Adobe On Adobe Action

In Classic Star Trek's "Trouble With Tribbles" Scotty has a famous Geek quote used often by some of us in our Unit. When Engineer Scott is told that he must remain in his Quarters until further notice by Kirk after a bar brawl with the Klingons his response is "That will give me time to catch up on my technical journals". So it is for me, and a few others, during the Holidays in the biz. Of course the upside is that I get paid to play with the latest in Assistive/Adaptive/Access Technology. And that is a job that is hard to come by easily these days. So the benefits far outweigh the romanticism that comes with being a Government Drone. no wait.. that's not right is it? Change Government to Borg for Star Trek reference sake. Oh well here's some of the interesting stuff I have come across this week.

Laptop Specs And Vista: When I did my talk at NFB Computer Sciences in July of 06 I told the crowd to shoot for 2 GB of RAM for Vista. Roboret SinClaire, who was also on the panel, wasn't too thrilled with me over that and a few musings I had about Office 07. My mindset at the time was that eventually the hardware would have to come up to meet the demands of the software in a very short time as developers took advantage of their new play toys. Below is a Slashdot article that pretty much comes right out and says that Laptop OEMs are leaning to a GB standard configuration for RAM.

Windows Home Server: Earlier this year I stated that I wanted a WHS for the Holidays. The quick move to a new orbit for TRS kinda put the kibosh on that desire. However having my own office at home is a super cool trade off though. And in retrospect it may prove to be all for the best as the post linked to below shows that there may be some big issues with WHS.

Office 07 SP1 Isn't A Gift: This one goes out to all the non Admins out there who thought I was just whining about the various product Service Pack progress bars and the like earlier in the month. The link below shows that I am not the only guy online perplexed with all the updates, and their eventual testing, showing up at one time during the Winter Break. It also gives a very realistic reason for this wealth of updates.

Adobe On Microsoft Watch: It has been one year since Adobe went all crazy in the acquisition department to play catch up with Google and Microsoft. One rumor had it that Adobe realized that ODF threatened PDF and so they needed to be more than the company who just annoys you with constant Adobe Acrobat Updates. Macromedia and other purchases have now allowed Adobe to bug you even more with even bigger lists of updates as a result of this buying spree. Sarcasm aside, here is an interview that Karen McCall would love on where Adobe is going. i mention Karen's name because at the top of the interview they jump right into Macromedia integration possibilities with Acrobat. Love that accessibility! Oh and this runs as an embedded player at the top of the page with direct links further down. Just a warning..

Karen's web site: I would be remiss if I also didn't give a shout out to some of Karen's work on Adobe and Office access. Her Main Menu appearance from April 07 is worth a listen as well.

Vista Tip: Shift + Right Click/App Key = Hidden Options

I am catching up on podcasts during the Holiday Break. But one of the few podcasts that always gets bumped to the front of the pack is Windows Weekly at TWIT. Recently Leo and Paul added Vista Tips as a weekly feature. Some of them I have already posted under the label "Tips". This one, however, is one I didn't know about at all.

In Windows Explorer or in general folders you can hold down the Shift Key when Application Key/Right Clicking to find two new options in the list of the context menu. Doing this tip in various areas of Vista will bring you a host of different choices. In the Start Menu you can do this to see options like "Run as Administrator" and "Add to Quick Launch". Another example can be found when you place your focus on a text file in Documents you will see that a new option called "Copy As Path" is available. Can't remember those long path names? Now you can just copy them into a file for later use. Another option that can come up if you place your focus on say a folder is "Open Command Window Here". You can imagine how useful this can be for Networking. Not to mention the reminder that some way some how DOS is always with us.

To hear this particular podcast where the tip came from hit the link below.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Updates All Around: Dolphin, Magic, mPower and Ai2

Santa is truly out doing himself this month. Just when I think I have seen my last install shield for the year... Oh what am I saying. I'll be doing the whole "Family Tech Support Guy" thing during most of my Holiday Break. Oh well it is nice to be loved I guess. Ha!

Dolphin 8.02: The new update for the Dolphin line of products has gone live this week. The updates includes better IE7 support and some Vista service changes. Find out more from the link below.

Magic 11.0: An update to the Public Beta has arrived and it sports a ton of new stability tweaks. Rumor on the street is if all goes well for the team the product should see release in the next month or sooner. hey! Just in time for ATIA 08.

Keysoft 7.5 B#28: Humanware has released a new build of 7.5 to correct an issue some mPower units were having with printing from the USB connection. Non mPower units need not download this update. Find the notes on the update at the link below.

Ai Squared: The gang in Vermont is really doing some neat stuff that is more community based in tone on their News section. I think its worth the read.

Also Dean's December 20th issue of Top Tech Tid Bits has a lot of good info this week that I don't usually cover here at TRS.

If you don't subscribe to his newsletter then go read his archives. And then go subscribe! I've said it before.. howe he can do this weekly is beyond me. I did the whole newsletter thing monthly for a while and quite frankly it drove me crazy. Access World has it right with an issue every 2 months. However I have been asked if I would reconsider my absence from the newsletter game. I won't say "never again" because that will just jinx me into doing it again. If you remember those posts and you think I should do it let me know in email or comments.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Web Stuff: Firefox 3 Beta 2 And IE8

Matt Campbell has reminded me that I haven't been keeping up with posting news about Mozilla's latest. He is, as usual, right on target. Here's a link to the Firefox pages touting the public release of Firefox 3 Beta 2.

IE 8: Ars Technica has a good look at what is coming in Internet Explorer 8. There is a short bit in there about W3C compliance and the battle in the EU with Opera too. And it looks like we will see a beta for IE8 in the first half of 2008.

Apple More Like Microsoft Than People Think

Those Mac ads sure are cute aren't they? Funny little jabs at Windows and all that right? Have you noticed that Mac says less than PC lately? There is a reason for that. It was found in marketing surveys performed by Apple that Mac was seen by most to be too smug. And PC was a sympathetic likeable character. It was also discovered that the atypical Apple boasting about being a more sturdy and stable platform was going to be something that would backfire one day. That day was October 29th.. the day OSX 10.5 was released. Below are some links to more proof that, try as you might, you end up being the very thing you fought against in the battle to defeat "da'man".

Think Secret: Here's another one of those stories where the blogger can actually become the news story on the topic they write about. If you remember Think Secret was more often right than wrong in their predictions of Apple's comings and goings. They nailed Macworld rumors so well that it drew the ire of Mr. Jobbs himself. Well a good law suit later and we see that Think Secret is no more. How 1990's MS Iron Curtain eh? Read the press release at the link below

Evil Empires: Don Reisinger over at CNET has a great opinion piece up on the "Next Evil Empire" that speaks plainly on why Apple may supplant Microsoft for this title in the next 10 years.

10.5.2 Coming: those Mac v. Vista ads are a whole lot funnier now then they were back in January. A rushed to market OS that needs lots of patches? Ah there is always a flip side to that coin. Here's a link that gives some ideas about what is coming in the next round of updates for OSX 10.5.

The Hack Saga Continues!: George Ou over at ZDNet has an article that will raise the fists of some and the eyebrows of others on who really just has issues with security in the Windows/Mac universe.

Still More Stock Option Woes: And if there was any true sign that your company has hit the level of Microsoft then it has to be the number of law suits, wanted and unwanted, that you may find yourself in at any given time. Looks like the Stock Options scandal won't go away so easily.

Windows XP Service Pack 3 RC1 Online To The Public

Santa seems to be awfully good this year with betas for just about everything. His good cheer continues with the 330 MB bundle of goodness from Microsoft. Windows XP SP3 RC1's stand alone installer can be had if you go to the link below.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Get In Line Now For Your PAC Mate Upgrade!

Finished your holiday gift list yet? No? Well Freedom Scientific has come to the rescue for you last minute shoppers by dropping info today on the PAC Mate Omni upgrades. Check out the link below while you fax, IM, Twitter or express snail mail your request to Santa at the North

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Some Brief Notes On Service Packs Released This Week

I have been answering a lot of questions off line about these new Service Packs and I thought I would put some of what I have seen so far in a post here on the blog. But before I do that.. let us set some ground rules.

These releases are not final builds. The AT software and hardware you are currently using is more than likely not officially supporting these Service Packs yet. So only download and run these updates if you feel confident that you can either fix the issues on your own or if you know that all your important data is backed up and secure. Another suggestion is that you don't try these updates out on your main computer. Most of the Beta Testers for AT software will tell you that it's best to use a secondary system with any new software before ever loading that new software onto a machine they know and love. And finally .. don't expect a ton of changes or improvements in performance. These particular updates are just maintenance releases. That is they contain a lot of fixes for issues that you would have gotten through Microsoft Update if, of course, you run and install the monthly updates on a regular basis. Oh sure there are some changes in these releases. You just won't be able to easily see them out in the open.

All the info below is based on my 19 month Dell XPS 400 running Windows Vista Ultimate or my box at work. That one being a 5 year old Dell Optiplex P4 under Windows XP. Both are running Office 2007 with my Vista box having 2 GB of RAM and my work box running under 1 GB of older and slower RAM circa 2002. I've got a brand new Gateway Vista Ultimate laptop running all this stuff too. The darn thing is brand spanking new and I don't remember the system's configuration at all. It has 2 GB of RAM at a respectable speed. Beyond that I draw a blank. I am also testing the new Zoom Text USB Drive, more on that later, along with System Access for all my installs this week.

Okay with all that said here's what I have observed.

Office 2007: The SP1 for Office is around 218 MB if you use a stand alone installer instead of Windows or Microsoft Update. The stand alone install has very few screens in it's install shield. The update took me 20 minutes to complete on the older Dell at work. The install process seemed to be Screen Reader friendly. The system may not prompt you to restart once you encounter the "finish" button.

This Service Pack was said to have some updates that would make running AT hardware and software a bit easier however, the only thing I notice is that objects and items tend to be tagged better for mouse users. Outlook 2007 especially has improved labeling on it's folder list and message panes. Tracking for Screen Magnifiers in many parts of Office 2007 is still hit or miss depending on the product you are using at the time. Typing at fast speeds with Screen Magnification does feel more familiar but if you were hoping for a reinvention of the wheel then I am sad to be the one to say that this won't change your overall opinion much. If at all. Opening large files looks to be quicker and autosaving features are more background oriented. Focus and speech may still be effected on older hardware however. And the rate of indexing, along with Windows Desktop Serch for Office users under Windows XP, on older systems is very notable if you are below 1 GB.

The good news isat face value this Service Pack doesn't seem to break anything or crash outright with most of the major AT venders. That isn't an endorsement to run right out on to the web and download it mind you. It is just a semi pro observation that it didn't set anything on fire for me. I still suggest, like I said above, that you wait for the "all clear" signal from your AT software and hardware venders before you take any Service Pack on head first. If we go by the previous track record of Office versus AT we generally see at least one patch on the horizon in the first 90 days after Microsoft drops a SP 1.

Vista: The stand alone installer is somewhere in the 450 MB range for 32 bit flavors of Vista. I had a little trouble getting SA to read the initial install screens, however, after the license agreement all went along without a hitch. The new Gateway laptops we are using off site did load the update a little slower than I would have liked which made speech a little slower than I would have liked as well.

So once you start the file you have to agree to run the update via a security dialog box. Then you have to choose "Allow" under UAC. The "I Accept" license agreement is next followed by a prompt/checkbox that will let you run the update unattended. Naturally, because I am inherently lazy, I chose this option. The system will then start the pre-install unpacking of the files. After this is completed the system will then begin Stage 1 of 3. On average the computer should run and reboot at least 2 times. You will lose speech after the first reboot. That's okay as you will know when you are done as the system will reboot into the desktop like normal once all 3 stages are complete. You should find a box on screen alerting you that the Service Pack installed successfully if all went well. All told you are looking at 1 hour or so from the initial launch of the installer to the final boot into your desktop.

The new Gateway laptop I have at work has not been with us for long. I didn't notice any major changes nor did I see any prompts for updating other services. My Dell at home, however, has been running this installation of Vista for 7 months. And it needed a little more attention. The first thing I noticed was that all my firewall settings in Windows Live OneCare were reset. I had to re-enable several Windows services like Media Player, Internet Explorer and a few programs that Microsoft is using for the reporting of bugs. After a few UAC prompts I thought the rain of "Allow" and "Continue" queries were over. How wrong I was. I have rebooted the system 3 times since I ran the update. And each time I get at least one new program asking for permission to come out from behind the firewall to play. Windows Mail, Windows Sidebar both called out to me but oddly enough the Juice podcast client didn't set off anything. Go fig?

The other odd bit of note is that the Service Pack will re-detect all your connected hardware. This makes sense as SP1 makes changes to the Vista kernel on some deep levels. My X Fi sound card dropped back to default 2.1 instead of my 5.1 setup. I wasn't able to change the configuration at first. A reboot later and I was able to put things back to rights. Also running Windows Update immediately installing SP1 showed me that a new NVIDIA driver was on line. The update showed that it was posted today. I had checked this before I installed SP1 and no update was present. So I am guessing that the driver may possibly be an update for RC1. NVIDIA did just release new beta drivers, version 169.21, for many of their cards today in case anyone is interested.

Now the good stuff. . There are some noticeable differences in speed on my Dell XPS 400. Alt Tabbing through various windows seems faster. Flip 3D seems a bit quicker. And launching programs also feels more responsive. Initial boot times though.. not so much. Now don't misread this remark. This aspect of Vista is to be expected. When you make major changes like this to Vista it usually takes the Reliability and Performance Monitors a few days to catch up. Vista stops loading drivers and services it doesn't need over time. SP1 resets the clock on this function, therefore, I have to rebuild the databases before my cold and warm boot times go back to pre SP1 or better levels. Speaking of reset. My Windows Experience levels had to be reset too. Sadly I am still a lowly 3.1 due to my slow 3D graphics video card. I have a 5.9 on memory though. Man its like the S.A.T.s all over again. Always a low and a high number. Never both the same.

From what I can tell the memory management of Vista has been changed. There was a famous glitch about memory and system slow downs when you would copy or move large batches of files in Vista back at the Operating System's launch window. It was addressed in a patch in June. Or so we were lead to believe. It looks like SP1 may have put this one to rest though. I moved 18 GB of files to and from my Seagate Free Agent 250 GB external hard drive to see if there would be the same issues mentioned above. I also played a media file, archived Windows Mail plus I opened IE7 with a few tabs. In the past the system would crawl even if I closed everything after i copied or moved my files. SP1 seems to not display this trouble from what I can tell. The real proof, however, will come when I leave Firefox up for hours and then try to move something. We will have to see how that goes. But it does feel like Vista is responding better to multiple tasks running in multiple windows.

These are just initial impressions of both Service Packs. I imagine that I might have more to say about them towards the end of the month. If you are experimenting with either one of the releases feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 RC1 Now Public

You may have seen this already bouncing around the interwebs thanks to a few nice people who leaked it outside of MSDN and Technet. Well now you can download it from the source rather than torrent that file. The link below takes you to the download page for the Vista SP1 RC1 files. Be aware that you might encounter a wierd flash like box when you go there. I did and it really played with my focus for a bit..

Update: The Super Site Blog has better links to stand alone installers for both 32 and 64 bit editions of Vista.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Office 2007 Service Pack 1 Now On Line

I took some flack off line from friends who didn't understand me when I said that I had work coming in droves. Playing with all the major products for Blindness on Vista SP1 RC 1, XP SP3 and Office 2007 SP1 takes a bit of time. Not to mention patience. But for all those who didn't think that the perfect storm of updates weren't on the way .. I give you the download link to Office 2007 SP1.

I'm asking Santa for a new office chair for the holidays.. because I'm going to be in it a lot until ATIA.

Update: The Service Pack is 218 MB. You may want to skip this one if you aren't already on broadband. Also if you are using Microsoft Update instead of Windows Update you will see this in the list of available options. For the record I had 11 updates on my main Vista box. Your mileage will vary.

Service Packs And Tools To Avoid Them

As I said a few days ago the Release Candidates for Windows XP and Vista are due to hit the public soon.. like today. The Super Site for Windows has updated their FAQs with new information you may wish to read before you decide to load these updates.

Windows Vista SP1 FAQ

Windows XP SP3 FAQ

Here's a link to this week's Windows Weekly from TWIT that goes over the Service Packs and more..

And here's a tool from Microsoft that will let you keep from loading the SPs until they go live later on in 2008.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Behind The Scenes: Working Through The Holidays Really Stinks

Before the Thanksgiving holiday began I thought how nice it was that I would have some down time two months in a row. After all JFW 9.0 was out, a couple of my other betas were ending soon and my requests for research at work were down to a trickle. Then the air went out of that balloon on December 1st.

One of my betas got extended, I got two new products in for review and to top it off Windows XP and Vista Service Packs Release Candidate 1 hit on MSDN. Then the best part... in a wild turn of events I will be leaving my apartment complex of three years to move to the one right next door. The management of my current complex has changed, for the third time in three years, with the new mantra being that they want market rent for our area. Moving isn't a big deal for me as I jumped ship from place to place all the time when I lived in Houston. A few job moves in the 90's had me always set for "transfer" status. So it was common for me to keep stuff in boxes rather than on proper shelves. Still doing it during holiday season wasn't high on my list of things to do this December. But having an excuse to eat more so we can clean out the fridge may play nicely into that typical "office party guilt/lose weight" annual New Year's Resolution we all make on January 2nd.

Believe it or not this mini rant does have a point. The last move for me was in 2004 when I came to Austin from Houston. At that time there wasn't a big Web 2.0 push. Most sites were static or link based for things like utilities and core services. However this time around things are so not the same. Flash, Java menus and those freaking awful PDFs are everywhere. The hidden pop up fun that comes from updating plug ins I rarely use can only be described by a long list of obscenities that I don't need to quote here. Although the list does grow longer every time Adobe forces me to restart my system. Who knew there were so many ways to say something vulgar about that company? What a pain.

Here's a "for instance". I am going to have to switch from Time Warner to, gulp, AT&T Home Services due to the contract my new complex is tied into at the moment. I had used them before in Houston back in 2002 and hated the experience. In fact my time with them, formerly named SBC Home Video/DSL before Ma Bell rose again, was the catalyst for leaving the traditional phone companies all together for cable and cell based alternatives. And now I find myself dreading the long and laborious conversations I am going to have to suffer through because some portions of the service site are down right awful to read with or without their accessibility issues being called into question. In some areas of these sites I can not fathom how one can navigate through them at all without sighted assistance. Moreover, I think I will find a way to hurt someone over the phone if I get told one more time "that information can be found on our website". Um.. No. If it was I wouldn't be sitting on hold for 20 minutes just so I could hear you say that. Ugh.

Oh and the best part...

Talking to customer service, how dare they call themselves that, about not wanting or needing some of their bundled software and hardware because I have my own thank you very much. What a deal. Third party software for my convenience. "Please accept this bloatware from Yahoo as it takes up resources on your system with our complements". Not to mention the fact that I have already helped so many other people at work with trouble shooting this stuff with Screen Readers that the last thing I want to do is do the same thing at home. Sigh..

Anyway this is a long and rambeling way of saying that the blog will see odd updates at wierd times until I can get things back in order here at the Station. While some enjoy the smell of holiday trees and their beautiful lights.. I will love the smell of cardboard and the blinking movements of progress bars on monitor screens as I setup my stuff in a new orbit. The new abode is bigger and having dedicated office space will be a plus. Which means that not all of this post is written from my general dark sense of whity sarcasm. "Change is good" so they say. And I generally agree with one exception. Getting the gift of a new and bigger place without having to learn a new bus route is a pretty sweet deal as well. And it certainly beats that one family member who gives you one of those "fruitcake of the month" thingies.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

November's Poll Results And December's Poll Added

When I came up with last month's poll I thought that we might have a close race. Boy was I ever wrong. Take a look at the final tally.

Poll Question: If Stuck On A Deserted Island With Only One Web Browser I Would Choose?

Internet Explorer 6 - 2 (6%)

Internet Explorer 7 - 7 (21%)

Any Version Of Firefox - 21 (65%)

Opera - 1 (3%)

Safari - 1 (3%)

So out of 32 people an large majority of you are Firefox fans. Hmm, now I have to look and see how this page looks on IE, FF and mobile browsers. Sigh.. and here I thought it was all WYSIWYG.

Well this month's poll continues our look at die hard fans of a particular platform.

Poll Of The Month: My Next System Will Sport Which Processor?

Intel Based System

AMD Based System

It will be one of those OLPC or other Linux styled boxes

"Other" like Transmeda and the like

Let's see where this takes us this month. And feel free to throw comments or poll question suggestions in the section below..