Thursday, May 31, 2007

Vista Corner: WMP 11, Any Time Upgrade And Readyboost

Along with the changes, labels and links on my list of things to do around here I can also add [or really subtract] these stories that have been sitting on my USB drive for weeks.

WMP 11: There is a nifty little problem with Media Player 11 with some High Def audio devices. Namely WMP will eat memory or lose handles on files. Not cool you say? I agree since I do have one of these more advanced cards. The link below has a link to the hotfix or some steps for a work around. Be weary of the instructions though. The last step says to look for an "Enhancements" tab. I found the control actually under the "Advanced" tab instead. As usual your mileage may vary.

Any Time Upgrade: We had a lot of questions on this in our Vista trainings. That awesome stie that is the Windows Super Site has a wonderful description of the process needed to complete the upgrade from one version of Vista to another.

Readyboost: One of the new features of Vista is Readyboost. This process allows you to use a USB Thumdrive as virtual memory. The idea is that the drive will give you a boost to your overall performance. I have to say on laptop systems this does actually help... a bit. But on desktops you would be hard pressed to notice a real difference. I am sure as Front Side Bus speeds get faster and USB drives match that speed things will be vastly improved. But for now check out this article with benchmark tests on how the technology performs.,131742/article.html

Tip: If you have disabled Auto Play in Vista you can get to the options for Readyboost by going to Computer>the USB drive>Properties>Readyboost tab. From there you can also adjust your size of the Readyboost file. Just remember that this is a physical file that sits on your drive. It can be seen in Windows XP but not used in XP. And if you gave up a big part of your drive for Readyboost you will have to delete the Readyboost file to get that space back. In most cases Vista remembers the hardware signature of your USB drive and it will put the Readyboost file back without asking. I found this out the hard way when I was swapping files from XP to Vista systems.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

YESSS! Windows Live Writer Is Back.. Sort Of..

I used Windows Live Writer for a lot of my posts last year and I adored, no wait, loved it like mad. It's so WYSIWYG and simple to use. And I had very little problems with it for posting links and the like. Then Google did their changes to Blogger. I was forced to go back to MS Word, cut, copy and paste. Jeff just posted the links to the new Windows Live Mail, Messager and the 2.0 beta version of Writer. With fingers crossed I downloaded and installed this new version. And this post is the first from the new Writer.

I am still getting used to this new edition but so far I am smitten all over again.

Update: Some controls for my new design don't work as well. However Live Writer is still far and away better for quick posts or for times when I am on the road.

Quick News: Windows XP SP3, Multicores Will Rule The World And Firefox Hacks I Used 5 Years Ago

This vacation thing is cool. I really need to take one more often. I have caught up on so many things. This blog being one of them of course. My sad sad humble apologies to all for having to be kind of under the radar for a while. But enough about that let's look at some news.

Windows XP SP3: Paul on the Windows Weekly Podcast, via, mentioned that the once set for 2008 Service Pack may now be coming out sooner than previously thought. If you thought Server 2008 [once known as Longhorn Server], Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows Home Server was just too much for Q4 of 2007 well then be even more perplexed because Paul says that is exactly when XP SP3 is set for release. Seems that the networking additions to the kernel will trickle down to XP users as well making interoperability a *snap*. hold back the loads of applause please. So be prepared to burn backups and carry patches on USB drives this Holiday Season gang.

Vista's Standard User Interface: Speaking of Paul's wonderful site and podcasts.. The Super Site for Windows has a really nice and detailed look at the UI used in Vista Basic. I have assisted in a few Vista trainings in the last two months and this description would have been helpful in explaining the options with AERO Glass and the like. Oh and one of our attendees told me that Paul's book "Vista Secrets" is already scanned in at Well worth the read for anyone thinking or already using Vista I tell you. Here's the link to the Vista Standard UI article.

Multicores: Imagine a world where you have computers with 64 cores running in a 64 bit operating system with 2 TB of RAM? It's going to happen and it could happen with Vista or the next version of Windows. This Ars Technica article discusses some of the futuretech already built into Windows.

Firefox: I have been using tweaks to about.cfg for a long time. But many new comers to Firefox don't know about simple and easy to do mods to FF that should be a basic tool on the Geek utility belt. This Computerworld article compiles a good number of these classic tweaks and it's one worth bookmarking.

Site Updates Today. Stuff May Break Or Just Disappear!

I am working on the new controls of the Blogger 2.0 interface. And so far my above post won't accept hyperlinks. Go fig. But as I am going back to tag some of the older content I have noticed some errors in the conversion process. So some links or past articles may be eatten either by Blogger or by yours truly in my attempts at Spring Cleaning the RTS. Sorry in advance if this also pings your RSS feeds. I haven't really done much to spruce things up and it's about time that I at least make this thing at least 2005 looking. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments area. And thank you all so much for your kind emails to me over the last few months. Perhaps one day I can explain my web absence if I ever get out from embargo on betas.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Creative Zen Stone Is A Great Replacement For Your Shuffle. And It's Audible Friendly!

As many of you who have read this blog for a while already know I can't stand Apple's iTUNES. I don't like being locked into any software let alone software that is so unfriendly to the Blind like most of Apple's offerings in this space. To that end I chose an ARCHOS 604 for it's ability to copy music and video over directly to the player via it's Hard Drive mode. No software, no fuss and I can use Windows Explorer to view the data on the system. The problem of me recommending this to everyone is that it's more of a player for those who are visually impaired rather than for those who are totally Blind. Still if you are a Screen Mag user the ARCHOS rules because you can modify the colors on the menus. And if the 4.3 inch screen of the 604 isn't big enough you could opt for the 704's 7 inch+ unit. But this post oddly enough is not about me going on about my ARCHOS again.

I've been on the look out for a secondary player. I want something small. I want something simple. And I want something just as easy to use as my current player. For a long time I looked at the iRiver players and Rockbox. However I heard about this new player from Creative back at this year's Winter CES. A player the same size as the Shuffle for half the price. Could this be the one I was looking for all this time? I hope it is because carying around a heavy player in shorts means you have to wear a belt just to keep them up. And I am too young to start wearing the black socks with sandals and shorts.

A little research on the net shows that it might just be the perfect solution for an exercise room player. Or for that one you need instead of the big and bulky 30-80 gig monsters. Either way 40 bucks for an Audible friendly player that's super small can't be all bad. I plan on picking one up in the next month or so.

Here's two links if you are interested in knowing more about the Creative Zen Stone 1GB MP3 Players.

CNET Review,39050466,40511880p,00.htm

Amazon page for the Creative Zen Stone

Vista Tip: D.E.P.

So I am on vacqation all of this week and part of last week as well. Do I sit around and not do anything with the computer? Do I ignore the three betas I am still working on at the moment? Do I actually catch up on podcasts? Or better yet do I actually post something relevent on my poor neglected blog? Well one of those questions got answered in the negative. I will leave it to your imagination as to which one.

Looks like I can kind of take a breath and write up some stuff on Vista. I have been running an upgraded copy of Vista since it's day of official release. And before that, as you already know, I was using Vista in beta since this time last year. I have kept kind of mum on my thoughts and impressions of the final product because..

A. You have already heard a lot of my thoughts already over the last two years.And more importantly ..
B. Others who do a really good job at explaining the Assistive Tech side of things would smoke me in details and effort if I tried to emulate their awesome work.

This blog after all is kind of a off shoot of my day job. And others out there who train for a living really should be the ones you look to for the best advice on how to learn this new operating system. But what I do well on in my little corner of the net is tweaks and tips. So today I will let you in on one that can really mess up some Assistive Technology programs, and some legacy ones as well, in Vista.

DEP, or Data Execution Prevention, is a neat little technology that helps prevent you from having Buffer Overruns. This happens a lot with messy code, disc image creation, burning media or even converting media to other file types. But it's really popular in the Virus and Worm infection communities. To keep things simple let's just say that Buffer Overruns are bad and we will keep it at that.

Newer computers have a hardware solution on them to prevent DEP. And Vista turns this on kinda in an initial install. You can, or your virus protection software might, turn this on "high" by default. However most of the time I have only seen this in the midway activated state.

The problem is that some Assistive Technologies out there utilize the buffer in odd ways in order to make their products work. What you may find out is that your programs either run slow or not at all if DEP is set to look for the buffer overflow all the time. For security sake it's better to have this on High but it can drive you crazy with the performance hit. It's hard to say which programs get the brunt of this tech as each system running Vista is like a snowflake. No two systems are the same is what I am inferring here. So experiment with this hardware before you come to a conclusion as to if you do or do not want this functionality on all the time or not.

Here's how to get to the DEP controls..

1. Go to Control Panel>System And Maintenance>System
2. Use the links on the left side of this page to get to the "Advanced System Settings" panel. Be aware that you will encounter a UAC prompt.
3. Your focus should default to the button we want. If not what you want to select is the button named "Performance" under the Advanced tab in this box.
4. Now you are sitting inside the Visual Performance tab in this box. Go up to the tabs and move over to the "Data Execution Prevention" tab.
5. You should see radial buttons with choices for setting your DEP level. You may even be set at the default position of "run only with essential programs". You can select the option for DEP to run all the time and select OK until you are back at the System and Maintenance panel.

If your computer supports DEP then you will see these options. If not you may have to go into your BIOS and turn it support on manually then boot back into Vista and follow the above steps again. Older systems do not support DEP and you don't have to worry about any of this until you buy a newer computer.

The three cornerstones to knowing Vista are experience, behavior and discovery. And that really applies here as you will need to note all three before and after turning on DEP. You may find that this is a cool thing or again you might find that your AT product of choice hates it with a passion. But either way this is a new addition to Vista and you should experiment with this technology to see if it is right for your security needs.

To learn much more about what DEP is and what can it do for you I suggest either downloading the "Security Now" episode 78 podcast or read the transcript if you just want to skim the information.

Podcast download site for episode 78 featuring Hardware DEP

Transcript of podcast link

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Elephant In The Room Or Freedom Scientific Has Been Acquired

No I am not an ostrich. Rumors about this sale have been around every so often for the last 2 years. But they were never so rampant before as they were at this year’s CSUN back in March. Since I know a lot of movers and shakers in the biz I kept mum with my ear to the ground for the official word. Well that word may be here now and some of the really good bloggers out there are all over the subject. Please check out their excellent blogs when you click on these links to know more about the sale.

Blind Access Journal

Blind Confidential

Jeff Bishop

Friday, May 11, 2007

May 2007 Access World Now Online

I'm not sure if I am in total agreement with some of the things mentioned on the Xtend, however, take a look at the CSUN 2007 wrap up for sure.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Zoom Text 9.1 Officially Released!

Dual Monitor, Windows Vista support and log on support [right now in Vista only] are just some of the new features to be found in 9.1. But the coolest option if the new Focus Enhancements which make using Office 2007 much easier for low levels of magnification. Learn about it more at the new front page..