Saturday, December 27, 2008

Free But Not Easy

I know a few readers of this blog believe strongly in an Open Source movement in Assistive Technology. I sure wish that I could agree with that notion, however, I just can’t seem to grasp this concept for AT because of the need for the industry to be 12 to 18 months into development at any given time.

For example, many of the major players were at Microsoft HQ recently to discuss Windows 7 and Office 14. Some were even involved with Windows 7 pre October’s PDC. Their involvement with MS at this level is absolutely imperative to we Blind users who wish to have a good level of access to the operating system on the first day at the zero hour of launch. By the nature of some Open Source projects the projects themselves are reactionary rather than being proactive in their release schedules. Having a six month jump on a widely distributed beta could have a dramatic effect on the level of quality of the release. And in this example, and I am of course oversimplifying a bit for the sake of my point, access at the same level for an Open Source project could take six months or longer due to the need for the team to gain exposure to the code and programming changes.

I rely on Assistive Technology every day to do my job. And if I have to throw some money down to keep those quality releases coming then so be it really. I would rather that be the case than the reports coming out of Open Office. There is a lot of technical jargon in the link below but I suggest it as a good read for those who are interested in keeping the hopes alive for Open Source in AT.

November’s Poll Results And December Mini Poll Added

I know the results have been on the sidebar for weeks, however, for posterity's sake I’m posting them here.

November's Poll Question: My MP3 Player Of Choice Is..

The New Apple 4 Gig Nano 2 (10%)
The Victor Reader Stream 9 (47%)
The Icon/PAC Mate/Braille Sense/Braille or Voice Note 2 (10%)
Rockbox Enabled Players 1 (5%)
Some Other Accessible Player 2 (10%)
I Use An Off The Shelf MP3 Player With No Assistance 3 (15%)

In less than 18 months the Victor Reader Stream has dominated the landscape of how Blind people are accessing text and MP3s. Even with iTunes support more readily available out of the box for JFW and Window Eyes, I find that others are still opting for the VRS because the usability of iTunes its self is such a mess. The iTunes program, from my perspective, should be thought of as bloatware or malware in the fact that it pushes so much stuff we Blind users don’t use. The App Store for the iPhone? Whatever.. And the Apple Software Updater is almost as bad as the Adobe Updater. It makes me almost long for the days of the Real Player updates. You had a bit more control over those but not by much. Real Player Games Updates anyone? No thanks. I just want to hear a song. And three pop ups and two tool tips in my taskbar later I finally got to hear that song I forgot that I wanted to listen to in the first place.

A really interesting delema for Humanware will be how they release and market a Victor Reader Stream 2. With so many great features already included in the 2.0 software one would be hard pressed to upgrade to a better model when one finally does come along. That is a real problem for Apple as they too are reaching the end of the feature list for the iPod lines.

Speaking of music, I’ve been listening to the newly combined Serious and XM radio stations. I have my own thoughts about the merger but I thought that this would make a good Mini Poll Question to ask all of you before I pull out another soapbox. So..

December’s Poll Question: Do You Like The New Combined Serious XM Radio?

I don’t hear a difference
Dude.. the radio is dead, I gave up and only listen to MP3s

I’ll run this until the early part of January and then I will come up with something more exciting. We are less than a month away from ATIA and the press releases should start picking up steam again very soon. We may have some neat things to talk about as we stand in the shadow of another version of Windows and Office. 2009 is shaping up to be a weird kind of year for sure.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Will You Still Need Me When I’m x64

It never fails. I approach my Holiday Break and some nice companies out there come a’knockin’ on my door and ask me if I would like to play with something shiny and new during my time off. And I, being the sucker/whimp, gladly smile and hold my hand out to play with a new toy that never comes in a box with a bow under a tree.

Each year the new software applies to the current situation surrounding the computing that we do these days. And this year is no different. Many of the low cost laptops and computers coming out of Sam’s Wholesale and Costcos have been in the 64 bit variety. And even more gaming systems have been showing up in x64 as well. Some of the reasoning for this is that 64 bit flavors of Windows support more than 4 gigs of RAM. Well they actually see and can use more than 4 GB of RAM. 32 bit versions of Windows can see up to 4 gigs but only use around 2 to 3 GB depending on the processor and software running on the system. The larger numbers on the RAM count has been proven to sell systems to those who only look at the numeric values on the price tags. So x64 systems with 8 GB look very attractive to those buyers who don’t realize that Youtube and World of Worcraft don’t use 8 GB of RAM.

Who does use that much you ask? Well some graphic artists, some science majors, some musicians but mostly high end gamers or those who want to run a desktop system as a server. If you don’t fit into any of those categories don’t fret. Because you aren’t missing out on much if all you do is generally surf the net or create documents. 64 bit won’t hurt but it also won’t dramatically change your computing experience either.

Of course.. I upgraded to 64 bits after I tore into a system at work. My new year’s resolution come early is to break things at work before I move on to breaking them at home. And thanks to two companies I was able to experiment with 64 bit Vista in a real test lab before I moved on to running it full time. Now here are some things to keep in mind if you decide to move into the land of x64.

RAM: I ran x64 Vista Ultimate on a newer Dell Optiplex 755 at work. This system is a newer Dual Core with 4 GB of RAM and a better system bus. What I noticed was that the system flew with amazing responses for an ATI HD2400 video card and on board sound. Windows popped up in quick fashion and even some of the AERO effects seemed to run a little differently. The Windows Experience on this machine is a little off but it was close to a 5. And for this box x64 was a great improvement.

On my home box, however, the changes were not as noticeable. The home system is a 2006 Dell XPS custom 400 with 2 GB, a NVIDIA 7300le and my love/hate Sound Blaster X FI Music. Again using Vista Ultimate x64 as my guide, I loaded things up pretty close to the box at work. Now this is an original Core 2 Duo with a slower bus. And man did I ever notice the changes. I don’t run too many things that are multi threaded, therefore, my chipset spiked at times with heavy usage when I installed programs. The AT I was using at any given time locked up for a second or just sat there until the computer decided it was done with one project and it could then move on to talking again. That wasn’t a surprise but it helped that I have most of my install screens memorized. I too noticed some changes in AERO and my Windows Experience went from a 3.1 to a 3.2 in x64. Whoo hoo.. a .1. Stop the presses..

On the older system with less RAM I noted that things just didn’t move as fluidly as the newer system with 4 GB on board. I know that isn’t earthshattering. And it isn’t a big shock to me either. But I wanted to stem off the flow of questions that will come, as they do so often, with any ideas that come from those who ask me “Should I upgrade to [insert product version here}”. So the usual answer still applies. If you have newer hardware with lots of RAM then knock your lights out. If you don’t then you ain’t missing nothin’ and you can go about your business unabated.

If you are looking to move on to 64 bits you do have some AT to play with though. System Access was the first out of the gates with version 3.0 of their product line. The cool thing about SA is that you can test how things are going to work by simply loading SATOGO via the web without a lot of mess with digital driver signing. I used SATOGO a lot in my testing and I highly recommend this as your first line of attack when giving your system the once over. And if you are a Screen Magnification user this is your only line of attack at the moment. You can of course find System Access To Go at..

But those nice people at Freedom Scientific must have traveled to the North Pole as they have released their public beta of JAWS for x64 just in time for the Holidays. You can land a copy of that bea at the address below…

I’ll have more on x64 later on as I play with it more over the weeks. But if you don’t have a need for it or if your system doesn’t run with it natively you can rest knowing that you aren’t missing out on much for the moment. In a year or so, or when you decide to upgrade, it may be a good spec to consider when you move to a place where you are considering Vista or Windows 7.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I hope you all are doing well at the time you read this. Things are bad just about everywhere you go and I am thankful for what I do have… which isn’t much but it seems like a million dollar mansion when I hear the stories from others I meet. My family believes in food before gifts. And with that in mind, you can guess I am a wealthy man.

Ham, chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, greens, rolls and my of course my one weakness cookies. Santa brought by some limited edition Candy Cane OREOs. I’m not sure why you would call a cookie a limited edition because it isn’t like you can collect them. Well not for long at any rate. Besides I think Twinkies have the longer shelf life.

Oh and if you are wondering. The Candy Cane OREO has the old style cookie with a inner filling that smells like toothpaste. It doesn’t taste like toothpaste, thank goodness, but it doesn’t really taste too much like Candy Canes either. I also see why this is a limited run. Not something you would buy a lot of even if you like mint.

I have to go now and take a nap ,,, So I can get back to eating. Man am I ever looking forward to walking to the bus again. And it pains me to write that. Wait a second. Pain in my right arm. Good.. now I can go back to eating.

Too much food….

Again, happy holidays to you and yours!

Friday, December 05, 2008

New Service Pack Public Betas Arrive For Vista And Server 2008

Today’s title could have been.. Happy holidays from Microsoft. Or, how I ruined my Xmas Vacation and honked off my family by watching progress bars. Yes, Vista Service Pack 2 Public Beta hit the wires today and the 32 bit flavor of the SP is only a small 385MB. I’ll be waiting a few weeks before I can really play with this but in the meantime I have a few articles that can give you the low down on what to expect from this beta. Just remember that no AT Companies are supporting this as of yet. So download at your own risk.

And here is another good one from Ars Technica..

And this link will take you to the Vista 32 bit page.

Friday, November 07, 2008

October’s Poll Results And November Poll Added

Well it looks like we had a landslide victory for the choice I probably would have chosen myself. And I sure don’t blame anyone for going with the winning option, however, it does make for little content for me to ramble on about this month.

October’s Poll Question: All I Want For Xmas Is ...

An Upgrade For My Screen Reader/Magnifier/OCR 2 (11%)
A Note Taker Like a PAC Mate, Voice Note, Icon Or Braille Sense 3 (16%)
A Victor Reader Stream 1 (5%)
A New Video Magnifier/Hand Held CCTV 0 (0%)
Starbucks, iTunes Or Other Online Gift Cards 0 (0%)
Money, Because It Goes With Everything I Already Own 12 (66%)

Looking back at that one I could have changed the last choice to “All of the above” and gotten almost the same results huh? Still I can’t disagree with the winner.

Let us try something new then. Recently Apple has released the 4 GB Nano which supports a spoken interface. And many of the leading Screen Readers have offered either free updates or third party scripts for iTunes access. The question is now.. is Apple too late? With Milestones, Plextalks, Olympias and that juggernaut known as the Victor Reader, has Apple done enough to get you on board with everyone else who doesn’t already own a Zune? Personally I use my ARCHOS 604 often because it has a very large screen and I can customize the way that the text and backgrounds look. But how do the rest of you feel about the options you have for MP3 playback?

November’s Poll Question: My MP3 Player Of Choice Is..

The New Apple 4 Gig Nano
The Victor Reader Stream
The Icon/PAC Mate/Braille Sense/Braille or Voice Note
Rockbox Enabled Players
Some Other Accessible Player
I Use An Off The Shelf MP3 Player With No Assistance

I know this is a lot like a poll we did before, however, we never had Apple as a real contender before. So we will see where this one takes us.

7: Release in 09, AERO And Mandatory Taskbars

7 In 09: I don’t know how many times I have told AT Companies in the last year that 7 was coming and it was coming fast. And I did gloat a little with some of my contacts in the biz last week as many of them were heading off to Microsoft HQ to discuss 7 accessibility. But, as I have said here on the blog, 7 is coming and like I thought it is coming in 2009 for at least the Business and Enterprise crowds. We may even see a Public Beta before the close of 08. Now I wish I had the nerve to make all those bets I was offered. I’d be cleaning up so well..

New AERO Keys: Thought all the keyboard shortcuts have been used? Well not so fast there buddy cause there are some new AERO Desktop keys a’comin’.

A New Bar To Task: 7 is going to support many new features from its sister product Microsoft Office. And like the Ribbon in Office 07, a great many of these changes won’t have a “Classic Mode”. The new Taskbar is one of these features that won’t be modifiable to what we know in the Blindness Community as 9x mode or XP mode. MS has some solid research for why they are going in this route and in this Ars article some of the reasons why are explained.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Freedom Scientific Goes Release Crazy!

The gang in St. Pete is on a role with the new JAWS 10 being released today. To learn about it and download the ILM go to this link.

And if you are a Magic user you can update to the latest October build as well. Here is that link..

And that’s not all. Keep checking FS for the soon to be released Open Book update as well. Add this to the PAC Mate 6.1 update and SARA update and you can easily see that those people at Freedom Scientific are busy little bees indeed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dolphin Version 10.01 Released!

The new version sports some new features like the Startup Wizard, some changes in the Virtual Focus and of course the normal fixes for a speedier and more responsive experience overall. To learn what else is new and to download the demo hit the link below.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Music: XP, C64, 8 Bit, Bionic Commandoes And More

I can’t stand being idle on the bus. So I multi task by learning via Podcast. Well I did until I explained to a co-worker what a Podcast was and what I listened to daily on the way to work. I told this person about how I enjoyed a description of how the WEP key works and how WPA was stronger for some tasks. The person said to me “Ooo, how boring”. And then I promptly fell asleep on the bus while listening to a lengthy conversation on Windows Live, Chrome and Firefox exploits. After that event I decided that Fridays would be music only days on my rides to work.
Of course I’m still a Geek by nature, therefore, some of that comes through in my links today.

Music via XP: Some people tap pens and pencils to tunes but how about striking your keyboard melodically? Yep, you too could be an orchestra of one with Windows. See the link below for more.

C64 Orchestra: Speaking of orchestral arrangements.. Some classic games have gotten modern reimaginations via the C64 Orchestra. Hear samples and an interview on who and why they chose the Commodore 64 as their basis for inspiration at the link below.

8 Bit Weapon: There are some real musicians out there in the Nerdcore parts of the world. The Mini Bosses, Jonathan Colton, MC Chris and one of my personal faves is 8 Bit Weapon. Check out their site to learn more about their brand of music and you can even pick up a couple of free tunes to boot. Get it.. 8 Bit .. boot? Never mind it was lost in Eprom anyways.

Bionic Commando Rearmed Soundtrack: I’m sporting the new remixed Bionic Commando soundtrack today and man is it a blast. Very much in the style of the band I just mentioned 8 Bit Weapon. To pick this up or to learn more check out the link below.

OverClocked Remix: And if you don’t want to spend any money but still lay your hands on some fantastic electronic goodness you can check out the Granddaddy of them all when it comes to amateur videogame music mash ups at the Overclocked Remix. Some of these musicians have gone on to doing original works in new games or they have seen their remixes used in rereleases of others. Get a listen at the OC Remix site at the link below.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

7: Instant On, Whats’s In A Name And 20 Product Versions

As PDC approaches the runway for the debut of Windows 7 gets a whole lot shorter. The interest in Windows versions has always drawn clicks but it seems to have taken on a whole new level in the post Vista world. But with Microsoft’s admissions, finally!, of a new OS comes new and unique controversies. Some of the total FUD and speculation should be put to rest in the next six months as Developers start to tinker with the Alphas/Betas. for now though, we have to endure a lot of pure trash about the next version of Windows before we can truly hear the signal over the noise of what is real and what is fluff. Today I give you one bit of possible news, a look at the confusion of marketing and another look at how MS’s marketing of previous Windows versions caused all the current fervor that dominates my daily web readings.

Instant On For 7?: I’ve got several jokes here about Windows Mobile but Mark Taylor really is the guy to go for on the WMDC humor front. So I’ll be a bit more speculative in saying that beta testing AT in Windows Hibernation is always a dirge I lament. And the eventual testing of Instant On Windows sounds like loads of fun if parts of that doesn’t include sound drivers. Still I got all worked up about Windows Vista and the Sideshow tech that never took hold. So I guess this might also fall into that category too. To learn more about the possibilities of an Instant On Windows hit the link below.

Why 7?.. Why Not 7: 48 hours after the official announcement of the name “7” 48,000 stories whent up all conjecturing on why a rose by any other name would be called “7”. I love Paul’s comments on this non issue at the Windows Super Site. See what he wrote at the link below.

20 Versions Of 7: Boing Boing has this awesome send up on the ridiculous marketing crap that dominated Vista’s multi-level release. The funny bit is in an embedded picture though. You can print and scan it, I plan on doing just that at work, if you are interested. Otherwise, one of the highlights is a box shot of a Vista like cover with a skull and crossbones that is labeled “Windows 7 Pirated Edition”. Each mock up has its on description. Another one is “Windows 7 small Business and Big Business Edition”. I found it worth a chuckled. You can find it at the link below.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

And The Next Windows Is Called..


Now you must be saying to yourself “yeah, I already knew the codename Ranger”. And I said the same thing. Because I talk to myself in the third person a lot. But unlike the mixed personal pronouns Microsoft has pulled a 180 on their usual tactics in marketing and naming of products. For the new name of the next Windows is .. 7.

The Windows Super Site has updated their Windows 7 FAQ to reflect this and some other info about the new Operating System. You can find that info at the link below.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Beyond The Rim

I’ve been in the beta game for a number of years now and over time you really notice people who have their act together in the technical sense. So it is devastating when one of those amazing people leaves us. And it is even more tragic when the person is young. The name Veli-Pekka Tätilä may not ring any bells to most of you, however, if you have ever been a fan of Dolphin products you have benefited from this young person’s tireless work. Veli-Pekka was a Dolphin Beta Tester, a script writer and a really smart cookie when it came to understanding how Windows and AT works. I will miss the emails, information and the insight Veli-Pekka brought to the table and I will miss the quick responses to just about any question posed. Veli-Peka was 24 and at the time of this writing no services have been passed along to our beta group.

My thoughts and condolences go out to Veli-Pekka's family and friends. He will be missed.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Poll: August’s Results And New! October Poll Added

Let us take a look at the now vintage poll from August shall we?

August’s Poll Question: Which Public Beta Will You Download And Install This Month?

JAWS 10.0 16 (69%)
Window Eyes 7.0 5 (21%)
Windows Live Mesh 0 (0%)
Firefox 3.1 Alpha 2 (8%)

I guess this wasn’t as much as a barn burner as I had originally thought. The response to the new Window Eyes has been good. I haven’t delved into it too much but I plan to learn more about it in the next few months. I’ve been playing with Live mesh and I like what I have seen so far. If you didn’t do a search on that one I recommend that you might want to if you like the idea of a remote desktop via a web interface. Speaking of remotes, Eric at Freedom Scientific spoke to a group I cobbled together this week and he said that Tandem has already seen over 1,000 connections. It seems that we all have some good stuff ahead of us in the upcoming year no matter which product[s] you use.

But enough about the past poll. Lets jump to this month’s question. As we approach the Xmas season I thought we might see what some would like to ask Santa for if Santa was real and made of obscene amounts of cash.

October’s Poll Question: All I Want For Xmas Is ...

An Upgrade For My Screen Reader/Magnifier/OCR
A Note Taker Like a PAC Mate, Voice Note, Icon Or Braille Sense
A Victor Reader Stream
A New Video Magnifier/Hand Held CCTV
Starbucks, iTunes Or Other Online Gift Cards
Money, Because It Goes With Everything I Already Own

Since Wal Mart decided to put their Holiday paraphernalia up this week to attract sales, I thought we could look ahead as well. It just feels so wrong to see this stuff before “The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” airs. And now that makes me thing of Dolly Madison’s cupcakes and pies and doughnuts and .. darn you childhood advertisers!

Behind The Scenes: Putting One Foot Back On The Grid

To say that I have been a bit busy would be to say that the ocean is a little bit damp. I’ve been up to my nose in stuff since the end of July and I haven’t really had the time to blog much more than a few spots here and there for the last two months. It got so bad at work that a very good friend put me down for leave a month ago and forced me out the door last week so I could go and actually … rest. I took a four day Staycation and for the majority of it I slept. And I think I dreamed about work for the first day. Then the mind took over the matter, and with the aid of some awesome Big Finish audios, I began to actually relax. I can’t say that I didn’t do some things that involved Assistive Technology, I mean I use it daily for computer access, but I didn’t think about it in a critical way.

I managed to slip in a little “me time” with my Playstation, I caught up on a few gaming podcasts and somewhere along the line I watched a ton of stuff on my DVR. I should have a list up on my viewing list soon. For the moment I can say I am interested in FOX’s “Fringe” and the retooling of the CW’s fifth season of “Supernatural”. Sadly I also find the reboot of “Knight Rider” fascinating as we haven’t seen bad action Sci Fi like this since.. “Team Knight Rider”? Oh how the badness of this show reminds me of the good old days of bad Sci Fi. Shows like “Automan”, “Street Hawk” and “The Phoenix”. Now those are epics of truly good but awful television.

But now I must leave my Fortress of Geekatude and return to the pits of work to push some stone up one hill and then up another. I can look forward to another bunch of time off in December. And that is traditionaly the time I revamp the Station. I’ve added a few things to the Sidebar, however, it isn’t anything earth shattering.

Over the next year I’m going to focus more on Windows 7 and Office 14. Some in the AT Industry didn’t believe me when I said this year that we could be looking down the barrel of a Winter 09/Spring 2010 release. Then came the word on the street that the Alpha for Win 7 would come to those who attended the PDC later this month. While I would like to gloat, I can’t because I know what mountains have to be climbed in the upcoming Betas. And that will have me looking fondly back at the time when I could take a four day Staycation.

Oh well… that wheel in the sky keeps on turning.. and I don’t know where I will be tomorrow.

Thanks to all who haven’t deleted me from your RSS feeds. I promise to have actual content up soon!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gems and Doubling Up On Freedom Scientific

These days it isn’t all about JAWS. Freedom Scientific also has a line of Low Vision Video Magnifiers. And they all happen to be named after precious gems. Today they introduce the Sapphire to go along with their Onyx, Topaz and Opal lines of units. Read more about the new unit at the link below.

But honestly the buzz is all around Tandem. And now you can try it out for yourself. Download the beta and reach out and touch someone with your JAWS. Wait.. that didn’t come out the way I meant it .. oh well go download the new public beta at the link below.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The FSCast You Want To Hear!

I've been aware of a cool new JAWS feature for about two weeks now. But I couldn't say anything. Well .. I don't want to ruin it by giving off some lame description of what this feature is, so FS Cast to the rescue.

From the FSCast page..

"This month, Eric Damery returns to talk about the next public beta of JAWS® 10. Not only have we made changes in response to your feedback, but there are exciting new features to show you. We'll demonstrate the powerful out-of-the-box access JAWS users can now enjoy with iTunes® 8. Plus, we unveil a significant new feature that will change the way many JAWS users receive support and assistance. This is an FSCast you won't want to miss.

Find the audio for this podcast at"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Window Eyes 7 Released!


GW Micro is proud to announce the official release of Window-Eyes 7.0. The maturity of Window-Eyes has reached unprecedented levels in this latest version.

The addition of scripting support provides users with the tools to enhance the accessibility and usability of third party applications, the operating system, and even Window-Eyes itself. GW Micro has always stood by the statement that Window-Eyes does not include complicated and proprietary scripting support, and that statement remains true with Window-Eyes 7.0. Instead, the addition of an industry standard scripting interface using tools that already exist in the Windows operating system allows users new to scripting, seasoned programmers, and everyone in between to take full advantage of this powerful new feature without getting bogged down in a complex and rigid programming environment. Users not interested in creating scripts can still take advantage of scripts written by other users through an intuitive script management system.

GW Micro is also proud to offer a centralized script repository where both script users and script developers can gather to distribute and discuss Window-Eyes scripts. More information can be found at

Window-Eyes 7.0 contains several other features, including many Browse Mode enhancements, the inclusion of a new Eloquence synthesizer, support for both Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 8, and overall increased speed and stability. Window-Eyes 7.0 is fully Unicode compliant, allowing for more localization options for virtually any language. In addition, Window-Eyes 7.0 is the first screen reader to provide support for iTunes 8, including access to the Apple iTunes store.
Thank you to everyone involved in the public beta cycle. Window-Eyes continues to lead the way in adaptive technology because of the dedication of our customers.

Window-Eyes 7.0 is a paid upgrade for existing Window-Eyes users. If you own Window-Eyes 6.1, you may purchase an upgrade to Window-Eyes 7.0 for $175, plus shipping. If you already own Window-Eyes 6.1, and have an active SMA, you will be receiving your Window-Eyes 7.0 CD in the mail soon. Please be patient; all Window-Eyes SMA CDs are our first priority. You may also choose to download your Window-Eyes 7.0 upgrade for immediate installation. To download the Window-Eyes 7.0 upgrade, to check the status of your SMA account, or to determine your upgrade eligibility, go to the Window-Eyes Help menu, and choose the Window-Eyes Upgrade option. Alternatively, you can visit, and follow the instructions.

If you own a version of Window-Eyes older than 6.1, refer to the GW Micro Window-Eyes Upgrade Catalog page ( for applicable upgrade costs.

Window-Eyes 7.0 supports Windows 2000, Windows XP (32-bit versions of Home, Professional, and Media Center), Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista (all 32-bit versions), and Windows Server 2008 (all 32-bit versions).

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at 260-489-3671, or

Friday, September 12, 2008

Behind The Scenes: Heck And High Water

Sorry gang for not posting as much. I have friends and family in New Orleans and Houston. So you can guess that my mind has been elsewhere over the last few weeks. I'm glued to reports from local television streams and if you are interested hit the link below for the ABC station KTRK Channel 13.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

$30,000 In 60 Seconds

I was writing this up for ISN but I thought I would post it here as well.

As a movie buff.. No wait. As a guy who was once in radio.. um. In a world where one man could have a voice so recognizable that every movie, TV show and radio commercial emulated his style.. Well that is better but honestly there will be only one Don LaFontaine and only he can bring things to life on the screen like no other.

It was once said that you needed $30,000 on the table just to get on the list for his work. For those of us who aspired to be as recognizable as Harry Sheerer, Howard Stern or Ken Nordene we looked to Don as a more obtainable goal because his gravelly voice and cadence was easier to achieve. However few people could get their voices that low for more than 15 seconds at a time let alone read copy the same way Don did.
Don was 68 but you would have never known it by hearing his voice. Aint It Cool has a nice write up with clips of his most memorable work. You can find that link below.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Really Random Goodness: Ear Wax, Rock! And Happy Fun Ball

Can You Hear Me Now: The first link below talks about a possible cure for deafness and the second one mentions why ear wax is a good thing. Personally I can’t deal with the stuff but maybe that is just me.

Rock!: And when you have finished cleaning your rears you could venture out this weekend to Houston where an “Austin City Limits” of Rock .. of sorts is taking place. There is a real trend for the US to go the route of European styled festivals. And if you are into that sort of thing then this lineup will blow you away. But if you didn’t watch “Headbanger’s Ball” in the late 80’s or early 90’s then just be amazed at the names appearing at this event.

Too Many Manuals: I’m reading a ton of product manuals and release notes this week. And from out of nowhere I remembered one of the greatest disclaimers ever. Please hit the link below to know just how to play with “Happy Fun Ball”.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Press Release: AllInPlay Announces the ACB Open


All inPlay and ACB Radio have teamed up to bring you the ACB Open: a series of four tournaments throughout September featuring all four of All inPlay's games.
The best part? It's free to everyone!

Each Saturday in September, starting at 3 pm U.S. eastern time and lasting for 24 hours, you'll be able to join people from across the country and around the world in a thrilling free tournament.

Here's the schedule:
September 6: Five-card Draw Poker
September 13: Crazy Eights
September 20: Texas Hold'em
September 27: Tag: The Anagram Game

To play, just visit:
during the tournaments and click on any of the games. From there a link will take you to the tournament tables. If your account with us has expired, you won't be able to play on the regular tables, but you will notice a link that will be active during each tournament that will take you to the tournament tables, where you will be able to play free of charge.

A big thanks to ACB Radio for making this event happen. Pay them a visit at:

We hope to see you at all four tournaments!

Enjoy the last of ssummer...or winter!

-The All inPlay Team

Early Reviews Of IE8 Beta 2

Two of my fave sites have posted their thoughts, and in some cases a good feature rundown, of the newly released Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2. Check out these links from the Windows Super Site and Ars Technica.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Internet Explorer 8 Public Beta 2 Live

IE8 B2 is all up on the web and begging for you to take a spin. Just remember to check with your AT maker of choice to see if there is a patch, beta or other way of using it first.

Nab the version that works best for you at the link below..

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

JAWS 10 Beta Is Now Online

Remember all that cool stuff I blogged about JFW 10 back during convention? Well now you can play with all of that and more as FS has released the first version of the JAWS 10 Beta for public consumption. To get it and read the release notes.. go to the link below.

And if that isn’t enough you can listen to more about the release in the latest Freedom Scientific podcast. This link will take you to the FSCast page.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quick News: CAPTCHA, 7 And G.W/ Micro

CAPTCHA: Could their be a new and better use of this tech that doesn’t make the rest of us run from the room screaming? Well, Ars Technica has an article that says the stuff could aid in the document recovery and other archival tasks.

Windows 7: And so it begins. Microsoft slowly starts talking about the next version of Windows in a new blog.

G.W. Micro: The company has posted a Press Release in response to the litigation from Freedom Scientific.

Thanks to john in comments for spotting the bad link.. The release is now below.


GW Micro Response to Freedom Scientific Lawsuit

Aug-14-2008Fort Wayne, Indiana, August 15, 2008 -- GW Micro, Inc., a Fort Wayne, Indiana-based company dedicated to providing high quality adaptive technology solutions for blind and visually impaired individuals, announced today that it has received notice of a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Freedom Scientific, Inc., the self-described "world leader in technology-based solutions for people with visual impairments." The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,993,707 for a "Document Placemarker." GW Micro has reviewed the claim and believes it is overreaching and not consistent with what Freedom Scientific told the Patent Office when obtaining its patent. GW Micro intends to defend itself vigorously and expects to prevail in court."As many of our users know, our screen reader -- Window-Eyes -- has had the capability of returning to a specific line within a webpage since version 3.1, which was released over nine years ago, well before Freedom Scientific's alleged invention," said Dan Weirich, GW Micro's Corporate President. Weirich went on to note that, "The implication in a recent Freedom Scientific press release that GW Micro is 'benefit[ing] from [Freedom Scientific's] investment at no charge' is simply not accurate nor in line with GW Micro's tradition of success and fair play." Finally, Weirich concluded, "We will aggressively defend both our legal position and our place in the assistive technology community."Daniel R. WeirichGW Micro, Inc.725 Airport North Office ParkFort Wayne, IN 46825ph

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Random Goodness: Smart Contacts, 78s and Snowl

Smart Contact Lens: I’m all about the tech, however, I put the brakes on when we get to Wetware. Too much reading of Bruce Sterling and William Gibson I think. Well for glaucoma patients this contact lens may just be the thing to catch those pesky eye pressure spikes.

Before LPs There Were 78s: We have reached an age where if you discuss Vinyl with younger people they think you are talking about clothes instead of the long playing record variety that so many of us grew up with prior to the MP3 generation. This article talks about one man’s crusade to digitize as many 78s as possible.

And if that doesn’t take you back you can read this about albums being reissued on Reel to Reel.

Snowl: I’ve been hearing about this Firefox extension that lets you read your messages within the browser. I don’t have the time to play with this now but I think I might come back to it later. Here is a Windows Super Site blog entry on Snowl.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Random Goodness: The “Head In The Clouds” Edition

I have two themes going today. One is all about data in the Cloud. And the other is me asking a bunch of questions in each post. The latter was accidental.

A Password Stuck In My Head: Forget your password a lot? Tired of today’s CAPTCHA? How about a system where you could use your fave MP3, picture or other data instead? Well that is what some researchers thing would be a good idea.

Cloudburst: The recent downtime for Mobile Me and Gmail is pretty scary. But what if you left all your data on the cloud… and the clouds dissipated leaving you with no data? Just such a thing happened and see how devastating the new Web 2.0 can be if you go head first into the deep end of the pool with no off site physical backups.

Your Friends Are My Friends: This story is out of the UK but I can easily see companies in the US following along in new service contracts. The thing is.. are your contacts your contacts or are they the property of the company who you worked for at the time you made those networking contacts. And if you rely on services like “Linked In” should you use one account for work and one for home? Take a look at this article and decide for yourself.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Quick News: Dragon, Firefox And Window Eyes Beta

Here are some quick bits for a Friday afternoon.

Dragon 10: So if this is coming and J-Say just updated to JFW9 and JFW 10 is coming.. umf!

Firefox 3: This awesome FAQ for Screen Readers has been making the rounds on the blog scene. And I thought it was good to follow SUIT.

Window Eyes 7b2: The same goes with providing the link to the updated Window eyes Beta 2 release of the upcoming 7.0 line.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Poll: July’s Mini Poll Results And Full On August Poll Posted

I want to thank the 19 of you who played along with the mini poll for July. And I want to apologize for not having Tuna as an option. I have no idea what I was thinking. So maybe come the holidays we will do another mini poll with a wider range of menu items. For now let us gaze at the results of Kitchen Stadiums’ “Battle Sandwich”.

Poll: What Sandwich Sounds Good Right About Now?

Ham 1 (5%)
Turkey 1 (5%)
BLT 6 (31%)
Rubin 4 (21%)
Meatball Sub 5 (26%)
Veggie Delight 2 (10%)

For about a week it looked like Meatball was going to run away with things. Then BLT came out of nowhere and stole it on the last two days of voting. Personally I was in the mood for a Rubin when I wrote that. And today I brought Spaghetti. Therefore I would fall into the Meatball camp I guess. Either way Veggie did its best to topple the carnivores. And Turkey sat at 0 for the longest time before someone voted for that option. I know this wasn’t as topical as some of the other polls but, for me, it was fun to have something crazy up there. And again I thank all who played along.

Alas, I went back to the traditional poll question for August. Less you think I have gone all culinary.

August's Poll: Which Public Beta Will You Download And Install This Month?

JAWS 10.0
Window Eyes 7.0
Windows Live Mesh
Firefox 3.1 Alpha

I highly suggest you take a look at Live Mesh if you are into the Cloud or really wanting a more user friendly Remote Desktop/Sync solution. And it looks like Firefox 3.1 will have some interesting changes as well. And the web is a blaze about the other two public betas. So this one should be fun to watch.

Pac Mate 6.1 Released

Sporting various tweaks, Contracted Braille Anywhere and a few other features.. 6.1 is a free update that you should nab if you are already an Omni user. Make sure you check out the new install/upgrade steps too. Here is the link to the page with all of this and more..

Friday, August 01, 2008

Press Release: Beat The Summer Heat With TAG!

Happy Summer from All inPlay,

We've got great news! Our newest game, All inPlay Tag: The Anagram Game, has been launched. We're celebrating by opening the site for a uge, 15-day free for all. That means all of our games, not just Tag, will be free to play until August 16, whether you've tried All inPlay in the past or not! so come on over!

If you can't remember your old account info, just create a new account, or email us at

What's Tag, you ask? It's All inPlay's take on this classic brain bender. Find as many words as possible from a given root phrase, but beware, you don't have much time, and players all over the world are banging on their keyboards trying to leave you in the anagramical dust! Three difficulty levels make this game fun for the whole family, and you'll learn a few new words in the process.

But that's not all. We've also been busy on other fronts. If you were a member of All inPlay in the past, you might remember something called the Max Game. It's a popular style of poker that some people greatly enjoyed but that others had no interest in, and it caused some confusion. We're happy to tel you that we've added the Max Game to our offering of Draw Poker tables. Now those poeple interested have a place to play this wild form of poker, and those who want to stick to the basics don't have to worry about the Max Game. If you sit at a Max Game table, our software automatically bets the max for the first person to bet after the dealer. Come try it out:

Were you a fan of Crazy Eights? We've added some exciting one on one tables that add a new dimmension to the game. It's all at:

With all this new activity, we've still got the same great community. Stop by and see for yourself.

The All inPlay Team

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Quick News: IE8, x64, Trusted Computing And Command Lines

IE8: This Ars Technica article details out some of the info about Internet Explorer 8’s uses of multi processes for tab browsing. This should be an interesting read for those of you who like to lock down memory management.

x64 And You: A couple of months ago I wrote about how x64 was going to be a big issue after someone posted a comment about that issue last year. I’ve been on a tear with some of the AT makers about this issue since Vista’s launch. Well it looks like I won’t have to go on about that in person anymore as the groundswell of new systems coming preloaded with x64 has begun in earnest. See Ed Bott’s article to know more..

Vista’s Trusted Computing And Dual Boot: Those of us crazies who like to tempt fate by going where others fear to tread will tell you that doing a dual boot is a great way to test things like, oh I don’t know, say x64 based operating systems. It seems that one of Vista’s more advanced security features doesn’t seem to like this practice much in Service Pack 1. The link below talks about what triggers this for the Trusted Computing platform.

Command Line: Some avoid all of this by using the Console or Command Line. Well Lifehacker has a top 10 list up with the Command Line tools that all should love and use.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Press Release: Introducing ZoomWare

Ai Squared is proud to announce the release of ZoomWare, our replacement for BigShot Magnifier. To learn more about ZoomWare simply click the play button below to watch a video demonstation of ZoomWare in action.

If a friend or family member is suffering from early vision loss or simply the stress and fatigue that comes with everyday computer use ZoomWare can help. Go to to download a trial today!

Questions about ZoomWare? Contact us via e-mail at or phone at (802) 362-5398. Are you a BigShot user looking to convert to ZoomWare? You can receive $50 off Domestic pricing or $75 off International pricing from now until August 29th. Contact us for details.

• Domestic (US+Canada) Download: $149
• Domestic (US+Canada) Shipment: $175
• International Download: $229 • International Shipment: $265

Tip: Flash Player Settings Manager

The world of trouble shooting your computer is very complicated once you move to the realm of web stuff. The Internet is no longer just a series of static pages anymore as now you can run full on 3D games through your browser of choice. Programs like System Access from Serotek are real computer applications that can be delivered to you via the net. Streaming video, like content from Hulu, is becoming more popular with first run television series finding a home there for those people who may have not recorded their favorite shows when they aired on the TV networks. But did you know that the Flash Media Player had settings? I mean real nuts and bolts settings? Well it does and the only way you can access these settings is through the web.

This site will inform you about how much space Flash cookies can take up. It also will allow you to block third party cookies as well as give you some control on how your browser interacts with Flash based content. Now you may be thinking to yourself that you don’t watch YouTube or other web content like that. Where this comes in for general web surfers is in places like your bank or other financial sites. Flash is used by a lot of web sites beyond movies and videos. And more often these days Flash can be used as one level of identifying you as a user of your computer. So having Flash cookies be tracked may not be what you want if you are very security conscious.

The site I list above isn’t very Assistive Technology friendly, however, you should read the accompanying texts on the page in order to know what kinds of controls are available with Flash Media. And remember that Flash will update every so often. So you may need a friend to go back over these settings with you when this happens. Lastly, if you use multiple browsers, these settings aren’t always globally set. Which means you may have to do this for each web browser you use.

Law And Why I Want Little To Do With It

Well last Friday’s five hours ended up being another three on Monday. And I found myself explaining my stance offline more than I had planned on originally. But rather than go further on about the current news, I’d rather point to a few more articles as to why I reframe from armchair quarterbacking the issue. Straight up, law is confusing and Corporate Business Law is even more so. Again gentle readers.. this isn’t the same case as last year and emotional pleas/petitions , while being a polarizing issue for the community, doesn’t affect the rule of law. So read the following articles if you want to know more about how these things work in the business world.

First up I point you to Blind Confidential’s post on the lawsuit.

Next, I suggest you read a very lengthy post at Ars Technica about the need for reform in the arena of software legalities.

And if that doesn’t make your head spin take a look at the response a small cable company gave Monster Cable when it was threatened with legal action. It is a long but great read. And it underlines just what you have to do to substantiate your claim or defend your actions.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Throwing My Voice Into The Echo Chamber Or My Take On “FS Vs GW”

When I heard the news about the new litigation by Freedom Scientific, my original thought was to stay out of the fray. I know a lot of the people involved, I still work with a lot of the people involved and a lot of the people involved know me and this blog. I hoped that I could steer around the two great ships in the night and continue my little nattering's about Vista, press releases and my usual rants on how hypercritical Mac users are. But a few weeks ago I wrote about how some of us who write professionally, or in my case semi pro, could form an Assistive Technology trade press of sorts. That one idea had me on the phone for about five hours all told yesterday. And the majority of calls were inbound rather than outbound. Better yet, most calls ended with someone saying “I can’t wait to read what your take is on all of this..”. So my plans of sitting on the sidelines have been scuttled for the moment, however, I’m probably not going to come back to this subject much if I can help matters.

Let me also say that anything written below is my opinion. This isn’t a “hot scoop”. This is a real  deal and I will keep the jokes down to a minimum. I also don’t have a reason to take any sides here. I think what Doug and Co. have done with their lease to own plan was extraordinary [which I’ve blogged before] and just this month I said that I thought Eric’s public discussions on JAWS running without a Video Interceptor were forward thinking. I am sincere here when I write that I hope that an amicable resolution can be reached for all parties including both groups of users. I say all this because I don’t want my comments in this post to be misunderstood as being favorable to one company over another. And I also speak for myself and not for anyone else I may know or be associated with in the AT world.  

Before I pontificate through dozens of run on sentences, lets do some light reading first. If you haven’t done so already you should start off by reading the post at GW Micro.

Then there is one viewpoint at the Blind Access Journal..

And here is another take from a technical perspective..

Finally, the Blind Geek Zone posted this from the comments off of that blog..

This is just a smattering of what I have read over the last 64 hours or so. It helps though to get several perspectives on the issue before I toss in my two cents.

Long time readers, and those unfortunate people who have sat through some of my multi session presentations, have heard me say this phrase often…

“There is no nobility in the Assistive Technology Industry.”

Naturally to have an industry you must have a conglomeration of businesses. Therefore, you have to look at things from a business perspective when working with people, places and things within the Assistive Technology Industry. With that in mind, one can easily see that to run a business one must abide by the rules and regulations of that industry. Sometimes this requires a business to take an odd stance on what would be seen as an almost trivial matter.

For instance, take the case of Mike Rowe vs. Microsoft.

Mike Rowe thought it would be neat to create a domain that played off of his name and somewhat capitalized off of the name/brand of one of the largest software makers in the world. While many would not confuse Mike with the House that Windows built, the rules of business require that MS react to this as a threat to it’s brand identity. So Mike was faced with legal action and eventually the matter was resolved. Well it was resolved after the company took a lot of flack publicly for going after one person for what some saw as a sort of humor based play on words.

The problem is that businesses have to defend themselves on just about any challenge to their copyrights, brand identity or intilectual properties. The second you don’t aggressively or seriously move on any or all challenges is the second you will lose a more important or damaging case which could radically impact your business. By ignoring other minor issues you leave yourself wide open with a harder job to defend your property when a major challenge does come along. If Microsoft did not take Mike’s case as a threat MS’s competitors could move in and also make similar plays on words to gain business off of Bill Gate’s success.

Now that doesn’t mean that some cases aren’t just plain silly. Take the one a few months ago when Engadget was told that their use of the color magenta confuesed people on the web with a telecom service.

In this article it is difficult to argue that the color alone would confuse anyone because it isn’t like Engadget makes phones or delivers telephone services. But after looking at these two examples you might find that Freedom Scientific had a reason for pursuing  their legal wrangling's last year.

This new case, however, isn’t a matter of clouding or confusing names within a specific business “Space” though. Since I don’t code, script or have the desire to do either, I am going to stay far away from making any calls on the merits of the complaint. I’ve talked to almost a dozen people on the subject, who have varying degrees of technical knowledge, and the rough opinion poll vote count resulted in a split right down the middle for each side on who is going to come out ahead in this situation. Since my informal census amongst the people I respect on things like this ended in a tie, I think it is best to not speculate too far going with the neutral opinion of “let the courts decide”.

You may say “Hey Ranger, you’re taking the easy way out”. And you can sure say that my opinion is a little anticlimactic. Therefore I will give you some inkling as to the reasons why I am taking this tact. In most of my conversations and research within the hallowed halls of AT I have never seen as many people use noncommittal language. Even people in the business not affiliated with this case have no desire to speak about it or they have been directed by the upper levels to not discuss it in any way. That, my friends, is a rare thing in AT as usually we all have some opinions on just about everything. This “wall of silence” should provide you with an order of magnitude as to the seriousness this case is being treated amongst the Blindness Technology Community. Nothing since the fall and subsequent rise of Telesensory has polarized this many players. And rightfully so as their may be splash damage from an unfavorable ruling. again, this is a business and this is sadly how businesses operate.

Some of the comments from the Blind community that I have read from blogs, lists and heard on public transit have been derisive and they tend to look at this as a negative move by Freedom Scientific. What I have to remind a lot of people outside the business is that Freedom Scientific is owned, like a lot of AT companies these days, by a parent company. And sometimes the subsidiary doesn’t get a say in the matter if the parent company feels that it must react to a situation to protect their assets. That old phrase “nothing personal.. its just business” comes to mind.

I do realize to a lot of people that this is far more than numbers on a spreadsheet. And certainly this goes beyond the friendly rivalry of two classic sports teams batteling it out in the league championship. No matter if you are a JAWS or Window Eyes fanboy or fangirl the fact is that there will be a winner and a loser at some point and a group of users are going to be directly affected by the outcome of this case. My hope is that the outcome doesn’t involve a “nuclear option”. By that I mean I pray that a positive resolvement can be reached that keeps both players on the field without drastic changes coming to how one can or cannot make a traditional Screen Reader. Because I may know a lot of people involved in this case but there is a greater number of people out there I’ve never met who use both products every day to live and work. And I want to believe for them that for just one second I will be wrong and there will be a nobal act in the Assistive Technology Industry.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Vista: IE8 And Mojave

IE8: It looks like we will see Internet Explorer 8 before the end of this year. And just in time for the Holidays too. So get ready to ask Santa or Father Christmas or someone special for a SMA under your tree.

New Windows: Did you hear about the new Windows codenamed Mojave? No? Well, have you ever heard of the old Pepsi Challenge? Read this link to know what in the world I am talking about…

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Random Goodness: Open Web, Spam And Tacos

Open Web Foundation: In the last three months it seems like every time I go on the net someone has a new Screen Magnifier, some tool like WebVison or other freebie aimed at us Blind computer users. Now we have another group of Internet players, who really do mean well, coming together for the common good. And by that I mean that there is another group out there on the web that is going to tackle the issues of Web Standards. Some big names are involved and you can learn more by going to the link below.

Canned Spam Via Blogger: I use Windows Live Writer, mostly, to create posts for the blog. And I have stayed with Blogger because I’m used to it and I like some of the flexibility in the design. But seeing this article about Blogger being a delivery system for spam makes me a Sad Panda.

A Taco A Day: Subway has Jared but I like this story better. And I think we all can tell tales about our fave haunts and the way that people remember you if you go there enough..

Dolphin V9.03 Released

Version 9.03 is a free update for people who already have Version 9.0 or above. The new release has improvements for Internet Explorer, the User Interface and a bunch of tweaks to the Scripting Engine. To learn more hit the link below.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Random Goodness: IPhone Keyboard, The Second Bubble Is Coming And Vector Based Internet

Keyboard For iPhone: I’ve heard that there is an app being created to allow the Apple Miracle Phone to work with voice commands. Of course you will have to but that app rather than the thing having this feature built into it like just about any other Mobile Phone on the market. But the other funny thing is that there is a move to create a tactile keyboard for the device for those sighted users who just can’t seem to work the no button interface. Here is a link about the keyboard.

Second Internet Bubble:: Lots has been said about Internet Collapse 2.0 but this is the first post I have seen that puts together some compelling arguments that this is going to happen sooner rather than later.

Internet Browsing With Vector Graphics: And just when we seem to be catching up with ARIA for AJAX, the web community goes all video interface with 2D vector graphics. Geez.. just mass produce the virtual reality headsets already.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Audio Dramas: The hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy

This month’s selection isn’t a drama per say, but it is one of the most influential Geek Culture audios I could ever point you to on these pages. Douglas Adam’s amazing adventures of Arthur Dent started on the radio side of the BBC. The original series of episodes differs greatly from the books and yet the characters of Ford, Marvin, Zaphod, Arthur and “The Book” remain consistant throughout all of the various incarnations of the stories. In fact several of the radio actors went on to portray their characters on the televised 80’s BBC mini series.   These voices for me are iconic and wonderful to hear every so often as the humor in this series can inspire me to write the most awful, almost Vogonlike in appearance, jokes on this blog.

In 2004, to celebrate the Chronicles of one Arthur Dent, and that big screen adaptation, BBC4 commissioned a new series  of audios that would take the series from the original radio play’s cliffhanger through the other books like “Mostly Harmless”. The result of these new productions reimagined the story into multiple “Phases” of the Guide. Now in 5 distinct parts, the old series is merged with the new and as many of the old cast has returned to reprise their roles. And such classic scenes from the later books like the immortal being insulting everyone in the universe in alphabetical order or Marvin’s thrilling conversations with Zem and Zem [on the planet of mattresses] are brought to life with fantastic stereo effects and of course the Guide as the narrator of it all. This time around you get a nice wrap up to the series as a whole and there is even a surprise or two that joins the books continuity to the radio versions of the story as well. You might even hear Douglas himself in a role that seems fitting for the creator of these legendary tales. I’ll just say that Arthur has met him before but Arthur doesn’t know who he is at all. Even that spoiler should make you chuckle if you have your towel at the ready and you know your history of the Guide..  even if you have worn off the nice and friendly letters that say “Don’t Panic” on the holy remarkable book’s cover.

I could go on for hours about this but honestly if you haven’t ever heard the original series you are in for a real audio treat. And if you do remember the original series you will be thrilled to hear all your old friends in these newer adventures. Here are some links to find out more about both old and new series. And as the Dolphins say “So long and thanks for all the fish”.

Amazon sales page

BBC4 Page for parts 3 through 5

Wiki page's_Guide_to_the_Galaxy

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Random Goodness: User Interface By Ability, Firefox Tabs And A Blind Watchmaker.. Sort Of..

Ability Based User Interfaces: I confess to liking me some bad Sci Fi movies. “Demolition Man” and “Judge Dread” are high on my list of lows in SF moviedom. This article from Ars Technica that I link to below reminds me of the scene in “Demolition Man” where the unfrozen Sly Stalone goes to drive a car and the car adapts its self to his height, visual acuity and other physical parameters before it will let him drive. Imagine that for a User Interface? Well someone already has and this article discusses that idea.

Windows Flip For Firefox 3.1?: Wow this sounds familiar. Take the Control Tab hotkey you know now and add some Vista Flip 3D like functionality and presto! A neat new idea for tab browsing in Firefox 3.1.

Blind Watchmaker: Here’s where viewing Google by keywords can take you down a rabbit hole. Still this is kinda interesting.

July's Access World Is Now Online

Articles include part one of a look at media players, a discussion on In-Flight entertainment and another "What works" in the realm of electronic based education. Find this issue at the link below.

June’s Poll Results And July’s Smaller Poll Added

My day job has really heated up and I haven’t found the time to keep up with things here as much as I would have liked after convention. So I’m going to punt the ball this month and start a new in August on the poll. For now lets look at the results from June.

Poll Of The Month: If money fell out of the sky I would go to which Convention?

Sight Village 3 (15%)

Closing The Gap 0 (0%)

ACB National Convention 1 (5%)

CSUN 10 (52%)

ATIA 1 (5%)

NFB National Convention 4 (21%)

So CSUN eh? Having been to CSUN a few times I can say honestly that I tend to get more info on Blindness technology at the NFB and ACB conventions instead of CSUN. The last three years, for me, have really taken CSUN down a peg on the hierarchy of AT conventions. However, if you have an interest in tech outside of Blindness then L.A. is the place for you. No other cons in the US have the density and variety of tracks and subjects on the Disabled Community. Plus, if you aren’t going to Site Village, the international flair can’t be beat either. Just remember if you are going so you can hear the latest on say Window Eyes CSUN isn’t the end all be all it used to be anymore.

I’ve never been to Closing The Gap. While I would love a work excuse to visit the Mall of America in Minnesota, I can’t justify the lack of a need to go to that convention for me to do so. Sad as I know I would enjoy all the cheesy merchandise around Camp Snoopy. “Happiness is a warm puppy” after all. CTG is mostly educational based activities now and I am not surprised that no one voted for that option.

I’ve been to both ACB and NFB conventions. And I have to say that I got something good out of both of them. In fact this past NFB convention in Dallas was very eventful and productive in the sessions offered. A few of the meetings I wanted to get to were scheduled at the same time as my meetings with the movers and shakers. But minus that the meetings I did attend, and the people I did meet, was well worth the 100 degree heat. You never need travel outside the hotel though if that thought puts you off coming to Texas. As everything is enclosed within the Hilton as far as the convention goes. I’m looking forward to the return to Dallas in 2010.

The really great thing is that I and others on the net have been covering the happenings on at some of these high profile conventions for a while now. And between JJ’s coverage, the gang at T&T Consulting, Main Menu and a few other outlets you the reader at home can get all of the important info and none of the hassle of travel or the joy of expensive travel costs. This trend of living via Twiter began for the mainstream tech media with CES and then WWDC with us in the Blindness Tech world catching up to how other Trade Press cover these things. It will be interesting to see how this “instant on'” world of information gathering will effect how AT is marketed in the future.

Now.. the lackluster mini poll for July. I apologize for the subject matter at hand but traveling gave me this burning question to ask all of you. Make sure you weight your options carefully before you vote.

Poll Question For July: What Sandwich Sounds Good Right About Now?

Meatball Sub
Veggie Delight

Considering that Denny’s was cheaper than the hotel, this isn’t as bad of a question as one might think. And yes, this was almost a “What is your favorite pizza topping?” poll as well. For now I’m saving that until the next time I am too tired to be thought provoking after a convention. We will resume our more tech oriented fare in August.. unless I go totally all Facebook and start asking about your fave colors or “Who’s hotter?”. Then all bets are off.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Gaggle Of Press Releases..

Here is that inbox cleaning I talked about before. Remember that I use a “***” to break up each one incase you want to skip a release.

Dear Discovery Toys Fan,

In this issue you will find:
You’re invited to an open house,
Discovery Toys business opportunity: Is it right for you?
Gift baskets,
How you can get toys for free,
Summer sale ends July 16.

A special thank you to those who visited my table at the National Federation of the Blind Convention.

You’re invited to an open house where you can personally play with almost everything in our line. Choose between two times. Reserve a time that works for you. Sunday, July 27, from 2-5 pm or Monday, July 28, from 10 am-1 pm. Children are welcome to come and play, too.

Discovery Toys has a business opportunity: Is it right for you? If you love our product, want to earn a part or full time income, or just need something to do, give Discovery Toys a try. For $99 (3 payment options available) you get:
14 of our top products,
Your personalized website free for 3 plus months,
Enough business supplies to have a great start,
Unlimited training and support,
Rebate on your initial investment,
And tons of fun!
Ask me any questions by replying to this message.

Gift baskets:
Discovery Toys can build gift baskets for any age and any occasion. Most popular are our baby gift baskets. The perfect shower gift can be given from one person or the whole office. Baskets start at $15.

Would you like some free Discovery Toys? It’s simple! Get a few friends together for a short 20 minute presentation filled with fun and you get Toys for free! Contact me to reserve a date. I have a few dates left this summer and my fall is filling up.

The "Summer Sunsations" sale ends July 16 so give me a call or visit my web page at to place your order!

Learning is the beginning of wealth. Learning is the beginning of health. Learning is the beginning of spirituality. Searching and learning is where the miracle process all begins. --Jim Rohn
Brandy Wojcik
Group Manager and Educational Consultant

RJ Cooper, the guy that makes software and hardware for persons with special needs, here again.

1) In doing my popular free RoadTrips, a common issue arises when I ask my favorite question about a Learner: "What is it that you want him/her to do that he/she is not doing now?" (or if the User can answer directly, of course). The caregiver or practitioner sometimes replies "Surf the Internet."

Now I've got to give my standard 'song and dance' reply to that request. And that is that the Internet is *not* that 'friendly' for people that are non/emerging readers, or those with cognitive abilities less than about 7. Just try going to these days! It's confusing. And most sites are not plain text oriented, that is, they require very proficient use of a mouse.

What I always wish for, when this request is made of me, is that someone would have a website that lists all the sites out there that *are* 'disabled-friendly'. And I do *not* mean this in terms of just access. That's an easy one, using my CrossScanner, SAM-Joystick, or another of my many access products. I mean the *content* and navigability of the sites.

A friend of mine, Lesley T., emailed me about some great stuff that I did not know about, concerning this issue! You've just *gotta* check these links out! The first is for Autism (but applies *directly* to my issue above and can be used for anyone that needs the type of access I describe) and the second is more general *for different age groups*. I haven't really 'dug' into either of them so if you wish to check them and let me know what you think, I can tell others. Remember, my little e-newsletter goes out to about 18,000 people so whatever info I learn, I like to share.

2) Here is another great resource. I have recently been receiving a great newsletter from The Autism Acceptance Project (TAAP), an effort founded and directed by Estee Klar-Wolfund. Estee was kind enough to include info about my Auggie AAC device ( in one her recent editions. Here is part of their mission statement:

"The Autism Acceptance Project will bring forth a different and positive view about autism to the public in order to create tolerance and acceptance in the community and to empower parents and autistic people."

Here is a link to their Contact page at their site, from which you can contact them to request the newsletters. Their website has art, blogs, info, and a LOT of other great stuff!

All 3 sites above are done by parents of kids with Autism! I'm very happy to let others know about them.

That's it for this time!

RJ :)

Dear Customer:
Our Summer Splash Sale is going on now at More than a dozen Fun Summer products are on sale! Check out our adapted fans, water toys, boats, and bubble blowers!
Hurry! The sale runs only for the month of July 2008. Regards,Steven E. Kanor, Ph.D.President

Random Goodness: CAPTCHA, Vista Email And $199

Today on my morning tour of the web I found a good story, a tip and a humorous bit of fluff that you can use to make fun of your friends who stood in line for that phone.. you know the one they can’t use on a 3G network because they don’t have a 3G network near them? Yeah that phone.

Computerworld Article On CAPTCHA: This article chronicles the rise and fall of CAPTCHA’s use on the interwebs. I think, as I said to some in the Computer Science Division at the NFB Convention, that multi level user authentication will be the next area of concern for those of us who are in I.T. fields. Especially when companies like Adobe talk about its use in accessing documents and other content that we already have some issues wth now. Anyway, here is the Computerworld link..;489635775;fp;;fpid;

Vista Mail Client: This week’s Super Site for Windows tip talks about using a web based email client as a default for Vista. It uses some third party programs, however, for some out there I think this may just be what the Doctor ordered. At least until Windows Live Mesh is official. That will be very interesting indeed.

$199.. Yeah Right: Sometimes the internet gives you something funny to laugh at when you least expect it to do so. This social commentary on the iPhone was just that kind of thing for me. Take a look..

Monday, July 14, 2008

Music: Love Me Dead

Here is another one of those songs that I may end up buying the CD of because.. well in this case I like the lyrics. Kind of a Ben Folds quality. I really didn't know much about Ludo. This single has me interested though. And it took a while for me to hum this one at work without realizing that I was doing it. Take a listen to "Love Me Dead" and see what you think.

Feedback: Commenting On Comments

Some great remarks have been made in the comments section and I think I will take some time out to highlight a few of them again. Except this time I won’t be going back to 2007. All of them are fairly recent responses. yes, I’m turning over a new leaf and I am really reading your comments and email. Although I don’t think I have done an all email Feedback yet. At any rate let’s begin with an all too familiar, and frequent poster, you may know as “Anonymous “. This mysterious person is commenting on the Open Trade In post from May 13th.

PAC Mate Fever: Before anyone asks, “Pac Man Fever” was a song. Buckner and Garcia. Its from the 80’s.

Anonymous said...
This is the second time that they are offering it and usually Humanware don't even respond to this. Care to speculate on why this is?

I’ve been told by some of the Regional Sales Reps that the past promotion of trading in the competition’s note taker/PDAs for money off on a PAC Mate went very well. So a second round with the promotion seems logical. Especially if you are looking for a device that runs Windows Mobile 6 natively as the base operating system. The competition’s feature list, however, is getting more fierce if you read up on the Braille Sense Plus and the Levelstar Icon. And we don’t know what Keysoft 8 will hold either. The cool thing is that you have tons of choices and FS is offering everyone a way to move into their platform at some kind of a discount. As often as people talk about the cost of AT these days, you have to admit that any promotion that offers you any type of good deal is worth a mention.

Times Out: Here’s a comment from the 5/26 post on the NY Times articles.

.Reid said...
David Pogue responded to my post on his article. Since I assume you too are using a screen reader, you didn't realize that he was implying the authors were not really blind. He used single quotes around the word blind.

As I said in my reply, I really don't think that makes the article and accusation any less harmful. In fact, how in the world would he know if someone is faking blindness via email? You can see his comments here:

Thanks for that update. You’re right about his questionable judgement of determining who is and isn’t Blind via email and I suspect “The Psychic Friends Network” must be involved too. or tea leaves. Those work well.

The old phrase “Consider the source” comes to mind. I’m not a huge fan of any mainstream tech writers. Well I take that back some. Dean at the San Jose Mercury News is very good, the team at the Houston Chronicle is always a fantastic read and once in a great while the L.A. Times comes off with a head scratcher. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today and a few other non tech publications that dip their toes in tech just don’t come up on my radar as much. Some of that is partly due to the rabid Apple favoritism that eludes in their “style over Substance” and so called perceived need to write about the hype of tech. that puts eyeballs on screens. And it isn’t something I really care about when you consider just how Blind Friendly the iPhone is these days. So David, Walt and a few others can wax ecstatic about this new fangled wiz bang visual interface jazz all they want. Just remember that Vista sold 14 times as many licenses in 1 year when compared to OSX. Also, I can’t wait to see how they spin Snow Leopard. After all the biggest new feature is Security. I thought Macs didn’t have to worry about that..

As to David’s use of punctuation to infer sarcasm on *Blind* users… One could make a statement about visual cues, the Blind and Screen Reader verbosity I guess. But really the bigger point I would rather make is that you always have to be careful with humor on the internet. If you notice I try to be as self deprecating as possible because if I make fun of me I probably won’t offend you the reader nearly as much as if I made broad generalizations or sweeping comments about a segment of our population in crude terms. that doesn’t mean I don’t do that at times if I think that our shared experience can get a point across a whole lot faster than a long descriptive narrative. It just means that I am aware of who reads this blog and I do actually try to be consistant in my writing as to not honk off anyone but those who hate my gramer and run on sentences which appear to never ever end. Hmm, I think I could have stuck a hyphen  and another broekn phrase in there somewhere. Oh well..

For the record, I use both Screen Reader and Screen Magnifier products. My job requires me to sorta know most of the leading Blindness and Low Vision AT products on the market today. Note I say ‘Know’, I used single quotes around the word know Ha Ha!, because it is really really hard to use everything well on a daily basis. I end up using one product one day and I force myself to relearn another the next. So I’m sort of a “Jack of all trades, Master of none”. AT is already a niche industry and it is very common to find a person staying with one company or a group of products that they know, and use, best. With four big players in Screen Reader territory who can blame a guy or gal for having a desire to specialize? Not me.

My specialization is in the areas of Screen Magnification and Video Magnification. Again, that doesn’t mean I don’t know something about Screen Readers. I just didn’t use them both at the same time. But I do have to use Screen Readers as part of my job involves me trouble shooting various AT products on XP, Vista, Office 03 and Office 07 to name a few. And as we saw in the “Morning With JAWS” I will be entering that land of the Screen Read and Screen Mag user as this type of user is in a situation apart from everything else on the market today. Therefore, you now know why I am easily distracted and or confused.  Oh and sarcastic. Especially around the end of a beta cycle. You can probably guess that a new version of something is coming out by the snarkyness of my posts. A tired mind is a terrible thing not to waste.  [Tongue firmly planted in cheek]

Dual Identities: For the most part I try to keep my internet life away from my offline life. But when you have used a handle for, gulp, years .. Things have a way of catching up with you. I’ve been Ranger1138 since 1996. So when I lose touch with folks, Google is right there to pick up the slack.

Ethne said...
You don't call and don't write and ISN news has been down for two whole weeks. I think I may just lose what little is left of my sanity. :)

Anyway DDC has tried to contact you - but fears your old email account may have eaten it.
Hope all is well, and tell da fam I said hello. (Including the four legged members):)

ISN News is the Babylon 5/Crusade site that I have belonged to since 1998. I have been one of the Moderators for the Forum since 1999. Recently we had a server give up the ghost and we lost everything. We were so used to Private Messaging one another via the boards that when they went we forgot the old means of communication completly. Or, as in some cases, Hotmail put us in one another’s junk email filters. Go fig. Anyway, Ethne is a very long time and dear friend and she left me a comment to open my hailing frequencies. Problem was I took vacation and really shunned the computer. So I’m the reason why the server went south… in the fact that I was on vacation. I don’t have control over the server. I do apparently have terible luck and timing problems though. Just thought that needed some clarification there.

We have rebooted the message boards at ISN and I really write up a storm on SF, TV and Music there. The boards run on VB and I know that isn’t always AT compatible. The new version that we upgraded to is a little busy yet still functional. Hop over to the forums via our main page if you are interested.

“Stop Making Sense”: A Talking Heads reference there. One of the best live and concert films in my opinion. Um, moving on, to a poster who had a comment on my June 12th Sense View Duo link.

Anonymous said...
Saw the demo and the unit looks good. However, GW appear to compromise on the magnification level in order to support the new features. The new unit enlarge only up to 12x compared to the 22x for the original model.

By the way, I hope they'll offer a trade-in for the current SenseView owners. I wouldn't mind upgrading, but I will not shell out another $1300 for the Duo


Honestly Jessica I haven’t spent all that much quality time with the unit. Yeah I said I would when I wrote that back on June 12th but the Convention Season is in swing and I haven’t gotten back to this one or a new model from VTI either. Thank goodness those new Humanware units aren’t coming my way until late August at the earliest. Who knew the Video Magnifier side of things would explode with new product? Oh yeah, Convention Season. Silly me. I’ll be working with the Duo this month. So I may spotlight this unit later on in July or August. It is my understanding that the unit is doing quite well though and some who had the earlier model like the Duo even more. My suggestion, as it always, is to seek it out and compare it to what you have already. Make sure to take the older Sense View with you for reference. Then c’mon back here and tell us what you think.

Summer Breeze: Ah, the Trekker Breeze. What a breath of fresh air for some. This is a comment from June 20th.

Wulfila said...
An awfully vague Press Release. Does anyone know how this new System differs from the older Trekker? It sounds as though it is more affordable; is that because it is One Unit and not Three Components - the PDA, the Receiver and Speaker? Also, what is the Significance of the Operation of this new System being simpler than that of the old One, concerning knowing or not knowing Computers or Screen Readers?

I’m going to talk about this device and Humanware more in an upcoming Convention article. As a sneak peak I’ll say again that the Breeze is misunderstood. you know how there is Old Fashioned Vanilla, French Vanilla and Plain Vanilla Ice Cream? The Breeze is one of three flavors of GPS that Humanware offers. Your tastes may vary. More on this later..

Jawin’ About JAWS: Finally, here is a comment from the July 6th “Morning With JAWs” post.

jm33 said...
When you say "discussion about a version of JAWS running without the Video Interceptor. Such a version was possible and some discussion was given to what it would entail.
Good stuff on that front. Sure your Screen Reader works better with this intercept running, however, changes in the way video is displayed are coming.
And it is nice to see FS thinking about future issues." is this implying that it is soon going to be not possible to be running an interceptor with expected changes in Vista's future or is that just still at the level of speculation and concern? I hope I am incorrect here, but I would tend to think that not being able to run the interceptor would set us back a lot in our qwest for accessibility. I am aware that there are some products out there currently running without the use of an interceptor, but that it is a trade off for the portability that it allows at this point.

Hold on for this one because I go off the beaten path at least once. Trust me, there is an answer in there somewhere.

Changes in video and the like began with Windows 98 to XP. DCM came into play and it kinda did a good thing for a person who only used one type of AT on any given computer system. The move from XP to Vista introduced the move from DCM to Mirror Drivers. This too has some drawbacks if you use a combination of AT programs from the various options on the market. Mirror Drivers have been said by Microsoft to be a midway solution. As we approach Windows 7 we will see a lot more changes. There is the touch screen layer, more emphasis on High Def content via Windows Presentation Foundation [WPF] and the just announced Direct X 11. Plus when 7 rolls around we will have almost three generations of AERO Glass enabled video cards available. So it is quite possible that Glass may be the new default for Windows.

Some of that I have cobbled together from tons of articles on the net. Some comes from Rob Sin’Claire’s speeches from the 2006 Convention circut. Moreover, some comes from my talks with the various players in the AT Industry. but most of all it comes from Moore’s Law. Changes in video are inevitable. Remember that the Apple iPhone and Microsoft’s Surface technologies are pushing the On Screen Touch interfaces forward to the desktop clients. And the movie and music industries drives to close the “analog hole” continues to alter how we see, use and interact with any and all video. The Assistive Technology Industry rides on the backs of several movements in general computing. Therefore change is in the very nature of what we do. The speed of that change, and how we adapt to it as an Industry, is really the bigger issue.

Is it better to run with a Video Interceptor? Yep. Will that technology be phased out over time? Yep. Is it good that AT companies are moving forward to meet these needs? You bet. That is why a paid model will always beat the pants off of a free one for AT users. I’ll save the debate of free vs. paid for another post, however, I point out that having full time developers is far more an attractive option to part time community based initiatives if you enjoy having stable access to Windows based computers at your job. 

These brave guys and gals throughout our Industry need operating incomes so we can have the best and up to date access to things like Adobe Acrobat 5,000. To hear that a company is considering such a radical idea to their core philosophies is exciting as well as scary. I’d rather them look at it now though as opposed to patching a program six months to a year later however. Plus growth is good right?

Besides, I and others will be the crazy ones in the betas working with this thing before it comes to the public. And in my look back at Vista articles I suggested that those who were happy in XP were fine for another year at least. And how many of you out there still keep your older versions of JFW installed “Just In Case”? FS tries to ensure that this functionality is preserved in every future version if they can help matters. Eric reiterated that in Dallas earlier in the month. So “No Worries Mate”. 7 will come and hopefully we will have same day releases of AT like we did with Vista. Chances are that this is just a blip on today’s radar and this storm too shall pass. 

Okay that was too much positive and upbeat verbiage for me to type at one time. I’m going to go lay down now and let the dark clouds return. Remember you can post your thoughts to this and more at any time. Or email me. I don’t make it all that easy to do so but I do read emails. I don’t know about answering them yet. I always seem to misplace that “Reply” button. Anything you send me though is fair game unless you specify otherwise in your email. Hey, I gotta get material from somewhere..