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..

Friday, July 11, 2008

Press Release: Digital Television And Video Description


The WGBH - Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has published a new Outreach and Policy Paper, Digital Television and Video Description: Service Continues, Consumer and Industry Efforts Required

Most consumers are just now becoming aware of the mandated transition from analog to digital broadcasting scheduled for February of 2009 and how it will affect the TV viewing that they rely on daily. Blind or deaf consumers who purchase digital TV sets, and subscribe to cable, satellite or fiber-optic TV services have expressed frustration with set-up, reception and incompatibility problems regarding access services (captioning and video description), few of which are understood or even documented by manufacturers and retailers.

In addition, people who want to continue receiving free over-the-air broadcasts using their analog sets and an antenna must purchase a set-top converter box to do so - and figure out how to make captions and descriptions work for them. NCAM previously published an overview of problems confronting deaf or hard-of-hearing people trying to access captions via DTV or through a converter box. The "DTVCC" paper can be found on NCAM's Web site listed below.

This new paper focuses on challenges facing blind or low vision viewers who rely on video description to enjoy and fully understand television programming. Topics covered include:

- Set-top Converter Boxes
- Accessible Menus
- Tips for Finding Video Description in DTV
- Troubleshooting
- and a Technical Note about PSIP (or Program and System Information Protocol)

This paper, along with much more information about the DTV conversion from a variety of resources, can be found at NCAM's DTV Access site, or

We want to hear from you...
NCAM has established a one-way e-mail address,, as an aggregator of complaints and problems related to the DTV rollout. If you send a report about a DTV access problem to this address, you will receive an automatic response that says that your report has been received and that we are gathering information but cannot respond to your inquiry, and that we will pass along common issues to relevant parties.

About NCAM and WGBH
The WGBH - Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media is a research, development and advocacy entity that works to make existing and emerging technologies accessible to all audiences. NCAM is part of the Media Access Group at WGBH, which also includes The Caption Center (est. 1972), and Descriptive Video Service® (est. 1990). For more information, visit

WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer, the source of fully one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup, along with some of public television's best-known lifestyle shows and children's programs and many public radio favorites. For more information, visit the WGBH Web site,

Mary Watkins
Director of Communications and Outreach
Media Access Group at WGBH
One Guest Street
Boston, MA 02135
617 300-3700 v/fax
617 300-2489 TTY

WGBH Boston informs, inspires, and entertains millions through public broadcasting, the Web, educational multimedia, and access services for people with disabilities.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Press Releases: Humanware Video Magnifiers And the VRS

I’m cleaning out my inbox from my time out for convention. Below is the release for the new Humanware Video Magnifiers and the Victor Reader Stream 2.0 features.. when the final release is posted again of course. You may see a few more press releases in another post today or tomorrow on various products as well. For now here is the info from Humanware.

Longueuil, Quebec, July 7, 2008 – HumanWare expands its low vision product line with the announcement of four new video magnifiers at Vision 2008, an international conference on low vision being held in Montreal this week. With these new products, HumanWare is better able to serve the needs of the growing number of people with low vision – those whose vision cannot be completely corrected even with the most powerful prescription glasses.

HumanWare's new video magnifiers are designed to meet the needs of different environments and applications. Each product offers unique features to improve the user's independence.

The new products include:
SmartView Pocket. an extremely lightweight handheld video magnifier that can be used in the home or around town, wherever things are too small to see. Large, intuitive buttons make the unit easy to use. The Pocket provides up to 9x magnification on its 3.6-inch LCD screen.

SmartView Graduate. Ideally suited for helping low vision students fully participate in class by being able to see across the room and magnify items on their desk. The Graduate connects to a notebook computer via a USB interface to provide up to 50x magnification on the computer screen. The camera turns to view the desktop or distant objects. The unit easily fits into a computer bag and weighs only 2.5 pounds, which makes it extremely easy to carry between classes.

SmartView Nano. The smallest video magnifier available at a very affordable price. The Nano magnifies objects from 5x to 20x, making it easy to read fine print on pill bottles, ingredients on product labels, or seat numbers on theater tickets.

SmartView Mobile. A portable video magnifier with a 7-inch screen, providing up to 18x magnification. The Mobile is ideal for those who need a portable device but cannot compromise on magnification and screen size. Perfect for taking to the library, carrying around home or using at the office.

"With these new products, HumanWare has significantly increased its offering of portable devices," explains Ted Judge, Product Manager. "Users want to be able to read regular or small print wherever they are, and these new additions to the SmartView family help people see and read, whether at home, the store, the office, or out on the town."
The SmartView Graduate and Smartview Pocket video magnifiers are available now, and the SmartView Nano will be available at the end of July. The SmartView Mobile will be available in Europe and Asia in August.

About HumanWare

HumanWare is the global leader in assistive technologies for the print disabled. HumanWare provides products to people who are blind or have low vision, and persons/or individuals with learning disabilities. HumanWare offers a collection of innovative products, including BrailleNote, the leading productivity device for the blind in education, business, and for personal use; the Victor Reader product line, the world's leading digital audiobook players; myReader2, HumanWare's unique "auto-reader" for people with low vision; and the ClassMate Reader, the only portable book player to offer synchronized text and audio for individuals.

For more information about these products please visit:

or contact us:

Call toll free: 1 888 723-7273

Tel: +44 1933 415 800

Tel: +61 2 9686 2600

Call toll free 1 800 722-3393 or 925 680-7100

Media contact:
Nicolas Lagace
Tel.: 450 463-1717


Longueuil, Canada, June 30, 2008 -- Victor Reader Stream, the pocket-sized portable MP3 player designed for blind and low-vision people has swept the world wide market place since its launch in September 2007. Heralded by its users as the most significant assistive technology in recent years, the Stream has already enhanced the life style of thousands of blind and low vision people world wide. In addition to the variety of audio formats (MP3, DAISY, and NISO books and music) supported by Victor Reader Stream, the new version 2 software will add even more media and text formats.

Victor Reader Stream version 2 will now play electronic Braille files with its built-in text-to-speech including multiple formats of English Braille encoded files, Unified English Braille, and non-English Braille formats. Version 2.0 also adds playback of Windows Media Audio (WMA) and Rich Text Format (RTF) files. , Further, the bookshelf feature has been extended to enhance the access and playback of all media types with special new features for Audible books, Podcast files, and music.

With the addition of the new media types of version 2.0 the Stream now provides a pocket size device that can play an impressive list of alternate format books and documents available to the print-disabled. IT will play the special navigable DAISY and NISO digital talking books produced by most libraries for the blind in the world. It can be authorized to play the AudioPlus digital books from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) in the United States. It can play digital books. It can be authorized to play the popular commercial audio books, newspapers, and magazines from It is optimized to integrate with who provide an extensive repository of digital multi-media content for blind and low vision people. It also plays MP3,, OGG Vorbis, WMA, Wav, AMR-WB+, SPX, and FLAC audio files. The built-in text-to-speech can play electronic text formats including BRF (Braille), HTML, RTF, TXT, and XML. In addition to its extensive digital player capabilities, it has a voice recording functionality for recording of voice notes, meetings, and lectures.

What Stream customers are saying:
"I love my Victor Reader Stream and it travels with me wherever I go."
"This is one of the best products I have seen come along in a long time. It is well made, works right out of the box, and reads just about any kind of book you need read."
"It's one of the most impressive and well-planned and well-working pieces of equipment I have seen for a long time."

"We appreciate the overwhelming enthusiasm of our customers and are pleased that we have been able to incorporate many of their suggested new features and improvements in the enhanced version 2 of the Stream", says Gerry Chevalier, HumanWare Victor Reader Product Manager. "And the best news is that the latest version 2 software can be installed for free on all existing Victor Reader Streams."

The Stream has extensive navigation features for moving through audio books and text files, including functions that allow you to move to the next chapter, section or page, or to set bookmarks. For all audio book and media formats the Stream provides a variable speed control with digital pitch correction which allows the reader to accurately listen at higher than normal playback speed.

The player is completely accessible by blind and low-vision users. All keys and messages are provided through audio feedback. The player has a built-in User Guide and a Key Describer mode.

Besides playing electronic text, the integrated text-to-speech voice announces the track names of music files. It uses an SD memory card to store books and music transferred from a computer.

Victor Reader Stream can be purchased online at (in USA). Current Victor Reader Stream users can upgrade their player to software version 2.0 online at

About HumanWare

HumanWare ( is the global leader in assistive technologies for the print disabled. HumanWare provides products to people who are blind and have low vision and students with learning disabilities. HumanWare offers a collection of innovative products include BrailleNote, the leading productivity device for the blind in education, business and for personal use; the Victor Reader product line, the world's leading digital audiobook players, and SmartView Xtend, the first fully modular and upgradeable CCTV-based video magnifier.

For more information:

Nicolas Lagace
Tel.: (450) 463-1717

Dallas NFB: Mid Afternoon With PAC Mate Omni

Yep, I am still combing through notes from last week. And here is my scribbling from the same Lecture Hall, later in the day, with Jonathan and the Omni.

Jonathan said that PAC Mate Omni’s 6.1 update was coming. And it was “immanent”, however, it wouldn’t have a time stamp on it as the update would be released when it was ready for public consumption. The neat thing that was said is that the Omni 6.1 update would use a Data Backup Utility for this update. More on what that is and how it works will come in the release notes for the update and probably in FScasts.

Another new feature coming is something Jonathan called “Contracted Braille Anywhere”. This was said to be super helpful with forms and things like the Contact Lists. The idea is that you will be able to use Contracted Braille in a lot of places you couldn’t previously and this drew a round of applause from the crowd.

Some accessible games are also coming to the Omni as well. Jonathan spoke about playing others Online with these games. And after you are finished playing someone why not use Skype to call them and rub it in about their losses.

6.1 will be a free update to PAC Mate Omni users. Jonathan also mentioned the prices of hardware and software SMAs for those who may not be on the Omni platform yet.

Next, it was announced that Adobe PDF support would be coming in the 6.1 update. Naturally unprotected PDFs will work best with any AT but there may be a solution for reading password protected PDFs in the future via Also, you need a PDF reader to use this feature. Jonathan spoke about the option of using the “Orneta Player” for reading the raw feed of PDF files on the Omni.

The Omni will also be able to read E Books via a Palm E Book Reader. I’m a little fuzzy here in my notes but there was a discussion about how some work was done to help the Omni detect where the cursor is and was in places where it didn’t before. I’m sure again that this, like a lot of these features, will be detailed out in the FScasts.

Jonathan then spoke about some tweaks to the unit’s responsiveness and behavior. A highpoint here is that the JAWS settings will remain the same on a warm reset. So if you had the unit’s speech muted and you were using it in a Braille only mode the warm reset would place you back into that profile when you came back up into a normal session.

The Omni will also be using the Unified Braille Format. This would be helpful for those people who are learning a new language or for people who travel internationally. Some time was given to this and it sounded great for bilingual Braille users who are using this format a lot in their work.

The 6.1 update will now come with on board support for the Ambicom Wireless Compact Flash Cards. Previously the unit had native support for the Socket line of cards. But in 6.1 support for both is present.

Questions about the unit began. Overdrive support is coming, Jonathan listed a lot of applications that he has found to work well with the Omni and then a ton of “How do i?”s. I’m skimming through a bit further but it looks like nothing out of this portion caught my ear.

As I have said before the Omni is a great update for those who have an older PAC Mate. And 6.1 looks to be a fantastic free update as well. I also want to point out a comment that was made in May’s Poll Results comment section. Take it away Wayne.

Wayne said...
The big advantage, as I see it, to the Omni is the fact that you don't lose any data when or if the battery goes completely flat. In fact, its safe to tsay that you nearly have to "accidentally" erase the data in order to totally erase it. Also, the Omni doesn't lose any data if the unit experiences a hard reset. Aside from all of the other software and OS advances and improvements that were made, or if the ability to retain data was all that was added to the Omni, I'd still pay for the upgrade. Add to that the competitive pricing structure that FS released when the Omni came out, and you've got quite a combination. To be fair, its pretty nifty to put Office 2007 documents in Word Mobile on my Omni and have them read perfectly well, but if I can't insure that the data will still be there after a 0% battery reading or a hard reset, then those other software and OS improvements won't get me very far if I don't have the Office 2007 documents to work with.

Well put Wayne. By the way, Wayne’s blog got featured in Fred’s Head Companion. He talks about the Omni and other things Blindness related. Here is the link to his blog if you want to check it out.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

IBM makes web accessibility for blind users a social effort

What is being talked about in this Ars article is also being done by Serotek's See Saw community driven project. However, I think Aria is going to be a bigger subject to watch out for in the next year. But hey, don't mind me. IBM and a mainstream web site are talking about web access for the Blind. I'll just give you the link to this article and you be the judge.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Dallas NFB: A Morning With JAWS

Here are those translated notes from last Sunday’s bad spellingese I talked about earlier in the week. If I got something wrong I’m sure someone from the FS camp will correct me in comments. For now here is what I have down in my notes.

The meeting took place early on a Sunday morning. Unlike many of the events, Freedom Scientific used the Lecture Halls rather than the general meeting rooms on the Mezzanine of the hotel. If you haven’t been to this hotel before think of the Anatole Hilton as a shopping mall that ate a hotel and conference center and then spit it back up because the mall didn’t like the taste of all those hotel rooms. What I mean by this is that the AH is great for a convention because it is all indoors, Texas is dam hot in July and you never have to leave the Hotel California, er um the Hilton, once you are there. With that said the AH is a O&M nightmare for the inexperienced traveler. If you are coming to the convention in 2010, yes Dallas again, adding a day before your events so you can learn this hotel when it is quiet would be a great suggestion for avoiding future frustration. It sure helped me and a friend that’s for sure.

Anyway, back to the Senator Lecture Hall. The hall is set up just like a University classroom with a podium, ascending rows of chairs stadium seating style and lamps mounted onto long row wide tables on each corresponding row. Its perfect for using a laptop or taking notes. And it had the best of the free wireless connections in the building.

Eric is up front at the lectern and the room has a PA so all can hear. There is a projector setup for those who have vision. The color schemes in this room are all earth colors with tans, browns and creames. With the track lighting on low the room reminds me of some of the home theaters I used to set up years ago.

I’m watching Eric double check everything but I am listening to Jonathan M. discussing the PAC Mate with another person on the same row as him. Now here is a personal reflection from me for just one second. No matter what you think of Jonathan I feel for the guy when he gets asked this question over and over again.

“So how can you say that the PAC Mate is better after saying that the Braille Notes were for so many years?”

Sure it is the guy’s job to answer this question. And as I listen to the answer, which is best said by Jonathan of course, I can hear a few phrases I’ve heard him say before on other occasions where he has been asked this question while I was in the room. As a person who used to be in sales I don’t envy having to answer the same question over and over again. However, as a person who used to be in sales it is great to have a conversation starter. So my hat is off to the man for taking a possible negative and turning that into a positive. Okay personal reflection over.

Eric is ready to begin now and he is outlining the morning. I’m gonna skip around because some of this is in the FScasts. But I’ll hit some highlights of the three or so hours. Here we go..

JAWS 10 is well on track and in private beta. Development is going faster than usual and if all goes well we could see a public beta of 10 by August of this year. That would put the official release, again if all goes well, in the 4th quarter of this calendar year. JAWS 11, yes I typed two ones together, is set for a similar schedule with a release in 4th quarter 2009.

One of the big changes in this year’s whole number release will be the use of the new Realspeak Direct Solo voices. The Direct Solo voices are the same persons [Daniel, Lee and others] that you already know and or love. The quality of the speech is better and more responsive than the previous Realspeak voices used in JFW 8 and 9. Menu navigation was especially quick with interrupts coming where they should. Before you panic, Eloquence isn’t going anywhere but future development from Nuance is highly unlikely. [Ranger’s note: I don’t know if Elle. will ever go open source but it does seem like other ATVs can go hog wild with it if they need to for their programs.]

The older Realspeak non direct voices will no longer come with new versions of JAWS starting with 10. The older version of Realspeak is still supported in 10. Furthermore, the Realspeak Direct voices will be downloadable from the web. Several languages will also be supported just as they are now with the older version of Realspeak.

In the new Startup Wizzard for 10 you can customize the voices for alternate Say All and other secondary voice options. Startup Wizzard and the ALT Say All are two of my fave new features of JAWS over the last two releases and they help me greatly when I need to customize settings for a student on the fly or demonstrate quickly that JAWS can have that fancy human sounding, if you can call it that, speech that others have by default. Also with a person who has a secondary language preference, having the ability to swap between voices and languages is a benefit on many levels..

Back on track. We go into a large discussion about troubleshooting with visual people who don’t always know where JAWS is reading from at any given time. Enter MAGic. Eric asks the group if we know what MAGic was an abbreviation for originally. The group, myself included, sat quietly until Eric gave us the answer. Here is that answer, get your AT Wikis at the ready, Magnification In Color. MAG i.c.. I know it isn’t earth shattering. It is interesting though.

The group is shown how Magic and JAWS are now very much the best of friends. And this friendship goes beyond just having Magnification with a more dedicated Screen Reader on hand. Now JFW and Magic provide a sort of *JAWS in Screen Layout* mode when loaded together. Which means that the behavior of Magic is different when JAWS is on board and loaded.

The question that some are pondering while they read this is “Okay.. why?”. And indeed that sentiment rolled around the room. But there is a really good reason for why you dedicated JAWS users should download the demo of Magic. And Eric went on to show us how Magic tracked where JAWS was reading from in documents and web pages. This came more into play when we looked at text on the web with a link in the middle of the paragraph. Explaining how JAWS will sit on the link while still reading from the buffer is a bit of a confusing point for visuals. And now there is a way to show others the ways and methods used to read materials. Which again is helpful for people, like me, who have to demonstrate Assistive Technology to others who have never seen it before.

Support for Office 2007 has been improved. Upcoming support for IE8 is also coming in 10, however, 9.0 has some initial code baked into that version. We have seen the last patch for 9.0 as work is devoted to 10’s release.

Another new feature that may please others is that you can now copy text from the web, or Outlook, without losing the integrity [formatting ] of the text being copied. Some time was given to this as we heard text being copied and placed into Word without the formatting being stripped away. This doesn’t work in “Append Clipboard” [Windows + C if you don’t use that like I do] but this isn’t a big deal. Having the ability to keep the formatting is a big deal though and this will help a lot of people who work with the web a lot on their jobs.

One recent change mentioned was not so much of a crowd pleaser. Insert V’s 9.0 behavior of being a tree view rather than a list box was debated. The tree view gives you many more new options for reading and detection. However people are fickle. And so some time was given to why this change was good. This one I won’t elaborate on as the official FS version is far better than the one I remember in my fevered brain. But make sure you play with this feature in the beta as additions may come.

Questions about JAWs for the Mac came up. I agree with Eric’s answer completely on this subject. And that answer is that the cost of development would never see the sales numbers to make such an end ever a profitable one. Right now the Apple market share is still too low to make a version commercially viable.

I’ll go one better, at the risk of honking off the Mac community again, splitting development time slows the growth of your Core product line. Which then equates to JFW not keeping up with the needs and demands of the User Base. These guys and gals are human. Humans need food, rest and money. If the demand ever grows to the point where this support is a needed thing I’m sure FS would be all over the Mac and more. For now, I say again, I agree with FS’s stance on this.

The x64 question was asked. Eric stated that x64 support was on the roadmap but a lot of technical stuff had to be worked out first. This then led to a 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.

Freedom Scientific Update will now recognize the versions of your help files and update them as new content becomes available. You don’t have to update this info if you do not want to but I thought this a neat feature as help and support may have to change with updates in say Internet Explorer 8 or something else.

There were a few “How Do I” questions amongst the other bits I am skipping over. Some talk on scripting and J-Say/J-Tunes was discussed. And then this led us into an expanded look at the new 3.0 version of TypeAbility. I’ve seen Eric demo this before at CSUN and it is always a treat to see people’s reactions to hearing the great work done on this program for their first time. TypeAbility is the typing teacher that works exclusively for JAWS and it has been constructed to be entertaining as well as informative. 3.0 refines the program into a version for younger audiences as well as adults who appreciate silly humor. You can turn it all off if neither applies. The real cool thing I like about this version is that it goes beyond the typing lesions and now the program will teach you JAWS commands. Perfect for the person who either needs a good typing lesson or the person who can’t remember their keystrokes for anything beyond the Links List and the Down Arrow. To learn more or get a demo of this product go to the link below..

And here comes the wrap up with demo discs and T Shirts. Aw, and they have Large, XL and my personal size “Goodyear”. How ever did they get that light board off of that thing for me to wear.

Okay just kidding. I’m more of a weather balloon than a blimp. The way I ate at this convention though.. they will be sizing my shirts up for aircraft to use at outdoor football games soon. Denny’s is cheap and within walking distance. Sigh..

Friday, July 04, 2008

Catching Up With Headlines

I’ve been under a mountain of news to catch up on since I was ignoring the feeds this week. Here are a few that caught my ear. 

Update To Windows Update: About once a year Windows Update gets an overhaul. This article from Ars tells you what to expect and what to do to avoid the update if you so desire.

July's Patch Tuesday Fixes: Speaking of Windows Updates, here is the list of fixes coming in this month’s Windows Update.

Office Update Changes: And not to be outdone by it’s Microsoft Windows cousin Office has made some changes of their own. Read about the move to Cumulative and Emergency Hotfix releases.

Security Changes In IE8: Oh look. IE8 also has some security changes coming as well. I am starting to detect a pattern this week.

10.5.3 Woes: It seems that the Jobbs Reality Distortion Field has waned a bit and the crushing weight of some miscues in this last refresh of the OS are taking hold. Check out this rant on the problems with OSX.

And this one is very ironic when you compare it to the critical mass on Vista.

Google On The Enterprise: Here’s one take on Goggle’s shortcomings from a former Microsoft employee who just left Google only to return to Microsoft.

XP And The Future: The Windows Super Site Blog has a good collection of the articles surrounding the last days of Windows XP public availability.

LCD Screens Worse Than Cars?: This is an interesting article about the gases that come from the use and creation of LCD monitors versus the emissions from automobiles as it applies to the Greenhouse Effect.

12,000 Laptops Lost In US Airports: Check out this survey on the staggering number of lost laptops throughout the US Airport system.

Textbook Companies After Torrent Sharers At Colleges: This ought to make you happy to pay your Bookshare subscription. The Textbook Companies are going all out to stop file shares of their products. See the article below to know more.

Microsoft Equipt: I believe this was code named “Albany” last year. What is Equipt? Well it is a bundle of Windows Live OneCare, some Windows Live services and Office 2007 Home and Student Edition all in a single box. It also just so happens to be $70 a year. That’s right. A subscription based version of Office bundled with a Security Suite that you can run on three computers at once. Check the link to learn more.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Behind The Scenes: Down And Safe

One of the best Sci Fi shows of the past 30 years for me is “Blake’s 7”. In that show the team would use the phrase “Down and Safe” when they had successfully teleported from their ship the Liberator. I always liked that phrase of confirmation and I use it occasionally today with people who suffer with me and my inner circle of insanity. And with my track record of bad flights I find the phrase comforting when I utter it to others from the safety of the hotel room. Oh and it is geeky as all hell. So strike up another reason for me saying it when I travel.

I’m back from my Dallas spacewalk and now it is time to sort through my notes and materials from this year’s 2008 NFB Convention. I have to sit down and remember everything from my worse than usual notes via bad spellings. Plus I have to remember what stuff is public knowledge and what stuff I can’t say here. Once that is all sorted you can expect some better posts out of me over the next few days. Ah, and I will update the poll and the sidebar links on the right of the page too.. promise.

But first a bit of a honest appology for not posting more on the fly during the meetings. My Toshiba of many years, and several Vista beta tests, gave up it’s fight for the right to party at one more convention. I guess it heard about the heat and just said forget it I guess. No worries as I will take my trusty dusty $20 from Fry’s Electronic Microsoft 1000 keyboard and the backup work laptop right? How does the Enter key and the Escape key go out on a keyboard at the same time? The wire isn’t split and the board is clean. Rats. I’ll just type on the Gateway as is or will as the need arises. And you saw the results of that one on Sunday. So I thought I would just wait and summarize the day in the hotel room afterwards. But then I remembered that I was cheap and I didn’t want to spend $10.95 for broadband access for the room. Then came the experiment of posting while being hunched over a small footstool and balancing a 17 inch widescreen laptop in such a manner that I could nab the free lobby wireless in the “poor” state rather than the “fair” one I was hoping for at the time. As a result of that one post I had created two new tags for posts. And badly spelled as well. I also got kisses from at least three Dog Guides because I was at “Dog Level Access” or close enough to the floor to get a uninitiated lick from the passing pooch. They probably smelled that I’m a dog person but they were working and I didn’t want to be a distraction. Especially in that hotel. And a lot of the meetings I attended weren’t in the Lecture Halls like the 2006 convention. Writing in the other rooms was just too difficult because the meetings were packed to the rafters in some cases. So I kind of gave up.

Next time I will just go commando with a wireless keyboard and Tweet the whole thing like reporters do from WWDC. Hmm, an uncensored Ranger Station. I don’t know if the world is ready for that.

Conditions aside, I have some product impressions and a funny story or two to write about. And as always I appreciate the kind comments I got from those of you who I met at the convention who do read this site on a regular basis. It really is shocking to me still when I meet someone who says “Oh, I’ve been reading for years” and then they quote something I don’t remember writing. Thank goodness I can spot my own sad attempts at humor when someone quotes what I wrote back to me. It helps me remember what I said whenever I wrote that thing that they just said they found entertaining, or even scarier, informative.

No wait. .  the reading for years bit. That scares me more. TRS is almost “thwee and a half yeawrs ol’d”. Minus six months for the cartoon refrence’s sake. For those who have been reading for years not only do I salute you but I think I owe you a drink. Bless you all for staying and thank you all for reading!

I’d usually say something like “I’ll do better” or “I will strive to provide a better experience”… Which would be a lie because I know, and you know by now, I’m a computerish kind of guy and we just love to push stuff back into development another six months if we can. Therefore pretend I said something more forward thinking and inspiring please. It will foster a better relationship for us if you do just enter Mr. Ranger’s land of Make Believe/positive comments. Ooo Here’s the trolly now. Say “Hi” to King Friday as you go past.

what I will say, and totally admit to when asked, is that I did take my foot off the accelerator with this blog for a while. Some of that was due to me being under several NDAs at one time and another aspect came from a not so safe ability for me [and a few others in the blog’o’sphere] to discuss Assistive Technology openly. I don’t want to rehash the past but to put it bluntly the Assistive Technology Industry has matured a tad and it can survive a few school playground insults, name callings or out and out critical analyses of their products by people like me and other newly minted self proclaimed informative pundits on the web.

I had the luxury to speak to some of the movers and the shakers of our industry in a series of quiet meetings at this year’s convention. And I have to say that the views of how some of these companies view the net, and blogs like this one, has changed for the better. I’m not saying that it is all wine and roses. But I think we as Blind Tech Enthusiasts may be approaching the brink of a Trade Press collective. Or I had one whopper of a dream from that Pizza Hut special that I ordered. Either way I came away with a positive feeling for writing more indepth here and I think a few others who aspire to do more may also find a similar frame of mind over the next few months.    

So I return to the title of this post. Turmoil in our industry continues, however, for now I’m “Down and Safe” and a bit recharged, along with feeling a slight more empowered, by some fantastic comments to broaden the range here a bit. Time is a slippery weasel that I can’t seem to catch. Hopefully I may not have to chase him down as much and I may post a bit more over the coming year.

Now if those Kiebler Elves would stop making those delicious cookies and get back on adding a few more hours on the day like I asked them for things would be fine and dandy. Of course they probably never hear the requests quite right because they have all those free cookies in the waiting room and my mouth was probably full when I made the request. Oh well..

A shout out to the commenter who wanted to know more about Mobile Geo. I didn’t get a chance to go into that meeting and I had a bunch of other things on the table with Handytech North America/Code Factory. But the gang at Blind Bargains picked up the ball I fumbled and ran this down for you. Check out their interview on Mobile Geo at the link below. And next time we are at the same spot JJ we gots to hook up!

And here is the link for getting $100 off if you pre-order it soon.

NFB Dallas: Serotek Sizzlin’ In The Summer

We had twenty days of 100 degree temps in Texas in June. But July got even hotter with the stuff Serotek has been cooking up prior to and now at convention. I’ve been a little late to the party on telling you about the Summer Sizzle promotion. And seeing their booth with the small portable computers that Serotek is going to give away made me feel guilty for not posting the links earlier.

The Netbook is slick and not at all bad for those of us with um.. non dainty fingers. And everyone already knows about the Stream and the Stone. So jump on over to that link above and try and win yourself a  bunch of cool stuff from Serotek.

The next cool announcement made at convention was the amazing Keys to K-12 initiative. Serotek, like Bookshare, is really making it great to be a student these days. Those kids who are in school in grades K through 12 can have access to the $499 package of System Access Mobile for free. To learn more about this exciting new movement in the Digital Revolution hit the link below.

And that is not all. During his speech at the General Session Mike Calvo announced the SA Braille support for the ALVA BC640. You can hear Mike’s speech by going to this blog article listed at the link below.

Lastly I want to give a personal comment on just how much I have come to use System Access in my daily work over the last year. Recently my department underwent a new computer rollout. Some of these systems will not need Assistive Technology on them at all and others required that I update them with drivers and the like before I introduced a program that used Mirror Drivers. I would have been using Narrator for all of the work if it had not been for System Access.

A co-worker also had to go it alone with System Access for a week while I struggled with my battle with her and four other machines. She was displaced on to several computers as the week dragged on, however, with a portable USB hard drive and SA she wasn’t down for the count. At times she even forgot that she was using SA instead of another product that she normally used in her daily tasks.

I’m not saying that SA is perfect. But what I am saying, especially after going to this year’s convention, is that the days of a technical user relying on a one stop solution for a Screen Reader or Screen Magnifier for all their work is over. It is just like a tool box. You have a flat head, a Phillips head and a few other choices in screwdrivers. For those who are serious about the future in computing be ready to carry just such a tool box. Or a Chewbaca styled bandoleer for all your digital devices.

Or a Han Solo vest if you don’t want all that Wookie fur. After all I think Chewie wouldn’t like it in Dallas when it nears or tops a 100. Perfectly suited for Hoth through.