Wednesday, July 09, 2008

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.

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