Saturday, July 04, 2009

Detroit NFB 2009 Day 1: Freedom Scientific Forum

What you see below are excerpts from my 12 pages of notes. These are just some highlights of the meeting and they are written in Live Blog form. I cleaned them up a tiny bit in order to make them readable and not in my short hand decoder ring needed style from my original document. Some information has deliberately not been posted as Freedom Scientific talked candidly about a few issues and I respect that enough not to blog it here. They didn’t have to make a stand on a few issues and I really don’t want to put words in their mouths either. Therefore if you hear about a particular topic not mentioned below, I’d contact FS directly to get their official line on the topic at hand. Sorry to be cryptic there but some real time issues are being discussed at the convention and I don’t feel comfortable about paraphrasing, or doing a misinterpretation, of a crucial answer. Well that and I know they read this blog. Ha!

The room audio wasn’t the best. It seems each hotel always has its own problems somewhere with the AV system. The room is a standard ballroom/meeting area on the 5th floor. And GW Micro is the room next to us. It was fun to see who went to which door as they filed in for the 8:30 meeting.

A person asked about Firefox 3.5. It is said that the latest version of JAWS 10 is compatible with the new Firefox.

The question came up about Web alternatives to CAPTCHA and the possibility of scripts or JAWS to aid in this issue. It is said that the subject of CAPTCHA is one best solved by third parties. The problem is complex and it changes to rapidly for any solution to work for what ends up being a very short time in some cases. Salona is also talked about as a good solution that is taking on this matter.

A question is asked about JAWS and the new version of Skype. Eric explains some of the issues that face users of Skype 4.0. He says that there are some new enhancements in JAWS 11 to help with this. A person in the crowd says that the new 4.1 patch makes things a little easier.

JAWS 11 does have some new improvements for the Inbox of Outlook 2007. Some love has been given to the Calendar as well.

Questions about Office 2007 and support are explained a bit. Eric discussed how MS uses Word as an editor in Outlook. There is a mention on how this changes the Direct Object Model. Eric recommends downloading the demo for 10 to help out a person with JFW9 on an Outlook issue as 10 will update a shared component in JAWS 9.

Jonathan is up next to talk about the Focus Blue. The new display will run on battery power for up to 20 hours. He mentions how he pairs it up with the N82 and the KNFB Rader Mobile. It should be shipping in a month and the working demo unit will be on the floor for all to see. It is also $500 cheaper than the previous Focus models of the same size.

We take some time out to talk about the other hardware at the show. Eric passes around the Ruby and discusses the unit’s features. The unit will run for two hours and it has a battery light indicator for when you are running low. It is competitively priced to the other units with the same screen size.

Eric asked how many people loved Auto Forms Mode. The reaction was mixed. Those who love it .. love it. A good number though still don’t use it. A mention about how it was spotlighted in FSCast. Then a realy good plug for why you should give a FSCast a listen is made. The June episode features an interview about Robert Sawyer’s “Wake” and how the main character learns hotkeys in her moves to become a math whiz. I haven’t read the book but it has been talked about a lot. Another recommendation to go back and listen to the January episode of FSCast if you are interested in JAWS and ARIA.

A question was asked about if you can use JAWS 10 with Windows 7. Now before you read this please note that this was the same way it has always been with previous Microsoft and JAWS versions. JAWS 10 will work with 7 but JAWS 11 will be the version that comes with more robust support for Windows 7.

What you also read next are impressions of some features still in beta on v11. You will get to play with a public beta of 11 come late August. So take this next stuff with a big heaping helping of salt.

Number reading enhancements are coming in 11. If you use dashes like 123-456-7890 you will hear them differently. Perfect for those who have to read social security or phone numbers.

The Skim Reading function will now sport a Word Index option. You can see how many times a word is used in a document and even jump down to one of those instances. You can also do some other neat things with it if you have to do a lot of data entry or proof reading responsibilities.

Now this other bit is really cool. FS wants to one day have JAWS be able to look up a definition of a word through JAWS without you leaving your document. You would highlight a word, use a hotkey and then JAWS would go to the internet and get the definition for you. It is an extention of UI Automation, web APIs and use of the virtual buffer all working together to keep your place but give you info you need all at the same time.

Eventually the feature will let you customize the default place you would like to search. So you could set it for or a Wiki or even an internal database for company specific acronyms. It may even grow to a point where highlighted text could be translated. Great for education of secondary languages like Chinese. Again, this is a feature in the works. So keep your ears open for it later on down the road.

Some questions came up about Quicken and Quick Books. Eric explains how they have worked with Intoit in the past and where he feels on the matter. We, as users, need to let the company know that we would like to have better, or in some cases any, access to their lines of products. The online version of Quick books and Quikc Books its self are not friendly. Nor is the Quicken suite of products either. Freedom Scientific would love to have this work but it will take some cooperation from Intoit and us to get there. So we need to direct our questions to Intoit about accessibility. Especially now that Microsoft has killed off the Money line of their Accounting products.

The last bit was a discussion on PDF, Open Office and other online suites of products. PDF varies because not every PDF is created equally. A inserted graphic or photo of text is still an image no matter what. Open Office does not work with JAWS, however, you can find some success if you use Lotus Symphony.

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