Monday, August 31, 2009

July's Poll Results And A Mini September Poll Added

There wasn't much of a doubt about who took the lead on this issue. Take a look at the mindshare a company seems to be cultivating amongst the Blind Community.

July's Poll Question Of The Month: What Cell Phone Platform Do You Want To Buy For Your Next Accessible Phone?

Windows Mobile with Mobile Speak or Talks 1 (4%)

Synbian with Mobile Speak or Talks 7 (30%)

Blackberry with Oraitor 0 (0%)

The iPhone 15 (65%)

Other 0 (0%)

So I guess no one is interested in the Google G1 phones until they have something we can use eh? Well I gave it a shot with the "Other" option. The other number that sort of surprises me a bit is the low number for the Blackberry. I think the new joint venture from Humanware and Code Factory will do fantastic with those Blind people who work in Enterprise level jobs. If you ever want to be a big time manager in a multinational company you will be using Nokia or a RIM device thats for sure.

But now let us go with a short and sweet poll for a few weeks. The age old question awaits us..

Poll Question Of The Month: Which Upgrade Do You Want To Buy?

Windows 7

Kurzweil 1000 Version 12

Apple 10.6 Snow Leopard


Some varied choices there eh? Well just vote how you feel and we will tackle the rest in a few weeks.

One Month With... The Book Sense

I’ll say this upfront. There is nothing wrong with the Victor Reader Stream. It is a good unit, well designed and it has some great features. For me, however, I found that there were some things about the Book Sense that were more appealing to the type of user that I am. So if you choose to stay with a Stream, upgrade from a Stream or skip buying a Stream all together and buy a Book Sense .. it’s okay. Both devices sound pretty darn good.

Now while I’m being honest here, I don’t really use Audible or NLS. I’m mostly a MP3, podcast and alternate media kind of person. I have a few MP4s and a lot of MP3s. I scan text and read via doc. Or docx. At times. And I listen to music just about, as much as I listen to podcasts. The next bit will be slanted to my style of use. Thought I should clarify that first.

I purchased the Book Sense XT. That is the “off white” and more expensive unit. It is also the one that has Bluetooth headset support, a FM Radio and 4 GB of flash memory on board. I specifically wanted the radio and Bluetooth support. Therefore, my path was set to go for the XT model instead of the Ruby Red model.

I have stayed away from reviews, discussion threads and other avenues of those who have put up their views of the device. I’ve done this for two key reasons. The first being that I’m odd and what I use it for isn’t the norm. The second is that making a direct comparison of the Stream V Book Sense can’t be done yet as the Book Sense is still adding features to its firmware. I can’t tell you how the NLS book reading experience is because that support is coming in an updated software release. Thus, I’m skipping that head-to-head battle cry for now.

My quick impressions though do end up making some connections between the two units. And I see why it is difficult not to pair the two off in a steel cage and watch. With that said, here are some very rough ideas I have about the Book Sense.

It’s a little more complicated than I thought initially. What I mean by that is the addition of a directional pad, to go along with the numeric keypad, ends up making some things a little more confusing at first. You may want to use the numbers for a lot of navigation-based tasks, I know I sure did, but that would be wrong. Learning when to use the nav pad and when is a good time to utilize its powers does take some getting used to for someone who has used the Victor Reader prior to working with the Book Sense. It isn’t a bad thing.. it’s just different.

I absolutely LOVE! The clock and alarm options. Now I know how late I am to the bus, to work or to a family gathering. All along, I’m doing my best to be blissfully ignorant that I am doing so by listening intently to something else instead of said clock and time. No really having that thing say the time in the same pair of headphones has helped me tremendously. This is one key feature that the BS has and that the VRS doesn’t.

I know its super silly but I use the radio .. a lot. I can catch a weather or traffic report then skip back to a book or podcast with just a couple of button presses. Again, this sounds like a minor feature for some. And I know other devices have a talking radio in them. I still like that it is in the same device with the time and alarm on board.

The switch for the key lock! That thing rules. I know it sounds trivial again but I really do like moving that switch to the lock and unlocked position. As often as I travel knowing that I’ve locked the device has saved me tons of time in having to go back to find my place in a file.

Not all, of course, is perfect. And here are a few of my minor quibbles.

I’m not a fan of any equalizer settings. I like the way that you can customize the sound of the Victor Reader Stream more than the preset options on board the Book Sense. Pop sounds too bright and Rock is a little too compressed. I’d love to see a Custom option with bass, treble and controls like those found with the Stream.

The key for jumping to a percentage of a file also just so happens to be the key for deleting a file. And to make matters more confusing the key is context sensitive. So if you are in a file then you jump to a percentage. If not you had better pay attention when the unit asks you if you’re sure you want to delete that file. I know.. I’ve done it when traveling on autopilot.

The buttons can feel mushy at times. It isn’t a deal breaker but for some who need button definition this isn’t for you. The distinct and raised buttons of the Stream may be easier to find for those who have less sensitivity in their fingers. Or, like me, you may find that you press downwards with too much force when multitasking and you flinch when you do this because the front of the device has some give. I also kind of end up pressing too lightly as a result when trying to complete button presses where you have to hold down the button for two seconds. I want to press downwards for the needed number of seconds but I do end up a lot of times not doing so because I don’t want to press down too hard on the face of the unit.

Overall though I can say that I am really happy with my purchase of the Book Sense XT. I would tell those on the fence to wait for the features to show up that they may want. Alternatively, to bite the bullet and buy the device before it goes off sale this September 30th if you are a bargain hunter. Once NLS support arrives, however, the real deal begins and I will revisit what I’ve said here and update things more feature to feature and pound for pound.

JAWS Public Beta 11 Released!

I suggest listening to the FSCast before downloading the public beta. FS goes over some key features that you might not realize are in this update. To find that podcast go to the following link.

And for those who wish to just download the beta go to this link.