Monday, August 02, 2010

Feedback: Apple, Apple And Apples

One of the nice things about my new job is that it allows me to talk more on TRS about a wide array of subjects. Of course, knowing me the way you all do now, I have to get some older topics out of the way first. However, the cool thing is that I’ve got some dynamite comments to reflect back on this time around.

I actually do love the rant in this comment, from the last look back at 2009 post, below. john has posted in comments before, but this one is a bit more topical with a recent podcast I completed on the subject covered by john.

John J Herzog said...

Hi ranger. As always, you've written a thought provoking blog post. What caught my attention was the part about an actual monopoly as opposed to a perceived monopoly.
First, I want to acknowledge your point. Apple's voiceover is in deed the only game in town for the IPhone, IPad, and IPod. If you don't like it, you'd best be looking for a different device. However, I think there is a critical reason why most users, myself included, don't mind the VO monopoly, but do hold a grudge against other screen readers we perceive as monopolistic. . Put simply and bluntly, voiceover works, and works well. It is my experience that the competition does not. As an example, I had talks 4, and updated to talks 5 on my nokia phone. I still cannot use it with the internet, because I keep getting an error that says scrypt alert, undefined value. When doing a read all, it crashes the internet, and I must manually retype the address again to go back to the page. Sometimes talks does this, and sometimes it doesn't.
But it's not just talks, it's mobile speak as well. Neither screen reader supports nokia maps for effective GPS use. Want a compass app? Forget it. Compass pro, though highly recommended by nokia users doesn't work with either product even when phones can support the program. Want a shoutcast and internet radio playing app? Muahahahaha foolish mortal! LCG jukebox, again a major selling app on cymbian doesn't speak a single iota with mobile speak or talks. Yet, these products market to us like they have so much more functionality than the previous version because they implemented a half baked touch interface, or added more keystrokes to the internet.
Now, you could make the argument that I am being too hard on the screen reader developers. After all, they are just a few people, and it's immensely challenging to keep up with an entire platform that moves on without consulting you. I agree with this, but to me, it feels like they're not even trying. Where, on either screen reader web site, do you find a list of evolving support for third party applications? Code factory has a list, but it has long since stagnated.
Where, on either screen reader's web site, do you find tips and how tos of making difficult apps more compatible by changing settings? I don't see any.
I know this has turned into ranting, which is not the aim of the blog post. But, in my mind, this is the most obvious reason why I glare angrily at other screen reader companies, and readily accept voiceover, flaws and all. I know that mobile speak and talks have creative people behind them, but to me, the creativity just doesn't show through when compared to all the functionality of apple's device.
Is it a mistake? I don't know. But until something dramatic happens, I don't see my attitude changing any time soon.

oh John, I don’t disagree at all. I’m really worried about the lack of access in Windows Phone 7, the loss of other platforms by other players and just where does all that leave Mobile Speak and Talks anyway? Google fragmentation almost pales by the comparison. it too is a major concern for mobile phone access.

We cover a lot of those ideas, and more, in Tech Chat 66. in this podcast, I do a bit of explaining about my position on the way I feel on these matters. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

This next comment comes from my April post on iPad first impressions.

Pete said...

I really do agree with your comments about Magnification. This is I really ran into problems. not swiping so much, as I'm used to doing that with the trackpad, but in text composition. I couldn't get the magnification set right to see both the onscreen keyboard *and* the text I was trying to type. I don't really need the keyboard magnified. It's plenty big enough for me to see. It's the *text* I couldn't see. But if this all will make me a better voiceover user, than hey I'm there! Speaking of, do you think practicing with trackpad commander on the Mac is more like VO on the ipad? or is it more just moving around the screen with the cursor, or a bit of both? One comment about where this fits in though, It really can also function as an ipod, and because of the big screen, a really good one for the low vision user. I'm also recommending this as a beginner computer with a mac paradigm for those who're really not ready to take the "big" leap.

This is where having years of Screen Magnifier use bites me where it hurts when it comes to using Voiceover and Magnification. I’m used to the way that Windows, Magic and Zoomtext approach focus navigation. In fact, panning features in Lunar have spoilled me as well. I just can’t wrap my head around the way that Apple wants me to use these things at times. And I find myself often going completly over to Voiceover fully. Mostly because of the focus issues mentioned above. It is super hard to describe, however, it something I advise Low Vision users go into an Apple store and experience for themselves. Especially if you are a high magnification level user. It can be frustrating until you round off the rough edges of iOS and OSX.

Or, I’d also suggest that readers take a look at how Voiceover handles text in Groups and DOM modes. This is way different than the way Windows Screen Magnifiers can read text. I’d even go so far as to say it is a must for those who use focus enhancements for the reading of controls, lines of text or menus. Plus, be careful what you check under Universal Access as to where the viewable area will jump to in pointer navigation. Threw myself badly in Leopard a few years ago by checking a few boxes I shouldn’t have in the choices offered. If was like eating three chilidogs and riding the Feris Wheel that turns you upside down while it takes you up and down at the same time. Thank goodeness for the “restore to defaults” option!

Poll Question Results And New Non Technical Related Poll Question Added

No clear winner in our last poll. Unless you consider that many people are going to buy something Apple based in their future. In that case, Apple won the poll.

Poll Question: The Next iOS Apple Do’hicky I must get Is..

iPhone 4   3 (15%)
iPad   10 (52%)
iPod   3 (15%)
Mac Mini    1 (5%)
I'll never buy an Apple anything   2 (10%)

I’m actually surprised that the iPhone didn’t score higher. The poll closed shortly before the big Bumper scare 2010 took hold in earnest. Which in my mind will forever be remembered as “the day where Steve Jobbs turned on the press’. Talk about biting the hand that fed you.

This next poll question comes from my days in Vocational Rehab and my own struggles to accept my vision loss. The below question is one that is sometimes asked by some members of support groups for those who are newly Blind or who are losing vision later in life. It can say a lot about what one thinks about vision loss or what they find to be important for self confidence. I’ll provide my own honest answer when the poll closes near the end of this month. But for now, how would you answer the following?

Poll Question: If Given One Wish, What Would You Choose?

Restored Or Perfect Vision
One Million Dollars
Fully Retired At Age 60 Or Lower
A Fully Paid For Home

This is one of those questions I find worthy of being great for a discussion on a podcast. Perhaps that may happen one day. Hint, Hint!

Screen Reader Safety Bowling

I want to preface this Ranger Rant by saying that the following opinion is firmly based in the part of my brain which looks at things from an Assistive Technology Training perspective. For those brave unsung heroes of the AT Community generally get the blunt end of things by unwillingly becoming Usability Testers for any new feature in a product. These guys and gals can tell you instantly when something works, or in some cases doesn’t, for a wide spectrum of computer users. The job of training is very rewarding: but it sure ain’t easy.

Imagine the amount of technical knowledge you must command these days to perform this noble job of training your fellow Blind person on even the basics of computing. Let us start with Windows. XP, Vista, 7 and now three flavors of Mac OS. Microsoft Office? 2003, 2007 or 2010? And we haven’t even gotten to the internet yet. The mind reels at the sheer height of the mountain that must be climbed if you want to succeed at being able to train the tons of people out there who either can’t afford to upgrade, or worse, who cannot upgrade easily because they form a dependence on task specific approaches to complete their daily lives.

Do you train on the out of the box interface or do you revert a person back to a Windows Classic look and feel? This question always becomes murky for some because it can play into one’s own bias about the changes that have come to Windows and Office over the years. Some out there will never give up training a person to strike the Windows Key, followed by S and then C to reach Control Panel. They are the same people who are the first to tell me that Windows 7 must be set back to some older interface for Screen Reader compatibility when many in the industry have worked with the out of the box Windows UI for years.

The announcement of the Virtual Ribbon in JAWS 12 has me both intrigued and cautious upon its description from this year’s major conventions. My mixed emotions are hard to sum up quickly on this concept because the feature pushes so many buttons for me; however, I’ll sum most of them up by saying that adding a layer like this to revert a person back to Classic is like bowling with Gutter Guards on both sides of the lane.

Again, from the AT Trainers standpoint, this is just another thing to be mastered in order to teach someone the best practice in navigating through controls and options. And again, like I said above, for some, this feature will enable students to not have to non-visualize the very visual thing that is the Microsoft Ribbon. It makes a lot of sense for those who really want to go back to a time where you could find everything through a series of menus and boxes. I get that, really I do.

The problem I have is that it sets a person apart from their sighted peers though. If you need to find something in a hurry, can you do that from another person’s instruction that just happens to be looking at their computer and the Ribbon? Can you pin common tasks to the Virtual Ribbon’s Home menu as you can in the MS Ribbon to make some tasks easier? I’m not sure but I do know that it means that I now have to learn yet another way of finding things regardless if I am training someone or trouble shooting their computer for technical issues.

I’m all for innovation and making things simple for the end user. It is a battle that is constantly being waged on what is a helping hand and what is an overdependence on macros. I’m thrilled to know that this upcoming JAWS feature is something you can choose to install because choice is always a good thing. I’m just not sure if shielding people from what is the natural User Interface is a better option for some out there. After all, the Ribbon has been fully implemented in all of Office 2010. So it isn’t going away anytime soon.

Learn about this new feature, and more, from the excellent Sight Village coverage from Hit the link below to get to their page with all the Sight Village links.