Saturday, December 31

Interesting Story from ABC News

Greetings. A friend sent me this story from ABC News. It aired on their 20/20 program last night, as well as once before. The story is called, Myths, Lies and Straight Talk, and discusses a list of the 10 most popular myths that have been circling around for years. For whatever reason, the story doesn't list number one, but the other nine are quite interesting. Enjoy.

Pet Care Recommendation

Greetings. I wanted to offer a recommendation for a site to order pet care products from. You can get products and medications for your dog, cat, or horse, and possibly other pets too. The site is Pet Meds. They also have a phone number which is very easy to remember: 1-800-pet-meds, or 1-800-738-6337. Their site is very accessible and easy to use. They have categories of products you can browse through or a search field to go directly to that item you're looking for.

The big thing that impressed me about this site was the ship time. I ordered some more of the Frontline Plus flea medicine for Tony a couple of days ago. Earlier this morning, there was a knock on my door, but no one was there. When I opened the door though and stepped out, I found a box on my front stoop. When I opened it, I found the flea medicine inside. So, from the time I ordered it on Thursday and it was sent on the same day, it only took a couple of days. The site uses USPS priority mail for their standard shipping method, though you can choose another method (for extra cost) if you like. And, for orders more than $40 I believe, they offer free shipping. I consider this a definite reason to return to the site.

Anyway, after this first experience, I highly recommend Pet Meds. For those wondering, the Frontline Plus from Pet Meds saved me a good $12 or $13 verses buying it at the vet. And I bought a 3-month supply. They also offer 6 and 12 month supplies too. In the check out process, they offer to send you a reminder to get more medicine. You can choose what month you want the reminder in. I consider this a great additional service, since we all know how busy we can get. Plus, they give you a free dog bone or cat nip in the box with your product. I'm not sure if this is done for all products or just the flea medicine, but cool all the same. The dog bone is about the size of the average milk bone or treat you'd see in a pet store, maybe a little longer, but not too much.

Friday, December 30

Reflections on 2005

Greetings. Well, we've reached the end of another year and I suppose some reflections are in order.

This year has been an interesting one for me. First of all, I fully discovered blogging and have had this space on Blogger. Its been interesting to watch the various challenges and how they were hhandled by Blogger and Google in general. At this point, I don't see any real progress, in terms of accessibility, with Blogger or Google. Hopefully that will change at some point, in terms of the visual verification code. At least they could offer an audio code that could speak the code to those that can't read it on screen, something like what Live Journal does. Anyway, it's also been interesting to keep track and put links to some interesting technology articles on this blog, such as: cities getting Wi-Fi access, the continuing battle between the Cable and phone companies for customers, and countless other articles of personal interest to me, and I hope to you as well.

On the personal level, this year has presented me with quite a few memorable moments/events, such as, in no particular order:

* Going to Guatemala to visit my parents: not just seeing them but also learning about another culture and traveling internationally, and recording all those things on the blog/website.
* Practicing my interviewing skills with countless phone interviews and even a few in person ones. One in person interview that sticks out to me is one I did back in March, when I met a sales representative for VisuAide at a nearby Starbucks, and interviewed for an 8-10 week position promoting the Maestro handheld digital assistant. Though I didn't get that job, I think that it improved my interviewing skills. And, well, it was just fun to go to Starbucks after church and sit there with my PAC Mate and connecting to the Starbucks free wireless network, not to mention talking with this salesman.
* And, probably one of the biggest things to happen to me in my career thus far, being laid off from the Assistive Technology Center. Though its not a pleasant highlight, and though I had been looking for a job sometime before that and had planned on leaving the ATC eventually, it did lead me to the next highlight.
* Pursuing, interviewing for and getting the technology trainer job down in Austin. This is one highlight that is not fully completed yet since I have yet to move there. Though next year's year end reflections should be interesting, in light of the fact that I will have nearly a year's worth of full time work to reflect upon.

Some lesser highlights, but highlights all the same include, in no particular order: going to the farewell concert for Petra in November, starting active and regular attendance at my local church (Scofield Memorial), and taking care of my former guide dog, Tony.

There are likely things I'm missing here, but that's ok. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time and know me fairly well, then you probably already know what those things are, even if I can't remember right now.

So, here's to a good end to 2005 and a great 2006! Good luck to your favorite team in the annual bowl season, which for me means: "Hook 'em Horns!"

Monday, December 26

Christmas 2005

Greetings. Since the Thanksgiving post from last month included the year, why not Christmas?

Saturday after the Cowboys game, my dad picked me and Tony up to go back to my parents' house. (One quick note here on the Cowboys' win: yes, they won; but do they deserve to be in the play offs? I think not, but that's another topic altogether). I got Tony settled at my parents house and then my dad and I went to Neil and Brandy's house for a family dinner. There was even an aunt and two of my cousins there, in from a small East Texas town. That was cool to see them and have one of those large family gatherings, one with more than 8 people. My grandmother, on my mom's side, had also come in town and was staying with my parents as well.

Saturday night, my parents, my aunt, my brother Tim and I all went to a Christmas program at my parents church. It was a good program, as Christmas programs go. One part that really was neat I thought was the reading of several letters. The program's theme was Letters of Christmas, and they had a video of someone talking to different kids about letters to Santa, different people on stage that were acting the roles of people in one's family (like a mother, a soldier serving overseas, and others). Well, toward the end of the program, different people read letters written from God and addressed to the reader. Some of them were written, "Dear Lonely One," "Dear Hurried One," "Dear Blessed One," and others. The one that spoked to me in particular was the Lonely One letter. That was cool and different.

I slept, if you can call it that, at my parents house Christmas Eve night. I say this because I slept on a couch in our living room, but there are no doors that can shut the room off from the other parts of the house. So, as a result, I heard every sound from the kitchen and even the TV which was two rooms away. Needless to say, I got probably about as much sleep at my mother did, not actually getting to sleep until after midnight and waking early Sunday morning. Next year, I will probably fly in from Austin, and at that time, I'm going to insist on being in a room where you can close a door. Where I sleep isn't a big issue, since I've slept on many floors before. But, being able to close that door for some quiet is a luxury that I didn't have this time around.

I know that we can't control what day Christmas actually falls on, but I don't mind saying that it was weird to have it on a Sunday. There were time that it really felt like christmas, and other times when it just felt like any other Sunday, especially after the big Christmas dinner. It was odd to think that you could go to church like normal, even though it was a Holiday.

It was a good Christmas though, being with family and just hanging out. I spent some good quality time with my youngest nephew, who's a year and a half old, and happens to be named after me: Cameron. I seem to be one of his favorite people, or he really likes to cuddle. I carried him around and we looked at light switches, lights, some mirrors, talked about people in the mirror (mainly him and me), and generally had a good time. I'm not sure what it is though: whenever we move around and I have him facing me or away from me in my arms, he's fine. As soon as I sit down though and try to get comfortable, he gets restless and wants to get down. Consequently, when we do spend lots of time together, my arms get tired after awhile. Oh well; its fun all the same.

As for gifts, I came out pretty well, with many new kinds of clothes, mainly for my pending work but good stuff all the same. I also got a couple of gift certificates, and a set of 4 dishes from my parents, which include 4 glasses, salad plates, regular plates, and cereal bowls. Those will definitely be put to good use. I'm going to go from using paper and plastic silverware and dishes to real ones. That's going to be weird, having used the paper/plastic ones for so many years on my own. I don't mind the change though, :)

Over all, it was a good Christmas, even if it did fall on a Sunday. My aunt said on Saturday that Christmas Eve is feeling more and more like Christmas Day, and I think she's right on that. I guess we'll find out what it feels like to have Christmas Eve on a Sunday next year. Hopefully you had a good time with your family/friends too. Personally the Christmas feeling really doesn't end until we get to, or even past, New Years. And, the new resolutions don't really start until January 1, or maybe even next Monday this year, so you still have time to indulge yourself before the new diet starts. Sounds good to me, grin.

Wednesday, December 21

Funny Dog Article

Greetings. I was organizing my email today and came across this funnny article in a message from several months ago. It's worth the read though. Enjoy.

This article is from the Fictitious times. It's fascinating. You won't
see it anywhere else.

Blind Dogs Sue dog Guide Schools
By Sherry Lens

Washington--A number of organizations composed of blind dogs and other
interested independent dogs today announced that they would sue the major
dog guide schools in the United States for discrimination against blind
dogs who apply to be dog guides.

"We just can't be considered as things are now," said Kay Wolf, head of
the National Federation of Blind Dogs. "As soon as schools find out we're
blind, they disqualify us." Kay pointed out, and demonstrated how dogs
can travel using canes which they hold in their mouths at a press

"We can do just as good a job finding obstacles as sighted dogs," said
Roofus Woofer, President of The American Council of blind Dogs. "we can
use canes, our hearing and our sense of smell to lead blind people around
obstacles, find streets, and all the other things dog guides do. We're
blind, that doesn't mean we're helpless," he continued. "what sort of
message does it send to blind people when dog guide schools reject blind
dogs to be dog guides?"

"this is a potentially milestone case," said Allen Dirthawitch, professor
of law at Hale University. "These dogs are attempting to have the courts
extend civil rights legislation to classes other than people."

Dog guide schools responded today that they have no intention of
discriminating. "These are very difficult, demanding jobs," said Hugh
Huxter, head of one of the nations most prestigious dog guide schools.
Even sighted dogs find their duties taxing."

Tuesday, December 20

TXU to Offer DPL

Greetings. Here's an interesting story from called TXU 'smart grid' to offer Net service. For those that may not know, "DPL" stands for data over powerlines. Though the service will cover the Dallas/Fort Worth area initially, I hope it moves to other parts of the state at some point, like Austin, :)

Saturday, December 17

Notice for Anyone with a Credit Card

Greetings. If you don't have a credit or debit card, then you can probably skip this post. For everyone else, listen up.

I heard on today's weekly Kim Komando radio show that on this coming Monday and Tuesday, you will want to pay close attention to your credit and debit card transactions. Since these days will not only be the last days you can order things to be delivered by Christmas, but they will also be prime days for thiefs to attempt to steal your information, and/or purchase items with your card information. If this happens, then notify your bank or credit card company immediately.

Friday, December 16

24 Hours Later

Greetings. Well, its been an exciting 24 hours. It seems odd that all this started yesterday afternoon at 1:30 with the offer, almost like a dream. I suppose that it might be like that a few times over the next month and a half.

Anyway, I've received quite a few congratulatory calls and emails from various people around the country, which is cool and appreciated. I followed up a couple of apartment recommendations from the technology manager at Criss Cole, and the apartments look like a good deal. They're definitely ones I'll make note of and check out. One complex is literally 4 blocks north of the center, on a bus line, near shopping and restaurants, and has good rent for what I'm looking for. The other complex is not within walking distance, but is on a bus line, near a mall, restaurants, small grocery store, and other things. The big reason why this second complex stands out for me is that several of the staff live there that work at the Center. Rent also looks good. Anyway, I'll definitely check both places when I go to Austin in January to check places out.

I had lunch with a friend from church. I guess that's another benefit of getting a job: everyone wants to take you to lunch or dinner, which isn't that bad either, grin. Anyway, it's kind of funny with this particular church friend. We've said ever since I moved into the efficiency that we were going to go out to lunch, but for whatever reason, we never did. Now, I'm getting ready to move to Austin and I get lunch out of him. Oh well. It was fun all the same.

Given the good thoughts and things that have happened in the first 24 hours, I'm inclined to wonder what might happen in the next 24 or 48 hours? Though I'm thinking that the pace of things will probably likely slow down a little--or maybe not, :)

Last night I had trouble getting to sleep, since every time I would get comfortable, I would think of the job and get excited all over again and wake myself up. There's a good possibility of that happening again in the next month or so as well. Though I hope it doesn't happen too many times, else I won't get any sleep, :)

So, this is the excited Wayne, signing off.

Thursday, December 15

Exciting Job News

Greetings. It's been an interesting week on the job front. The mountain top however was a call I got this afternoon at about 1:30, from the technology manager who's hiring for the job at the state training center in Austin. He officially made an offer to me, which I accepted. I will start on February 1. There are still a detail or two that need to be worked out to make it totally official, but he doesn't expect any problems, and neither do I.

I've been spending the afternoon emailing and calling family and close friends and telling them of the great news, as well as trying to digest it myself. The reason the start date is a ways off is due to some delays that have happened in this process. However, now I've come full circle.

I have been a consumer that has gone to this particular training center, twice in fact. Now, I'll be standing in front of the room and teaching people who are consumers. Things will really seam weird I think when the high school and college students come in next June for the summer college preparation course that they have every year. So when a young kid looks over and proclaims, "You have no idea what I'm going through," I can confidently reply with, "Wanna bet?"

There's a lot of things to do and prepare for in the time before I start, like finding an apartment, moving, settling in, and countless others. However, for now, I'm just enjoying the thought of having a full time job with a good starting salary, full benefits, and, well, the thought of being employed again.

Friday, December 9

Winamp 5.12

Greetings. Winamp version 5.12 is out. Note that this is 5.12, not 5.112, like the last minor version. Anyway, here's a list of the new features, fixes, and other changes, taken from the What's New file:

* New: [in_wm] Windows Media Video support (with DRM)
* New: [in_mp4] Support for HE-AAC MP4/M4A files
* Improved: lots of minor plugin improvements
* Improved: Visualization data calculations
* Improved: Significantly less playlist memory usage
* Improved: more multi-user improvements (almost there!)
* Improved: [installer] setup options, saved settings, codec downloading
* Improved: [gen_ff] optimized skinning engine
* Improved: [out_disk] new features
* Improved: [in_cdda] playback/ripping with sonic engine
* Fixed: freezing when cancelling cd burn
* Fixed: video scaling bug (with modern skin scaling < 100%)
* Fixed: minor installer bugs
* Fixed: freeze when loading classic skin with main window hidden
* Fixed: Visualizations for 24bit and 32bit songs
* Fixed: Advanced Title Formatting with Japanese, Chinese and Korean
metadata (thanks mrym)
* Fixed: [in_mp3] raw AAC VBR file seeking and bitrate reporting
* Fixed: [in_mp4] unicode metadata writing
* Fixed: [in_wm/in_dshow] mms:// streaming video playback
* Fixed: [in_cdda] audio cd bitrate display
* Fixed: [in_cdda] Sonic engine on 64bit windows (thanks STanger)
* Fixed: lots of small bugs ...
* Updated: Sonic CD Engine 2.2.50
* Updated: libmp4v2 1.4.1
* Updated: Coding Technology AAC+ Decoder 7.2.0

It looks like there are a few significant improvements and fixes in this minor version, though I must admit that I don't understand all of the lingo. Regardless, here's a direct link to download it.

Thursday, December 8


Greetings. On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was shot. On December 8, 2004, Dime Bag Darrell of the heavy metal groups Pantera and Damage Plan, was shot while performing with the latter group in a concert. There are some similarities of these two dying on the same day.

Granted, fans of one probably haven't heard of or liked the music of the other, but these two men were icons, and possibly even legendary, in their own rights. John Lennon was famous from being a Beatle; enough said. Dime Bag, whose real name is Darrell Abbott (pardon any misspellings), was the lead guitarist for the heavy metal groups Pantera (popular in the 80's and 90's), and more recently for Damage Plan.

Dime Bag, as fans called him, was an excellent guitarist. At his death a year ago, I heard that he was on a list of the top 10 or 20 guitarists in the world, at number seven. I'm not a big fan of Dime Bag, but I do like some of Pantera's songs. I remember hearing a story of when Pantera performed in an ampla theater in the Dallas area some years ago. (Warning: not for the easily offended). Dime Bag needed to use the restroom while performing on stage, but instead of interrupting his song, he had someone hold a cup off stage. He kept playing the guitar the whole time he was taking care of business. I've also heard that he was a very approachable guy and not stuck up like some musicians that make it big. I never had the chance to meet him, but my friend Heather, said she's met him at a music store once. She said that he was very nice.

I was never really a big Beatles fan, at least not compared with some people. Sure, I like some of their songs. Who doesn't? But I like mainly music after 1975 or 1980. I do respect John Lennon and the other Beatles, those that have passed on and those that are still here, for what they did as musicians and the impact they had around the world. Even 40 years later, you still hear Beatles songs on the radio, and you probably will for a long time to come.

Two musicians in their own rights, died on the same day. People die everyday, but sometimes these deaths fall on the same day of each other, or have other coincidental similarities.

To those that are or were fans of John Lennon or Dime Bag Darrell Abbott, I say, "Cheers!"

Weather Update

Greetings. Thought I'd give a weather update on the massive storm system that hit the Dallas area. Well, true to form, the area is shut down. Since I'm out of school, I didn't really pay attention to the school closings, but as it happened, many schools and districts did close today. Mainly, there's just ice onn the roads, lawns, and possibly some sidewalks.

My parents came back from Guatemala yesterday for the Christmas season and I went with them over to Neil and Brandy's new house for dinner. My mother was very concerned about the steps at my duplex icing up and my safety in going down them with Tony when I took him out this morning. I assured her that I'd be careful and take things slow. As it turned out though, the steps didn't really ice over too much, at least not to the point of being as slick as glass, which I've seen before a few times at other places (remember my Denton story yesterday?). I was careful, but I also was amused by how little ice there was.

One other thing about the weather and news people from yesterday. I heard one of them say that this was, "the first snow of the season." I nearly burst out laughing and said to the radio, "Yeah, and we sure do get lots of snow down here." Truthfully, this will probably be our only big winter storm for the season. We might have another small one in February, as has happened in the past few years, but remember, we are talking about Dallas. My parents told me last night that I'd be a good weatherman, and I replied with, "Why? Because I would be truthful and realistic?"

It is another cold day though and I suspect that most people are spending the day inside, under the covers, under quilts, or even by fireplaces. As it is, I've got the heat turned up a lot in my efficiency, am fully clothed, and am still cold sitting at my computer desk, for whatever reason. Oh well. It's supposed to be in the forties tomorrow and in the fifties and sixties over the weekend. That's Texas weather for you, :)

More Problems for Sony

Greetings. It appears that Sony's problems with copy protected CD's aren't over yet, according to the article Sony BMG urges security fix for CDs from the Associated Press. This particular page also lists some of the forum comments by people regarding Sony's problems. These comments are quite interesting and thought provoking to read. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 7

The 10:00 Back Down

Greetings. The title of this post comes from a theory that I've heard on the radio from time to time. It has to do with severe weather, in the snow and sleet category. It says that, weathermen on TV (and possibly on radio as well), when a winter storm is approaching the Dallas area, will overstate the obvious and claim that we might get several inches of snow. But then the night before, they will "back down" from the prediction, and lower it to as little as half or a quarter inch of snow or sleet, or none at all. Case in point, I remember 10 years ago, I was going on a ski trip with my church college group. Before I left for the trip, the weathermen were predicting 4 inches of snow. 5 days later, when we were on our way back, I heard a similar prediction, but this time, the weatherman said it would only be half an inch, if that much.

Since the Dallas area doesn't get lots of snow/sleet to begin with, at least not compared with parts of the central or northern U.S., or even far north or west Texas, people tend to freak out when snow and/or sleet, or even freezing rain, is predicted. And even more when it begins to fall. In short, the entire Dallas and Fort Worth metroplex shuts down.

I bring all this up because today, we're under a winter storm warning. Now, I don't expect too much of The 10:00 Back Down to happen, since it appears to be true, and we very well might get some acumulation on the ground. However, this also depends on where you are. If you live north of the DFW area, then you're more likely to get snow and sleet acumulation, verses living in the southern portion of the area where you will likely get freezing rain or sleet that will freeze and could become real icy on the roads.

Keep in mind that we are talking about Dallas, Texas; the place where it can be snowing one day and in the forties the next. So its not like its going to sleet or snow, and we're going to be shut down any longer than one or two days. Not to mention the fact that these winter storms have tended to only happen once every 4 or 5 years. Granted, they are becoming more common in recent years, happening once a year, but we're still only talking about Dallas. When I went to school in Denton, at the University of North Texas, we got snow and slush more times than Dallas did, since Denton is about an hour north of the DFW area. As I say though, even in Denton, the snow was gone whenever it got above 35 degrees.

So here we are, in the midst of another winter storm; the Metroplex is shutting down and people are being encouraged to stay inside if they don't have to get out. There may be those that will say, "But, even though Dallas doesn't get snow all the time, it can get real bad there." And, I would agree. There are some years when the winter storm has created layers and sheets of ice on the roads, the sidewalks, and other places. I remember once in Denton several years ago where it really iced over, and in fact in many parts of the Dallas area. From where I was in my dorm, the ice covered the metal steps on several of the outdoor uncovered dorm stairways. So, in those cases, it was highly recommended that you stay inside. Or, if you were adventurous, you get a box top and as some have said, "Hit the brakes and go for distance." I was not that adventurous, partly because I didn't have a box top, but mainly because I was too scared to attempt going down the icy stairs.

I guess we'll see what tonight and tomorrow hold for the area.

Tuesday, December 6

KeySoft 7 Features and Thoughts

Greetings. The following was taken from the message that's making the rounds on the email list, concerning the upcoming release of KeySoft 7 for the BrailleNote line of products. If you own this product, then contact your dealer or HumanWare for more information on upgrading and so forth. I have only listed the features that will be in version 7, which is supposed to be out sometime next month. Here they are:

Key Base, Available on All Models

With KeyBase, you've got it sorted! This new application, available from
KeySoft's Main Menu, is a powerful database manager allowing easy creation
of your own databases. KeyBase ships with many useful databases to assist
you in cataloging your music collection, keeping track of home inventory,
entering recipes, logging ham radio contacts and so much more. But the step
by step wizard-style interface of KeyBase makes it a snap to create your own
databases too. Simply tell KeyBase the names of your fields and the type of
data you want to store in that field. Be specific right down to the kind of
Braille you want to be entered into a field if you wish. Want to share your
database with others? Then you can even customize the messages users read
when they press the help key when entering data into each field.

KeyBase allows easy importing and exporting to and from many applications
including Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access and many on-line banking

KeyPlus Just Got Smarter with Fractions, Available on All Models

Work with fractions in the updated KeyPlus Scientific Calculator. As well as
performing standard mathematical operations, you can convert fractions to
decimals and vice versa, convert fractions to and from percentages, convert
a fraction to its lowest terms, and much more.

Let the Games Begin, available on all models

One of the most frequent questions asked of HumanWare about the BrailleNote
family has always been, "can you play games on this?" Now, the answer is a
resounding yes, as interactive fiction comes to KeySoft. Interactive
fiction, also known as text adventures, will take you into mysterious worlds
where you can look at your environment, move around, collect objects, talk
to all kinds of strange creatures and sometimes find yourself trapped. There
are hundreds of compatible interactive fiction games available for download
on the Internet, ranging from educational titles for kids right through to
epic fantasy for the serious gamer, and you can play them right on your
BrailleNote or VoiceNote.
Easily switch in and out of games when you need to check e-mail or make a
note, play music in the background while you solve the latest mystery, or
save games for later resumption.

Braille Input for JAWS for Windows, available on all models

Window-eyes users have for some time been able to control their Windows PC
from their BrailleNote in Braille terminal mode. Now, that feature is
available for JAWS for Windows users as well. Compose e-mail, write a
Microsoft Word document or work with your spreadsheets on your PC, all from
your BrailleNote's keyboard.

More Configurable E-mail, available on all models

Some Internet service providers are now using non-standard POP and SMTP
server ports as an attempt to increase security. While most users will not
need to be concerned with this, those customers on Internet providers
adopting this approach can now specify any port for both POP and SMTP

More Bluetooth Support, available on BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower, and
BrailleNote PK

The integrated Bluetooth support in BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower and
BrailleNote PK just got even more useful! In KeySoft 7 you can,

* Use your device as a remote synthesizer for your PC with no wires
attached. Take your BrailleNote or VoiceNote mPower or BrailleNote PK up to
10 meters (30 feet) away from your PC and still hear what your screen reader
is saying.

* Use your device as a wireless Braille display. With BrailleNote
mPower and PK operating as a wireless Braille display, coupled with the
keyboard input functionality, you have complete control over your PC as far
as 10 meters (30 feet) away from your PC. Take the BrailleNote outside on a
sunny day and keep on working on your PC using the keyboard input
functionality. Control a PowerPoint presentation in front of your audience,
even when the PC is tucked away in an inconvenient place. The possibilities
are limitless!

* Drive a wireless visual display. Want to give a presentation using
data on your BrailleNote? Are you a teacher who wants to be able to check a
student's work with no wires or fuss? The extension of the visual display
function to include Bluetooth makes all this possible. Use a range of
devices for the visual display function including Palm Pilots and Windows

Voice Recorder for BrailleNote PK

The popular voice recorder for BrailleNote mPower arrives on BrailleNote PK
in KeySoft 7. Just press the handy record button on the front of your
BrailleNote PK, and make recordings using the built-in microphone.

Eloquence Speech for BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower

HumanWare's BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower becomes the first device of its
kind to offer you a choice of speech synthesizer. Use the highly responsive
and accurate KeyNote Gold speech that has been one of KeySoft's strongest
features, or switch to the familiar Eloquence speech that is now widely
available on access technology products. When Eloquence is active, you may
also choose to have hyperlinks voiced in a different Eloquence voice when
using KeyWeb, making the web really come to life.

Fm Radio for BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower

That's right, your BrailleNote or VoiceNote mPower is now an FM radio too!
Scan the FM band for your stations and save them as presets. Read the
frequency on the Braille display or the station name if you've saved that
information. Listen to the FM radio while you work on other tasks. Control
the volume of the FM radio separately from the volume of the speech. Even
use the recorder to record FM radio stations.

There you go. For the most part, I think that HumanWare is sticking to their model of only using proprietary software, or software that they make for the BrailleNote and related products. They do appear to be stepping out with regards to the interactive fiction genre. However, compared with the PAC Mate, that's not the same as playing a mainstream game like Jawbreaker, which comes preinstalled on the PAC Mate. Though interactive fiction is better than putting people in a proprietary game environment.

Over all though, I think that HumanWare is still playing catch up with the PAC Mate and Freedom Scientific. FS doesn't have a built in FM radio, but this is one of the things that I think should be optional. Sure, if it were on my PM, then I'd likely use it, but its not something I'm going to run out and get on a note taker either. HumanWare is closing the gap as far as Bluetooth access though, and FS might need to address this issue at some point. Though fixing the lack of built in Bluetooth on the PM might very well require some sort of hardware upgrade, or an upgrade to a newer Windows Mobile framework for the PM. However, at some point FS will need to upgrade the Windows Mobile component anyway in order to stay competitive and to continue to work with other devices.

It would be unfair for me to pass any sort of judgment on the new version of KeySoft if I did not see it, but based on these features, it looks like HumanWare is still running to catch up with the PAC Mate. I don't see anything on this list that makes me say, "Wow, they're really stepping up to the plate with that one." Perhaps in KeySoft 7.5 or 8 they will. Then again, Freedom Scientific will likely have things in PM version 4.0 that will raise the bar that much higher. And so goes the note taker saga.

Saturday, December 3


Greetings. Usually when I post, I have a clear idea of what I want to say. Not tonight. Pardon any random thoughts or topic shifts that happen.

It's been a month to the day that I was last at my job at the Assistive Technology Center, and this fact along with where I currently sit, has caused me to do some reflecting. A month ago, I wasn't sure where I would go or how I would get there. I had questions of where my income would come from, what kind of job would be my next job, and more. In other words, I was thinking of many of the things that I'm guessing many people think after being laid off. A month later, on December 3, I have some of the same questions, but I'm better off than I was back on November 3.

In the last month, I've had a phone interview, gone for an in person interview and mock training demonstrations, and made other progress on the job front. I have, in various stages, contacted and am waiting on replies from three different companies/groups on job opportunities. Of these opportunities, one is with a state training center (haven't heard anything back yet on that, for those wondering), in customer service and in help desk/technical support. I expect I will hear something soon from the state training center, since when I interviewed with them, I got the impression that they wanted to get someone down there in somewhat of a hurry. So, I don't think it will be too much longer before I hear back from them. As far as what I will hear, I have no idea.

At the same time though, I'm left with some of the same questions I had a month ago, such as income and how this Christmas season will turn out, and what might lay ahead for me in January. I find myself thinking about the upcoming national convention of the National Federation of the Blind next summer which will be in Dallas, and wondering if I can afford to go to it. I find myself thinking about a spring seminar that I've been asked to speak at in April, and wondering if I will be able to afford that as well. If I get a full time job between now and then, I know I will. However, having never had a full time job before, I find myself thinking about the money that I might make and questioning how it might be to have a constant flow of full time money flowing in. I'm not dumb enough to think that I won't have any expenses at all, but these are just some of the thoughts that I've had.

So, I come to the end of this post not really knowing if I accomplished my goal at the start of this post. At least I've put my thoughts out here on paper/the Web. So that feels better I suppose. One more thought before I close. I've also thought about the amounts of money that I could make at some of these jobs, and how one job potentially could pay more than another. Not having gotten any offers, I can't really go far with this thought, I'll admit, but its still a thought that keeps coming back to me.

So, this is the thoughtful and reflective Wayne, signing off.