Tuesday, August 29

Announcement from HumanWare

Greetings. I received the following announcement from an email list. Well, it was only a matter of time before this kind of announcement came from them. No matter how much a company may want to have more than one version of their product out on the market, sooner or later, they will yield to the more recent version and drop support/development for the older one. Granted, HumanWare's still going to support the Classic models of BrailleNote and VoiceNotes, but how long will that last? There may come a time when that is dropped too. Anyway, enjoy the following. And, if you still own one of the classic models, its probably about time you upgrade to the newer mPower, or even better, a PAC Mate, :) As always, please excuse any formatting errors.


In June 2005, HumanWare released the next generation of information
management systems for the blind, BrailleNote and VoiceNote mPower. To thank
our loyal customer base for their support, we made two commitments.

Firstly, because we appreciate that funding for assistive technology may
only be available to an individual once every few years, we undertook to
release new versions of Key Soft for the BrailleNote and VoiceNote Classic
for as long as possible.

Secondly, we introduced our extremely popular transplant programme, allowing
BrailleNote Classic customers the chance to have our latest technology for
around a third of the cost of a new unit in the case of those owning 32-cell

The transplant programme will continue into the foreseeable future , giving
customers access to the many benefits available exclusively on BrailleNote
and VoiceNote mPower. However, as we start to plan for exciting future
enhancements to KeySoft, it is becoming clear that many of the features we
wish to add are not technically possible on the Classic platform. On that
basis, HumanWare is giving notice that KeySoft 7.2 will be the second to
last upgrade available for the Classic family. There will be a final update
for BrailleNote classic released next year. For this reason, once KeySoft
7.2 is released, software maintenance agreements will no longer be available
for the BrailleNote and VoiceNote Classic.

We wish to stress that technical support and servicing will still be
available for BrailleNote Classic, which continues to be a powerful
information management tool.

Please also note that should you take advantage of the transplant programme,
any counts remaining on your Software maintenance Agreement will be
transferred to your BrailleNote mPower.

Should you have any queries, as always, please don't hesitate to contact
your nearest HumanWare office.

Jonathan Mosen
BrailleNote Product Marketing Manager
Christchurch New Zealand

Wednesday, August 23

For Those That Download Music

Greetings. I came across this in my daily blog reading. The following is submitted for all those that either downloaded or thought about downloading music from artists. This is the contribution by Weird Al on his mySpace page. Enjoy.


Tuesday, August 15

Feeling Sick and Working

Greetings. Well, it turned out that my sickness lasted into yesterday. I had a soar throat and congestion, which is not a pleasant combination for a teacher to have. I decided Sunday evening to stay home yesterday, just to make sure I was over the illness. I’ve been taking various medications and drinking fluids, the usual stuff, for the past several days, and I think that really made a big difference. What also helped was a hint a good friend from Dallas gave me to get rid of the congestion: to stand in a steamy shower for 15-20 minutes, or more, and take deep breaths. I had never heard of that before, but figured, “Why not?” So I tried it and the next day the congestion started loosening up.

By yesterday afternoon, I felt 100 percent better and was able to get up and around my apartment and do some things. It was a good decision to stay home that day.

However, staying home presented me with another set of emotions—how to fill the time away from work. I’m the kind of person that doesn’t get sick very often. Usually, when I do get sick, I’m really sick. Thankfully that wasn’t the case this time around. In other words, I rarely take sick days. So, while I was taking my meds and sleeping off the stuff yesterday, part of me kept wondering if I should be somewhere and doing something besides sleeping. I also worried a lot about how the other teachers were going to cover my classes, in addition to any other absences, of which I know at least one other guy was out due to sickness. I’m usually one of the people that covers other people’s keyboarding class when they get sick or are out for whatever reason. But, at least until now, I’ve never been the one that’s been out and needed people to cover for me.

Yesterday and today were complete opposites in the feelings of the day. Yesterday I was wondering how they would get along at work and what I should do. Today, I was so grateful to be back at work and doing things I enjoy, seeing students and coworkers, and accomplishing things, teaching people, etc. It would be a stretch to say that I know everything about my job at this point. But I was certainly glad to be back in an environment where I could contribute to my job and grow, verses sick at home. That will likely be my only absence from sickness this year, or I hope so anyway. Interesting how yesterday and today were complete opposites though.

First Test Results

Note: I wrote this post yesterday, but haven't been able to publish it until now.

Greetings. Well, I can happily report that all of my students got A's on the first test this past Friday! Considering that I was told that, at least in the past, students haven't done as well on the first test and have had to do a retake, I'm quite pleased and proud of them.

For the first time since I've been working in Austin, I had to go home Friday afternoon due to a failing voice and otherwise not feeling like myself. I felt like quite the teacher when I put my students' floppy disks in my backpack to take home to grade. That was a weird but cool feeling.

Now on to the next batch of Windows material: dialog boxes. This is arguably the hardest part of the course for students. Try explaining the different controls of a dialog box, much less what a dialog box is, to someone who has never used them before. But, all that's tomorrow. For now, I'm enjoying the moment, and patting myself on the back for a job well done.

Tuesday, August 8

PAC Mate 4.1 Released

Greetings. If you have a PAC Mate with version 4.0, the free PAC Mate 4.1 Update came out yesterday. This update was mainly put out to fix some reported problems with FS Edit in terms of saving files. Its good to see FS fix problems like this right away, instead of pushing the fixes back to the next update or upgrade. Version 4.1 also introduces some new minor features, such as giving the PAC Mate Help the appearance of big JAWS help. In other words, you can use JAWS Key+W for Windows related help, and JAWS Key+H for PM specific hotkey help. Read more about the update on the page above. Note that if you don't have a compact flash card, you can get the update from Freedom Scientific for a slight fee. So, if you don't have one yet for some reason, I'd advise getting a compact flash card for updating your unit, as well as for storing files and other things on. A card between 16-512 megabytes is recommended. I've heard of problems where people with a 1 gig card or larger were not able to update their units, for whatever reason. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 6

Can You Feel It?

Greetings. Can you feel it? Can you smell the the astroturf, the freshly mowed grass? Can you hear it, the clatter of helmets and pads as they collide?

Yes, its almost that time of year; football season. Or, just time for football in general. Can you feel the anticipation of Sunday night football on NBC? I can. Sure, it will be different having Sunday night football on NBC, verses Monday night football on ABC. However, all things must change, hopefully for the better. It was cool though to hear Madden and Michaels talk about the game in particular and various teams and the upcoming season in general.

As I was watching the opening moments on NBC tonight, and as I've been going back there from time to time, I can feel the anticipation of another great season. And why not? Its pre-season for goodness sake, when everything looks bright and promising; when all teams (except the Raiders and Eagles, since they're playing tonight) are undefeated. When hopes and dreams are planted and nurtured, and the goal of getting into the playoffs, and dare I say even the Superbowl, look brighter than ever.

Ok, so you're not a pro-foot ball fan. So you're into college ball. How 'bout them Horns? Defending a national title and starting over with a new promising season and a new quarterback. That's one thing that will be fun to watch this season, to see the Texas Longhorns as they go through their games, from the city of the Horn, Austin, Texas.

Or, perhaps you're into high school football. How about that new series on NBC called Friday Night Lights, which will start on October 3 at 7pm Central time. Just like the book and movie of the same name, this show will follow the season of a Texas high school football team as they try to get the state title.

Any way you slice it, its going to be a great season, for whatever team you like.

Let me ask you one more question: "Are you ready for some football?"

First Week Reflections

Greetings. Well, as the title says, I had my first week of teaching a class. I'm still doing keyboarding--everyone does keyboarding--but, I got another class. This past week marked several significant points for me.

First, last Tuesday, August 1, I officially hit the 6 month mark since being at my new job. Which meant that I moved off the new employee/probation period, to a regular full time employee. That felt pretty good to go to work knowing that. However, as if that weren't enough, a class was starting for me to teach that day. That class was a nice layer of icing on my work status change.

So, the new class is: Windows, tada! The first day had me, oh, slightly nervous, :) But I got through it fine.

I must say though that it felt kind of weird to walk in the room with several disks and hard copy Braille outlines, and then realize that I was the only teacher there. This wasn't another class I would be observing, but rather one where I would be doing the teaching.

It also felt weird, but good, to hand out the disks and outlines to the students. After years and many hours of classes of getting outlines and other papers about those classes, I was the one to hand out the papers and go over the material for them for once. I was still nervous, to be sure, but as I went through the class, reviewing material from the keyboarding class and segwaying into the Windows material, I gradually relaxed and even started enjoying myself. This was what I came to Austin to do: to teach group classes. Even the thought of group classes would, and did, scare me when I started back in February, but I've come a long way since then. And here I was with my own class. Can we say pride?

Thursday and Friday went well and helped make things gradually easier for me. I still get a little nervous the day of a class, but as I said before, that will probably always happen. I would be worried if it didn't happen, especially at this point in my group class teaching. By the end of class on Friday though, I felt pretty good about things. I was able to inform my students, with confidence, that we would shoot for this coming Friday for our first test, which seems to fit with the material we're covering and what's ahead.

So, this is the satisfied and proud Wayne, signing off until next time.

Tuesday, August 1

First 6 Months

Greetings. Today is a significant day for me. Six months ago, I started working at my new job here in Austin. In some ways, it doesn't seem like its been 6 months, and in others, it does. Since I see my coworkers and the students on a daily basis, instead of only two or three times a week, it seems like I've been here forever.

Today was a significant day on another front: I tought my first real class. I've been overseeing, some would say "tought" but I see it as more monitoring or overseeing, a keyboarding class for several months now. I say overseeing, since I'm helping students along who are working at their own pace. I'm there to answer questions, troubleshoot computer and equipment problems, and teach them as they get into the latter portion of the class. For the most part though, I'm more of a monitor than a teacher. However, today I was given a Windows class of three students, which is a good number to start out with. Over all, I think I did pretty well. There are things I can improve on, but then again, there likely always will be. In my opinion, even the teacher that's been teaching for many years has things they can work on.

I don't know how long I'll be at this job. I hope for a long time. I've always seen this as a hard thing to answer, when someone asks you, "Where do you see yourself in your career in 5 years, in 10 years, etc?" I'm not sure. There's a large part of me that is still very much grateful to have the job I do and to be where I am. Thinking about where I see myself in 5 years, ..., well, I hope at the same job and doing much the same thing. Time will tell though. I don't have any plans of going anywhere any time soon, if that answers the question.

There's one final significance of today: since I hit the 6 month mark, I'm off the "new hire" probation. In other words, there has to be a good reason to get rid of me, :) That's a good feeling. Then again, its also a good feeling to, when finished with the lesson and getting ready to give out the homework, say, "I want you to go to lab tonight and work on, ..."

One of the neat things about teaching these classes is that very often, you follow the students from when they start keyboarding or Windows to when they graduate. Granted, this is not always how it happens. When the people in my Windows class graduate from the training center, I can take more pride in actually having tought them.