Thursday, November 22

Thanksgiving message and PM update

Greetings. First off, happy Thanksgiving to all. Its nice that we have this day to be thankful, however, may we always be thankful throughout the year and not just on the forth Thursday in November.

As for the PM update: no, its not the big one, the Omni. For whatever reason, I just now came across the update that was posted last week. So, if you have not done so yet, then click here to read about the PAC Mate Battery Driver and Firmware Update. This is available for all BX and QX units, and can be installed either through Active Sync or by using a compact flash card. According to the information on the page, this update is offered to maximize the battery life and is recommended for everyone, whether or not you plan on getting the Omni when it comes out.

I find this update's timing of particular interest. According to the What's New in JAWS 9 audio file that Freedom Scientific put out not long ago, the Omni would be released not long after the JAWS 9.0 version was officially released. So, since JAWS 9 is out, and since we have this battery/firmware update, I'm inclined to think that the Omni isn't that far away; perhaps in the next few weeks before Christmas. I've said it before in other posts, but what a wonderful Christmas present: a totally new and upgraded PAC Mate! Enjoy, happy Thanksgiving, and hook 'em Horns!

Saturday, November 17

The future of reading is here

Greetings. In my post earlier today, I referenced the current digital talking book pilot program that the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) is conducting. A review of this ability to read digital talking books and the program appears in the November 2007 issue of Access World called Reading into the Future: An Overview of the National Library Service's Digital Talking Book Test Program. Even though this article barely scratches the surface of what its like to read a digital book, much less browse the collection which currently numbers just over 8200, it will give you a sense of what the program has meant to people already and its potential. The article also includes addresses for how you can get the Victor Reader Stream and get involved in the test program. Its way cool to be able to hit Play and sit back and listen to a book while in bed or riding the bus to work. Though I'll miss the announcement of the number of sides a book has, I can still get information on amount of time lapsed and remaining with the Stream's information function (key 0), which I often do since I like knowing where I am in a book, even if the book doesn't have any cassette announcements. Anyway, I've already put my borrowing on hold with my local NLS library, and will probably let my membership run out. I can't see myself borrowing another book through the mail with them given the access to books that I now have. Sure, the digital book collection is far less than the tape collection. However, new books are being converted and posted all the time. There's also access to magazines from cassette, which are slowly being converted over as well. There's talk that all the tape based magazines will be converted by the end of next year. When the Stream adds support for electronic Braille files, that will increase the number and amount of content available as well. So, I'm quite content to listen to my digital and professionally narrated books for now. That could change of course, but I honestly can't see it doing so anytime soon. If you're interested in signing up for the DTB program from NLS and getting a VR Stream, then I'd highly encourage you to do so. It might be one of the best investments you've made in awhile, as far as access to information goes. I think that it is for me, after my purchase of the Talks software for my cell phone. Enjoy and happy reading!

VR Stream version 1.1 released

Greetings. I've bought many tech devices and gismos in my time, some that I've used a few times and then put aside, and others that I've truly enjoyed and carried everywhere. The Victor Reader Stream is one of the latter ones. On November 15, version 1.1.15 was released. Among the many improvements and fixes, support for Audible content has been added. Read more about the VR Stream 1.1 release. For those that don't have a Stream and want one, HumanWare is offering free shipping on new Stream orders through the end of the year. Contact your local dealer or HumanWare directly at 800-722-3393.

The Stream is truly one of a kind, being able to play MP3 files, Audible, text and text based DAISY books, HTML files, and more. In addition, you can play Book Share DAISY books and the new digital talking books from the National Library Services pilot program. Check the Blindness Resources page of my website for more details on the Stream. In the nearly two months that I've had my Stream, I've read about 10 digital talking books from NLS, that's 10 more than I've read on my 4-track player of the same material in the past year. Its truly a cool, nifty and fun device to use. When I go home for Thanksgiving, I'll take my Stream and my Walkman (yes, I still have one of those; its still the only way to listen to regular radio in different cities, which is something I'll never grow tired of). Anyway, enjoy.

Tuesday, November 6

What's New for JAWS 9.0

Greetings. For those interested, Freedom Scientific has posted an audio recording nearly 45 minutes long on What's New in JAWS 9.0. This is simply a short recount on the highlights of JAWS 9 and a few demonstrations on what it can now do. One of the tidbits thrown in was the release of JAWS 9, and of the PAC Mate Omni. JAWS 9 will be released, according to this recording, around the middle of November, and the Omni likely shortly after that. Either way, look for some good software/hardware updates from Freedom in the next 30 days or so. This link comes from the current "What's New" page for the JAWS 9 public beta cycle. Enjoy.