Thursday, December 31

Follow me on Twitter

Greetings. For the last few weeks I've jumped into the social networking scene. i tried Facebook for about a week, and while you can still pull up my FB page, I no longer deal with that site anymore. I got tired of repeatedly having to enter those visual verification codes to add content to my page, such as status updates. For awhile it was when I wanted to put links up, but then it carried over to other content, such as straight text. So I switched to Twitter. I gave myself awhile to get used to it and now I love it. Though I'm not likely to follow thousands of people, since that would mean spending all of my time on Twitter and I'm not ready to make that commitment, I do welcoem additional followers. If you have read this blog for awhile, this is the type of content I'll post, along with other personal musings and such. For those wondering, I'm not using any sort of Twitter client to put posts up, other than the good old WWW and my cell phone to send texts though. I've heard and read about numerous programs, but am reluctant to tie myself to a specific program that can only be used on one platform. Of course, I say that, and then I'll go off and pick up a certain program; oh well, go figure. I am following some interesting peopel and businesses including, among others: Google, Southwest Airlines, Audible, and various people in the tech industry. Anyway, My Twitter page is at:
http://www.twitter.com/wcmerritt
Currently it's public, but that could also change if the mood suits me. I didn't know how much I'd get into Twitter, always having some skepticism, but have really enjoyed putting things up and watching things from other people. Thogh Facebook may offer more tools to stay connected and have fun, Twitter's simple interface and one question, of "What are you doing?" are fine for me. I'll still put things up here on the blog, but updates may decrease over time. Anyway, see you on Twitter or whatever social networking site you prefer. One more thing: if you do sign up for Twitter, there is a visual verification you have to enter, but Twitter does offer an audio solution for those that need it. There is an audio solution on Facebook, but only if you're using the main FB site, not if you're using FB Mobile. After you sign up with Twitter, there's no code to enter each time you post, which is great! Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 30

Streaming and description of Rose Bowl Parade

Greetings. I received the following note from ACB Radio. Though no connecting address is given, I expect that to listen you would just go to the ACB Radio Home Page and find the link for the ACB Radio World channel. I think they're doing this because there will be blind students from the Ohio School for the Blind in the parade as one of the many marching bands. Hopefully this streaming event will work out much better than the presidential innauguration from January of this year. In any case, enjoy.

***

Hi all,

It is with great pleasure to let you know that ACB Radio will be streaming the Rose Bowl Parade on January 1, 2010.

The coverage will begin at 15:30 UTC which is 10:30 A.M eastern and 7:30 A.M pacific.

The coverage will be streamed on ACB Radio world.

Ken Metz will be providing the coverage from the home & garden TV booth.

Also there will be full audio description provided on the stream so you won't miss a single movement in the parade!

So mark your calendars!

Date: Friday January 1, 2010.
Start time: 15:30 UTC 10:30 A.M eastern and 7:30 A.M pacific.

Where: ACB Radio World

Hope to see you there!

Larry Turnbull
ACB Radio Managing Director

Thursday, December 17

Reflections since 2000

Greetings. This is usually the time of year when I put up my year end reflections. This time though, I thought I’d do something a little different. Since we’re coming to the end of the first decade of the 2,000’s, I thought I’d do a review of some of the changes in technology between 2000 and 2009. Perhaps we can use some of these as a gage for what will come in the next 10 years. I’m sure I’m going to miss some things here so forgive me in advance.

Screen readers: The last 10 years has seen more screen readers being developed for blind users, and ones that can run on a portable USB flash/thumb/pin drive, to ones that can run from a simple website. You no longer have to be tied to an actual computer to use a screen reader. Now, when I go to my parent’s house, I can bring up a web based screen reader and have instant access to their computer, rather than waiting for them to purchase an expensive screen reader and leave it on their system for the few times that I might visit them during the year.

Notetakers: Before the year 2000, there were a few note taking devices on the blindness market, but mainly from one company. In 2000, the BrailleNote was introduced and in 2003 the PAC Mate was brought into being. Fast forward a few years and we have a range of different note taking devices in various forms and with similar abilities, some with and some without Braille displays; some using Qwerty (computer style) and some using Perkins (Braille style) keyboards; and some that have specific functions and other that have more general functions. In other words, the blind user now has lots more choice. Some newer notetakers even have built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth access, which makes getting connected to the web in order to browse websites or send/receive email lots easier. Add to that the mainstream laptops and mini-laptops, known as netbooks, that have become very popular in the last couple of years. In the beginning of this year alone perhaps 1 person I worked with had a netbook. Now though, aside from me there’s an additional 5 or 6 other people I know that have and use netbooks for greater portability. This particular portion of the tech industry, the netbooks and notetakers, will be interesting to watch over the next 2-5 years to see how they shake out.

Book reading: Before year 2000, blind people read books on their computers, in Braille, or on tape. Now though there are a number of different options, including for lack of a better phrase, the portable book reader, such as the Victor Reader Stream and Booksense, among several others. In fact, after the Stream came out in 2007 and it was seen how popular such a device was, several more devices have come out with the ability to read books, listen to music, play audio books, read different types of files (such as Word documents, text, HTML, and others), and do other things. To be fair, there were a couple of devices around that could read those types of files and other material, but they were old and out dated. In fact, one of them, the Book Port, was initially promised to have new life, but the update project for it was shelved after about 6 months in 2008 I believe. At any rate, information and entertainment has really grown in leaps and bounds as far as portability.

I can’t talk about books and portability without mentioning the work of the national Library Service (NLS). In 2000, they started their Web Braille program, where the user could download a growing collection of books and magazines in Braille formatted files. In 2007, they began officially testing a similar download service for their many audio books. That collection began with around 7,000 books, and now numbers around 16,500 books, and is growing nearly every week. Thanks to funding from Congress, the digital talking book is here and here to stay!

Cell phones: Here’s an area that’s affected everyone, blind or not. However, until around 2002, the blind did not have ready access to such devices. Sure, you could dial a number, but that quickly lost some luster when compared with all the things that your friends and colleagues could do on their phones, such as text message, take pictures, manage contacts and calendar appointments, view call logs, and much more. Then, in 2002, the Talks screen reader was created and announced that it would work with a couple of Nokia phone models. Though it’s taken a few years to get rolling, now true phone accessibility is becoming more of a forethought rather than an afterthought with many manufacturers. With some providers such as Verizon, there are even some phones that you can buy off the shelf that have built in accessibility that are increasingly allowing greater access. Perhaps not at the level of Talks, but we’re getting there. Of course I can’t talk about phone access without mentioning Apple and the work that they’ve been doing with making phones more accessible, and phones with touch screens o less. Say what you want about a touch screen accessible phone, the fact that this is now an option for the blind user, and that having a screen reader on such a phone, is a great sign of things to come. Talk about built in accessibility.

The WWW: Okay, so that’ a broad category, but just think about how many different web services have gained usage in the broader population over the past 10 years or so, such as: blogs, podcasts, social networking sites, more personalized e-commerce and shopping, staying connected, ability to use web services via your cell phone, such as texting a site for the weather or current stock quotes, among many other uses; streaming audio and video; and much, much more. Let’s not forget the growing popularity of a certain website start up that flew under the radar for a few years and quickly went from unknown to people trying to copy what they were doing and draw their users. And further, the site even added various applications that helped to change the way we work and play, such as email, shopping and bargain comparison, working with documents, spreadsheets, presentations, keeping up calendar appointments and contacts, tracking stocks and other finances, and much more. Yes, I’m speaking of Google and their many services. Google has transformed from a noun to a verb, as in, “Google it,” when someone needs to look something up. Currently, Google is even working on their own cell phone and portable netbook. That’s probably one of the big things that I’m excited about and will be closely following, to see how this whole Google Chrome operating system fills out and if it will be accessible. I suppose that might say something: am I excited about the new offering from Microsoft in Windows Seven? No, the thing that excites me is what their competitors are doing, and I’m not the only one.

Even though it's not tech related so much, technology has been affected by the next two items: the terrorist attacks of 2001, and the economic boom and eventual bust. One phrase seems appropriate here, which I've told students and friends regarding money: it's not how much money you have, but how you manage the money you have. Hopefully we can take that phrase and apply it as we go forward. Sure there will be tough times ahead, perhaps even tougher than what we're going through now in the recession/recovery. But if we can manage our money, then these times won't seem so tough when they do come. That's been my personal experience this year in the current economically tight times.

Hopefully we can take what we’ve learned from the first 10 years of the 21st century and apply it to the next 10 years. I think as we go forward, month by month and year by year, our lives will even more interlock with the web and the possibility that we’re going to be a web-based society is not too far off. Will we be to the point of talking to our kitchen appliances and having them automatically order things from the grocery store to refill current refrigerator stock? Who knows, anything’s possible.

On a personal level, this last 10 years has seen me wrap up my college career, get an unexpected job in working part time and doing something that I was meant to do and not what I thought I was going to do, find a full time job just weeks after being let go from the part time one, and really building my teaching ability and the different areas I would grow in, and even getting another Seeing Eye dog, which is something that I never thought I’d do. Not to mention starting a personal website which has grown to attract more than 7400 unique visitors, and maintaining the professional website for the White Cane Day Austin celebration. So it’s been a great year and a great last 10 years. Here’s to 10 more!

Wednesday, December 16

Booksense 2.0 preview

Greetings. I received the following announcement regarding version 2.0 for the Booksense from GW Micro. Note that if you are not able to attend the online presentation live, you will be able to download an audio file of the entire presentation soon afterwards. Enjoy.

***

Greetings,

The following event has been posted to the GW Micro Upcoming Events page:

Name: Online Presentation of BookSense 2.0 Firmware!
When: Monday, December 21, 2009
What: Online Meeting
Who: GW Micro Staff
Comments: You have been waiting for it, and now the time is finally here. BookSense 2.0 firmware is finally on its way! We have been paying close attention to many of your requests. We have been fixing stability issues and adding new and innovative features.

BookSense 2.0 will be a free software upgrade that you will be able to download from the GW Micro website. To make sure you know all about the changes, we will be having an online presentation of the changes and features at 11 A.M. Eastern time. Version 2.0 will be made available immediately after the presentation, so that you can find out about all of the new features, and then download the software to try them out. We know you will be tempted to call to try to get a sneak peak at the new firmware, but be patient, and next Monday will arrive before you know it.

Space is limited, so you will need to register. This meeting is for U.S. customers only, since GW Micro can only sell the BookSense in the U.S. You can register by sending an email to Drew Markley at
drew@gwmicro.com
You will need to include your first and last name, as well as your email address. A spot in the presentation will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. If you will not be able to attend, please do not register to leave space for others. We will also be recording the presentation, so you will also be able to download it from our website.

See you Monday at 11 A.M. Eastern time!

Jeremy Curry
Director of Training
GW Micro, Inc.

Monday, November 30

Minor Talks update released

Greetings. I received this from a friend. Below is news about the current minor update for the Talks and Zooms software for many Nokia cell phones. There doesn't look to be anything major in this release, but I'll probably update anyway just on principle. Read below to see the release notes and what's been fixed or changed and other information. This update should only be made to 3rd edition phones. Enjoy.

***

Dear All,

Now available for download from the TalkNav FTP site;

http://www.talknav.com/downloads/3rd%20Edition%20Handsets

Nuance Talks & Zooms version v4.11.3, note that this is only an update for
3rd edition handsets.

The release notes follow:
TALKS&ZOOMS Version 4.11 - Release Notification


1. Introduction

We proudly announce the release of the Nuance Accessibility Suite - Nuance
TALKS and Nuance ZOOMS - Version 4.11 for Series 60 3^rd Edition for
November 30^th , 2009.

This version includes an updated version of Eloquence (6.1.123) that can be
used on all phones. In particular, it /must/ be used on all phones with
noise-cancelling audio (e.g. Nokia E52), or crashes will occur when trying
to make a call.

Version 4.11 is a free upgrade for all Premium Edition licenses generated
after November 13th, 2007.


2. The new handsets


2.1. Changes to the list of supported phone models

The following handsets are newly supported (please see section 4 "Known
Issues" about some limitations):

* Nokia E52
* Nokia 6710 Navigator
* Nokia 6720 classic
* Nokia 6730 classic
* Nokia 6790 Surge

We also assume the Nokia 5630 XpressMusic, E55 and E72 to work without
major problems. However we have not got enough test results yet to
definitely confirm this.


3. What's New?

This section lists the improvements of TALKS 4.11 compared to the
previous version (4.10).

* Eloquence is switched to 8kHz on E52,E72,6710,6720,6730,5630,E55
to prevent crashes (only works with Eloquence 6.1.123 or later)
* Fixed occasional speech cutouts on E52, e.g. when moving through
menus
* Improved support of new web browser (found for example on E52, N86):
o Page title is now read (after "Page has xxx links"),
o Support for continuous reading of web page on [Talks],[Down]
o Pressing [Select] on an Edit field in a web page opens a
pop-up to allow entering text, which was not possible in
previous versions of TALKS.
o Fixed "Type error" when exiting some text fields on a web page
o Fixed cases where pressing digit in browser would not
execute TALKS quick key
* Browser: "Find next link" now also stops at buttons with type
"button" (rather than "submit")
* Fixed: keyboard echo would fail after the 4th digit when dialing a
phone number on a US-variant firmware
* Fixed incorrect item count in Calendar for todos/anniversaries and
entries with long descriptions
* Fixed: When using "*" to cycle through the list of words offered
by T9, changes in the softkeys (e.g. "Spell") are no longer
announced (since TALKS 4.0)
* TTS can be chosen again before a license key has been entered
(like TALKS 4.0 and earlier)
* Nokia 6121,6124: fixed model detection for edit field workaround
in browser
* Dictionary: fixed hangs caused by replaced text (typically in
Arabic) with non-printing characters


4. Known Issues on specific handsets

. Not all icons are labelled on newer phones, so some status indicators,
like 3G or GPRS, may not be read in all situations.

. 3rd Edition (FP1 and FP2): "Search" application is not supported.

. Nokia E52, E66, E71, E75: The new calendar application is not yet
supported.

. 3rd Edition FP2: Some status indicators (e.g. Bluetooth) cannot be
read while the phone keyboard is locked.

. 3rd Edition FP2: Built-in Help screens are not read because they use
the web browser in a way that is not yet supported by TALKS.

. 3rd Edition FP2: You will notice a slow response of voice recognition
"beep" after holding [Key 2] when TALKS is not muted

. E75: When using ZOOMS, moving around the screen by holding down the
cursor keys is currently not possible. The magnified portion of the
screen always follows the current focus position.

. N96: "Photos" application (and "Photos" submenu of "Gallery") is not
supported.

. N96: Daisy2Go does not support firmware versions prior to 20.x of this
phone. This is expected to be fixed by a future firmware update.

. Nokia N86, E72, E75: The e-mail application is not accessible with TALKS.


5. FAQ

Q: Your software does not install on my E-Series handset or branded
device, and reports a Certificate Error! Why?
A: While TALKS&ZOOMS for S60 3^rd Edition itself is certified, and thus
can be installed on any supported S60 3^rd Edition handset, the
installers for the TTS engines (Eloquence or RealSpeak Mobile) are not
signed. E-Series handsets and some branded devices do only accept the
installation of signed software, unless you turn of the corresponding
option inside the Application Manager:

. Open the phone menu.

. Open the App. Manager inside the Tools folder

. Press "Options", then select "Settings".

. Set "Software Installation" from "Signed only" to "All".

. Press "Back" to close the Settings dialogue, then "Exit" to close the
App. Manager.

. Now, you can install the TTS engine.

Another reason could be that the date on your phone is not set correctly
- as 3^rd Edition software is digitally signed, SIS files can only be
installed if the phone is set to a valid date.

Q: Can I install the new release of TALKS&ZOOMS, while a previous
release is active?

A: Yes, if the new version is installed to the same memory location as
the previous release. If you would like to change the memory location,
you have to remove the previous release first!

Q: Why do I get an "Upgrade error" when installing the S60 3^rd Edition
version?

A: The most likely reasons are that you have used a beta release, or
already have the Nokia TTS driver available that was installed as a
separate file with version 3.10. Please remove any beta version, as well
as the Nokia TTS driver or the Nuance Speech2Go Reader application,
before upgrading to TALKS 4.10.

Saturday, November 21

Seeing Eye honored in Congress

Greetings. I received the following note from the Seeing Eye. Now this is cool! Enjoy.

***

On Tuesday, November 17, 2009, U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen stood before Congress to enter a proclamation of appreciation to The Seeing Eye into the Congressional Record. Rep. Frelinghuysen is the Congressional representative of the district that includes Morristown, N.J. His kind remarks, which follow, reflect his history of support for our organization, including attending the dedication of the Morris Frank Park and sculpture in 2005. His remarks follow:

SPEECH OF HON. RODNEY P. FRELINGHUYSEN OF NEW JERSEY IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2009

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the very dedicated employees, volunteers, and graduates of The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey, on their 80 years of service.

Dorothy Harrison Eustis and Morris Frank had a dream to make the world completely accessible to the blind and visually impaired, and in 1929, The Seeing Eye was established to make their dream a reality. Since its inception, The Seeing Eye has enhanced the independence and self-confidence of the blind and visually impaired.

The Seeing Eye pioneered the use of dogs to guide the blind, and today, the organization has successfully trained over 15,000 Seeing Eye dogs and matched them with more than 8,000 blind or visually impaired owners. Additionally, many area families have volunteered to rear generations of Seeing Eye puppies--nurturing them to accomplish their special destiny.

Twelve times every year, up to 24 visually impaired students from the United States and Canada come to Morristown to enter a twenty-seven day instructional program and are matched with a dog. The instruction includes traveling through high traffic and residential streets, shopping malls, and bus routes. Upon the completion of the program, the graduates are able to safely navigate their hometowns with the support of their Seeing Eye dogs.

In fact, most every day on Morristown streets, The Seeing Eye trainers, students and their remarkable dogs can be seen training where pedestrians and drivers alike respect their presence. The Seeing Eye also provides follow-up care and even visit graduates' homes to aid them in adjusting to their new accessibility to their environments.

Today, The Seeing Eye is a pioneer in canine genetics and medical research. It also advocates for the concerns of those with visual impairments--such as pedestrian safety and the dangers of quiet cars--by working with legislators, writing letters on behalf of those experiencing discrimination, and researching technologies to make crosswalks safer.

Madam Speaker, for the past 80 years, The Seeing Eye has provided an unprecedented service to the blind and visually impaired community, and I hope it can continue its invaluable service for many years to come. I urge you, Madam Speaker, and my colleagues to join me in congratulating all of those involved with The Seeing Eye on its 80th Anniversary.

Tuesday, November 10

ACB Radio premiers new product

Greetings. I received the following announcement in my email earlier. Those in the blindness community who are also into AT have doubtless been seeign announcements and emails from HumanWare regarding a new product. Though the official word is expected to be tomorrow on November 11, ACB Radio will have a show this Friday night all about this new product. Read on for details on the live show, but unfortunately not what the product is going to be. It sounds like you will want to listen to the show live or download the podcast later though. Enjoy.

***

ACB Radio is proud to announce a special live event where you will learn about a
fabulous new product being launched by HumanWare. Read on and be a part of the live, call-in event!

what is it? Well, something great has just become smaller and better!
HumanWare is soon to launch an exciting new product. Is it a new DAISY player? A new Braille device? A new
scanning or low vision aid?

We can only tell you that the device is small enough to be inserted into a #1 size envelope.

Be among the first to find out about one of the most exciting products to be announced.

And, you'll hear about it first on ACB Radio Mainstream, just after Main Menu! Pass it on and tell your friends! It's way cool and worth hearing about!

when: Friday, November 13 at 9 PM Eastern, 6 Pacific; that's Saturday morning at 2 UTC.
ACB Radio's Marlaina will host this exciting program, and have as her guest
Matthew Janausauskas, HumanWare's Technical Support Manager.

Marlaina and Matthew will take your calls at 866 666 7926.

Remember, you'll hear it first on ACB Radio Mainstream, just after Main Menu.

So, join Marlaina and Matthew on Friday the 13th! It could be your lucky day!

To listen to the program on November 13 at 9 PM Eastern and 6 PM Pacific, point your browser to:
http://www.acbradio.org/mainstream

This is an event you will not want to miss!

Larry Turnbull
ACBRadio Managing Director

Google offers free Wi-Fi for the holidays

Greetings. I found this in my daily round of blogs, feeds and other such posts. Google is offering free Wi-Fi in airports across the country from now until mid January. Looking down the list, I was pleased to see my home airport of Austin on the list, along with several other Texas airports. No Dallas Lovefield unfortunately, but oh well. To read more about this or see the full list of airports, go to the following address and enjoy: http://www.freeholidaywifi.com

Monday, November 9

Google accessibility user study

Greetings. Those interested in perhaps participating in the Google Accessibility user study should go to the following address: http://bit.ly/1DJin

I have no additional information on the study other than what's there. After I filled out the form, the resulting page said that due to the high number of responses, that they may not take everyone but I would be contacted if I were selected. Since Google, along with other tech companies, have only recently started looking into making their products more accessible, anytime you get the chance to participate in said studies, grab them by the horns! Enjoy.

Saturday, November 7

Review of Microsoft Security Essentials

Greetings. Though this software has been out for a month or two, it's getting great reviews and showing good promise. If you're hesitant about trying it or currently using paid security software and want to see how MSE stacks up against competition, then check out this review from Ars Technica called First look: Microsoft Security Essentials impresses. To hear a review of the Microsoft Security Essentials software (direct MP3 download) then check out this podcast from Mary Emmerson. I've put this free software on my netbook and am considering doing the same with my Windows Vista home PC. Read the review to find out why. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 3

Seeing Eye hits matching milestone

Greetings. I received the following note from The Seeing Eye. AS is mentioned by the organization's president, it's not how many dogs have been matched, but rather the level of service that the organization gives to each match. While matching 15,000 dogs is certainly something to be proud of, that 15,000th team will get the same level of service and care from The Seeing Eye as the first 10 matches did oh so long ago. Enjoy.

***

The Seeing Eye Forges 15,000th Partnership for Independence

MORRISTOWN, N.J. – The Seeing Eye, the pioneer and innovator of dog guide services for people who are blind, announces its 15,000th partnership between human and canine ... Dr. Josephine DeFini of New York City and a black Labrador retriever named Zion.

The philanthropic organization celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, making this particular milestone especially meaningful. Zion is the ninth Seeing Eye® dog for Dr. DeFini, who has traveled through the past 52 years being led by these specially bred and trained canines.

"I can't show The Seeing Eye enough appreciation for what they've done for me," said Dr. DeFini. "Every time I return to The Seeing Eye, it's like a whole new experience because it's such a forward-thinking organization. They're always looking to make the training better, enhancing the ease with which a person with a visual impairment can enjoy movement and freedom."

A lifelong resident of New York City, Dr. DeFini returned home with Zion in September and already is back to her active life, traveling through the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. After retiring earlier this year from a career as a social worker and psychotherapist (most recently with Lighthouse International), she continues a small private practice.

Her experience as a Seeing Eye dog user is special, to be sure, but not at all unique. "Multiply the success of this new partnership by 15,000, and you begin to understand the magnitude of the impact made possible by all those who have supported our mission for the past 80 years," said Seeing Eye President & CEO Jim Kutsch. "In fact, the 15,000th dog is really no different than number 14,999. Our promise is the same for all of our graduates – to provide ongoing support and commitment to them by providing the best dog guides in the world."

Since her stay at The Seeing Eye campus in Morristown, N.J., where she trained with Zion, the team has been all over New York City, including regular trips to her Pilates class. "I can get to all those places with a cane, but it's the ease and confidence that's so different with a dog. After the experience of not having a dog for six months, I've regained my self-confidence and ease of movement."

The Seeing Eye is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, bequests, and other planned gifts. The Seeing Eye is a trademarked name and can only be used to describe the dogs bred and trained at the school's facilities in Morristown, N.J.

Monday, November 2

Not sure how much I'll get into it. My students keep requesting it so here I am.
Created a Facebook account today. Now if I can learn how to use it.

Friday, October 30

NAGDU phone conference on dog guides in healthcare facilities

Greetings. I received this information for a phone conference/seminar that the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) is putting on in late November. I'm posting it now so those interested can register for this free event. Registration is limited from what I hear so act soon. Read on for more details.

***

National Association of Guide Dog Users
National Federation of the Blind
October 27, 2009

Guide Dogs in Hospitals & Other Health Care Facilities

What are your rights as a guide dog user when visiting family or friends in the hospital? As a patient, do you have the right to have your dog in the room with you? Are there places or conditions in which you can be restricted from being accompanied by your guide dog? Can your doctor deny you the right to have your guide dog with you in an examination room? Can an ambulance refuse to transport your guide dog with you? These questions and many more will be answered in an upcoming special teleseminar.

The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind, will host "Guide Dogs in Hospitals & Other Health Care Facilities" on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. eastern standard Time (7:00 pm Central; 6:00 pm Mountain; and 5:00 pm Pacific). This teleseminar is absolutely free; however reservations are required. Participation is limited and is on a first come first served basis.

In order to reserve your space in this teleseminar, please send your name, city & state, and your email address by Friday, November 20, 2009 to

President@NFB-NAGDU.ORG

An email confirmation with the call-in number and access codes will be sent to you. Those without email access or who would like more information may call 813-626-2789.

The information provided during this teleseminar is intended as informal guidance only and should not be construed as legal advice. The National Association of Guide Dog Users, the National Federation of the Blind, or any of its affiliates, divisions, or chapters will not be responsible for any telephone charges or fees that may be incurred as the result of participation in this seminar. For more information about the National Association of Guide Dog Users, the National Federation of the Blind, or to locate a Chapter in your area, you may visit the following websites:

National Association of Guide Dog Users
HTTP://NFB-NAGDU.ORG


National Federation of the Blind
HTTP://NFB.ORG


The National Federation of the Blind is changing what it means to be blind!

Security update for JAWS 10

Greetings. I've been meaning to post this from earlier this week but haven't gotten to it until now. Below is information on a security update that has been released for JAWS version 10. Note that this is very similar to the update put out for JAWS 11 last week. If you use a computer that you have to log into, or have a computer with multiple users, then you'll want to get this update. Below is more information about the update from Eric Damery of Freedom Scientific. Enjoy.

*Additional note*: The same security update has been made available for JAWS 9.

***

All,

Last Friday, we released an update for the JAWS 11 Release that came out
on October 19th. These same changes have now been rolled into an update
for JAWS 10 and we have released an update for JAWS 10 as a result.

If a users has JAWS 10 installed today, and does a check for updates,
they will get this security update now. Alternatively, if they go to the
Freedom Scientific Download page for JAWS, they will find the full JAWS
10 English version is now version 10.0.1167 and this build contains the
security update already. If you download this and install over top of a
previously installed JAWS 10, the update is applied.

Regards,
Eric Damery
Vice President, Software Product Management
Freedom Scientific Inc.

Tuesday, October 27

Remembering Ed Eames

Greetings. A few days ago, the world lost a great champion for the rights of the blind and otherwise disabled, and even more important, the rights of guide/service dog users. This article in the Fresno Bee really sums up the life and contributions of Ed Eames. Ed Eames fought for rights of disabled. Farewell Ed; you contributed and you will be missed.

Monday, October 26

JAWS 11 security update

Greetings. Here's information on the JAWS 11 security update released late last week after the initial JAWS 11 version. What the information below does not say is that you can either run the Check for Updates feature in the Help menu of the JAWS window to retrieve the update, or download it from the FS site. This was taken from an email to the Gui-Talk email list. Enjoy.

***

Hi all,

There has been some discussion lately about a security hole found in
Jaws 11 and also in Windows. For a lot of you this will not be an issue
and you probably won't need this update. If any of the following applies
to you then you should download and install this update:

1. You are running a copy of windows and need a password to log in.

2. You're running a system with more than 1 user and any or all of those
users have restricted access.

3. You only have 1 user but that user has restricted access.

For anyone else you probably won't need to worry too much about this.
It's not something that anyone who's not physically sitting at your
computer can take advantage of.

For those people waiting to get the cd before you update you will get
the version with the fix included. You won't need to download it
separately.

Sunday, October 25

Removing the U3 LaunchPad tool from a SanDisk USB flash drive

Greetings. To get rid of the annoying U3 LaunchPad tool, click this link to read the steps for removing the SanDisk U3 LaunchPad from your USB flash drive. If you're going to use the S.A. to Go software on your drive, you might not want to do this. However, keeping the U3 software on the drive can be annoying since it causes the computer to become sluggish while the software loads, whenever you plug the drive into a computer. This page, which is apart of the forum on the SanDisk site, offers easy steps to remove this software. Note that you can also activate the LaunchPad application on the drive and it will offer an option to use the drive for storage, and once chosen, this will remove the software. This forum page also gives you the option of downloading a small removal application that can remove the software for you. These SanDisk flash drives can be used on Windows XP operating systems or above. Once the software is removed, you might want to delete any associaited folders from the drive and start from scratch. This is what I have done and it makes the process easier, since I can create and put what I want on the drive, which doesn't always match the folder names they offer. Enjoy.

Great article on former CCRC student

Greetings. I found this in the Matilda Ziegler list of articles and was pleasantly surprised to read about this former Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center student. I saw her get an NFB of Texas scholarship this weekend in San Antonio in the amount of $1,500, but it appears that she is getting other scholarships and recognition out in West Texas. Watch out for this woman; she's going to make waves and changes in her world. The link is Blind Abilene woman receives scholarship help. enjoy, and go Mary!
On the bus heading back. Had another great omlet this morning.

Saturday, October 24

What is it with blind folk and eskelators? Twice today i've been asked if i wanted the elevator when standing at the bottom of an eskelator. Weird.
Hangin' outside a private party, for a wedding i think. They were playing good rock but now mexican.
Got back from banquet. Typical food but desert was great. A huge piece of choc cake, yum!
San Antonio radio is okay. Lots of Mexican stations and several country. Some good rock ones too.
Sitting in ballroom waiting for general session to begin. Great omlet!
Went on a boat tour of the River Wall last might. Lots of fun and interesting.
Waiting for breakfast. I always get the same when traveling, an omlet.

Friday, October 23

Wi-Fi is cool

Greetings. I'm sitting in the hotel lobby in San Antonio at the NFB of Texas state convention. People with canes are walking all around me. It's kind of interesting listening to lots of blind people attempting to find things such as the front desk. It's cool to be online though and wireless. I finished my first Audible book in several years a little while ago. I took my first ride on Greyhound this morning, breaking my anti-Greyhound stance. It went okay, though I'm not sure I'm going to start riding Greyhound lots. Taking it to San Antonio is one thing, but I'll gladly stick to my flights on Southwest to Dallas and other places beyond the close bus range. Anyway, I made it without incident, grouping up wiht two coworkers and as it turned out some other blind folk traveling to the convention. The Greyhound station is about a block from the hotel. It's also kind of weird to come on a weekend convention and see lots of coworkers and students wandering around. I've already seen at least one former student that I'd rather not see. Let's just say that they were, uh challenge when they were a student, and since they left CCRC, we have had some interesting interactions. I'd be fine if we didn't cross paths the rest of the weekend, but I know that this won't happen. Oh well. I was sitting a few rows in front of my coworkers on the bus this morning, and to be funny, I sent several text messages back and forth with them. I thought of calling one, but thought that this would be too obvious, so I settled for the texts. Anyway, be watchingb this space for some updates this weekend. I'm staying till Sunday morning before returning to Austin. I'm going out to dinner later on the Riverwalk wiht some family friends. that should be fun too. Later.

Monday, October 19

Overview of Kurzweil 1000 version 12

Greetings. Main Menu, from ACB radio, recently did a show on the new features in Kurzweil 1000 version 12. This link is a direct download of the MP3 file. The show is about an hour long and after the shorrt bit of tech news, there's a good interview with Stephen Baum, the lead developer of Kurzweil 1000. Among other notable things with version 12, users now have the ability to run Kurzweil from a USB flash drive. Check out the show above for more on this exciting new release. Enjoy.

Great article on current Google Books case

Greetings. I've mainly left it to others to rehash the dispute regarding the Google Books case and upcoming settlement. However, I came across this article from the Matilda Ziegler RSS feed (linked further down this page), which really sums everything up quite nicely. It's by Carl Jacobsen, the president of the NFB of New York affiliate, and is called Blind need more access to written word, from the Times union out of Albany, NY. Enjoy.

JAWS 11 released

Greetings. Today Freedom Scientific has released the new JAWS version 11 in time for the upcoming release of Windows Seven expected later this week. Check this link for all the details of what's new and, perhaps of more interest to some, what's been improved. Note that when you receive your JAWS 11 on disc, it will be on a DVD that will contain boht the 32 and 64 bit versions of JAWS. When you start the installation process, JAWS will detect what version of Windows you're using and automatically adjust to install that particular version. For instance, if you have a 32 bit version of Windows, then that's what will be installed. Also, since JAWS will now come on a DVD, there's more room to include the Daisy training material, the free copy of FS Reader 2.0, and more. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 17

Had a good horseback lesson 2day. Maybe I'll get around to posting about it soon, :)
Booked dirt cheap travel w/ Southwest 4 Christmas. Get it now b4 prices go up.

Saturday, October 10

White Cane Day site update

Greetings. For those interested, you can now view the marching route and park activities/events for the October 13 event. Check the White Cane Day site for more details. Also, a few days ago the site passed the 11,000 total hits mark. Currently, there's over 11,300 hits, and the numbers are growing by around 50 per day. The total hits have followed a pattern of at least doubling in peak (March to November) and off-peak (November to March) times of the year over the last couple of years. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks in the remaining time of the peak season following the day itself. If you know of a White Cane Day event that's happenig in your town/community that receives media coverage next week, email me the link and story and I'll add it on the page in the Media Coverage area. It's always fascinating to me to see all the different places that celebrate this "independence day" for the blind. Enjoy, and see you Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 7

Viewing PDF's in Google search results

Greetings. Google has had the ability to allow you to view PDF files in search results, but today they have improved that, according to the Google blog post called Quickly view formatted PDFs in your search results. Though the examples they give are untagged images, hopefully this will improve the usability of PDF files in search results. It will be interesting to see if form fields show up as they do on a normal web page and are accessible with screen readers. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 30

Another Stream to choose from

Greetings. Since we now have a definite competitive market for playing digital audio books, such as from NLS, RFBD, BookShare and Audible, among others, there is more of a choice for consumers. I read today on the Fred's Head Companion blog of the new
Victir Reader Stream, Library Edition
that has come out. For those that already own a Stream, this new Library Edition apparently is no different from the regular unit. I looked on the HumanWare site this afternoon on the Stream's page and couldn't find any more information, such as price, for this new player. I'm assuming that it costs similar to the regular Stream unit. It sounds like more of a solution for those in education, libraries, or independent living/training centers, but I'm sure that individuals can get one of these units as well. However, I submit that if you already have a stream or another digital book player, then you probably can pass on the Stream Library Edition. Read the link above for more information on what differs this unit from the regular Stream, or for a play on words, the main Stream. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 29

2010 Census cautions

Greetings. Unfortunatley, in the current tehc times, we have to be careful about what we put out on the web or tell/give to other people, especially if that information is your birthdate, SSN, mother's maiden name, or other sensative information. With that said, consider the following note I saw on an email list regarding next year's U.S. census. Please pardon any formatting errors.

***

Be Cautious About Giving Info to Census Workers With the U.S. Census process beginning, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises people to be cooperative, but cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft. The first phase of the 2010 U.S. Census is under way as workers have begun verifying the addresses of households across the country. Eventually, more than 140,000 U.S. Census workers will count every person in the United States and will gather information about every person living at each address including name, age, gender, race, and other relevant data. The big question is - how do you tell the difference between a U.S. Census worker and a con artist? BBB offers the following advice:

** If a U.S. Census worker knocks on your door, they will have a badge, a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag, and a confidentiality notice. Ask to see their identification and their badge before answering their questions. However, you should never invite anyone you don't know into your home.

** Census workers are currently only knocking on doors to verify address information. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone, even if they claim they need it for the U.S. Census . While the Census Bureau might ask for basic financial information, such as a salary range, it will not ask for Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers nor will employees solicit donations.

Eventually, Census workers may contact you by telephone, mail, or in person at home. However, they will not contact you by Email, so be on the lookout for Email scams impersonating the Census.

Never click on a link or open any attachments in an Email that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more advice on avoiding identity theft and fraud, visit
www.bbb.org

Exciting guide dog advocacy announcement

Greetings. I received this information in my email recently and thought it appropriate to post here. Feel free to share as appropriate with others you know that use guide dogs, no matter what school or support/advocacy organization they may belong to. Enjoy.

***

Please circulate the following message as widely as appropriate!


Dear All,
I am pleased to announce that the National Association of Guide Dog Users, a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind, has been awarded a grant from the NFB's Imagination Fund to develop and implement a nationwide toll-free Education & Advocacy Hotline. This hotline will provide information about the rights of disabled people to be accompanied by service animals under state & federal laws. It is our goal to provide summaries and full texts of each state statute, information about the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Air Carrier Access Act, and the Fair Housing Act, as well as specific guidance to particular industries, such as health care facilities, taxicabs, restaurants, and places of lodging. In addition, trained advocates will be available for personal assistance. Our projection is to begin beta testing in january and have the hotline fully functional by Spring 2010. As this initiative unfolds, messages will be sent to the NAGDU list, so you will be the first to know. If you have any comments or suggestions for specific features of this hotline, please send these comments to me at

President@nfb-nagdu.org

If you would like to subscribe to the email list of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, you may do so by going to

http://www.nfbnet.org

click on "Join or drop nfbnet mailing lists", find the link to the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), and complete the subscription information. Once you have subscribed to the list, please send a message introducing yourself. I look forward to being of service to you!

Fraternally yours,
Marion Gwizdala, President
National Association of Guide Dog Users
National Federation of the Blind

Tuesday, September 22

Why I've been offline

Greetings. I'll keep this brief since I don't know how much bandwidth I have. In short, with the new netbook and getting up and running with that, and trying to setup a wireless router which I'm still learning about, and with causing a problemw with my home desktop PC which prevents me from doing anything on that PC; I've been a little occupied lately. My parents are coming down for a visit this weekend, so hopefully I can get my dad to look at my computer and work all those issues out. I am able to jump on someone's unsecured wireless network at home, but that's limited at best. About all it's good for is scanning some email and going to a few websites. Anyway, whenever I get my various computer issues worked out, I'll be putting more things on this blog and on my websites. Incidentally, the total hit count for the White Cane Day site passed 10,000 last week, which is awesome! If I didn't have the netbook, then my wired life would be a lot more dull. Trouble is most of my files, audio, and other content is on the desktop PC that's currently down. Ah well. Long live the netbook and wireless connections. Talk soon: Wayne

Sunday, September 6

History of the Internet

Greetings. I came across this article a few days ago called 40 Glorious Years of the Internet and found it quite interesting. Yes folks, the Internet has really been around for 40 years, unlike the WWW which has been around between 15 and 20 years. Kind of makes you wonder what's coming in the next 20-40 years. Whatever the Web and Net bring, it should be fun. Enjoy.

New initiative to make accessible textbooks for college students

Greetings. I received this information a few days ago and thought it was worth posting here. If this website grows with the number of textbooks, then this could end up being a great resource for colleges and their students. Enjoy.

***

Textbooks for the Disabled

August 28, 2009

The Association of American Publishers and the University of Georgia this week unveiled an electronic database aimed at making it easier for blind, dyslexic and otherwise impaired college students to get specialized textbooks in time for classes.

The database, called
AccessText is designed to centralize the process by which electronic versions of textbooks are requested by colleges and supplied by publishers. Experts say it will allow disabled students to get their textbooks more efficiently, help colleges save money and avoid lawsuits, and protect publishers' copyrights.

For students whose disabilities prevent them from using traditional texts, the normally straightforward task of acquiring books for their courses can be tedious and frustrating. Federal law requires that colleges and universities provide disabled students equal access to educational materials, but this is often easier said than done. College officials have to track down and contact the publisher of every textbook that each of its disabled students buys and request an electronic copy. If such a copy exists -- the likelihood shrinks the older the book and the smaller the publisher -- college officials still have to convert the file to a format that can be read by whatever reading aid the student uses. If not, the college has to wait, sometimes weeks, to obtain permission to scan the book and create its own electronic version.

Once a college has an electronic copy, converting to a readable format can be another complex process, says Sean Keegan, associate director of assistive technology at Stanford University. Math and science texts often arrive as scanned pages, and cannot always be easily read by the character-recognition software the university uses to turn them into standard electronic files, Keegan says. "That can take a longer amount of time to process that material internally and turn it around and give that to the student efficiently," he says.

Meanwhile, delays in the process can make it impossible for disabled students to prepare for and participate in classes. "Students need to have a book in time so they can do the assigned reading and study for tests and papers," says Gaeir Dietrich, interim director of high-tech training for the California Community Colleges system. "So if the book doesn't come until the term has been in session for three or four weeks, that puts that student very far behind." Some students have sued colleges over such delays, she says.

AccessText aims to mitigate these woes by streamlining the request and delivery process, says Ed McCoyd, executive director for accessibility affairs at AAP.

"There's a lot of transactional friction taking place currently," says McCoyd. "What AccessText is trying to do is take some of that out of the transaction by having parties agree to streamlined rules up front."

Having colleges submit requests using the AccessText portal should eliminate the need for the publishers to require endless paperwork with each request to protect its copyrights, McCoyd says. Under the system, the copyright protection agreements can be handled once, during registration, and the requester's bona fides can be verified by a log-in.

Currently, colleges that get tired of waiting for publishers to process the paperwork and procure an electronic copy of a text sometimes just scan a text themselves to try to satisfy the needs of disabled students in a timely fashion, says Dietrich.

AccessText is also set up to eliminate the need for different colleges to convert the same text to a readable format once it is acquired. Currently "numerous schools could be doing the exact same thing, converting the same text," says Bruce Hildebrand, executive director for higher education at the publishers' association. Under the new system, "if one school has already spent the time and the money to convert a file to a format, they could advise the AccessText network, which could then make the info available that it was still available in that format, and that school could share it with another school" -- thereby sparing those colleges the time and resources it would have used to convert the file themselves, he says.

Eight major publishing houses paid a total of just under $1 million to develop the AccessText network and maintain it through its beta phase, which will end next July. From then on, it will sustain itself by billing member colleges between $375 and $500 annually, depending on size.

Dietrich notes that community colleges might not benefit from the AccessText network as much as other institutions, since "we have a lot more vocational classes and basic-skills classes, and a lot of those books don't come through those big publishers, they come through specialized publishers," she says. "It doesn't solve that part of the problem for us."

The network includes 92 percent of all college textbook publishers and is recruiting even more, according to AAP officials.

Friday, September 4

First netbook experience

Greetings. Thought I'd try to get this post out before it starts thunder storming again. We had a nasty one earlier. For a place like Austin that has been in a long drout, it really thundered and poured earlier, but at least we're getting some. Maybe we'll even catch up to the other parts of the state of Texas.

Anyway, netbooks have gained popularity in the general computing population and among the blind. Mainly because they are smaller and lighter than a laptop but stil sport many of the same things you find on a laptop or desktop PC. I've been looking into this netbook thing for around 6 months or so, studying different models, reading reviews, and considering features. I decided early on not to get one that was deeply discounted, since while that might have been a good deal, it also had the possibility of being cheap, as in not standing up to regular use over time. I also wanted to get one that included a long battery life, had wireless connection options for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and, from what you can tell from reviews anyway, looked to have a good keyboard. Oh, and now with all these different colors of netbooks, I also was hip to find one in blue. I finally found what I was looking for.

A week ago I ordered and today I received the ASUS EEE PC 1000HE, which sports, among other things: Wi-Fi of 802.11B/G/N (which means it can connect to all current Wi-FI standards and will likely keep pace for some time to come); Bluetooth; a normal sized keyboard, though from initial typing, the keys are smaller and some in weird places, but that's something I can adjust to; and the model I chose was a blue color with good looking finish on it. My colleagues at work today said that it was a very nice blue and finish. And the battery life is advertised at 9.5 hours. From the reviews, actual time looks to be around 8 or 9 hours, but still; that's lots better than some of the MSI models I read about that only got 4-6 hours. Though people have told me that even though the battery is 5 hours, it lasts them all day. I say, as long as the price doesn't go too high, the longer battery the better.

The ASUS 1000He is an older ASUS model, coming out in February of this year, but from what I've read it seems to be among the better of the various ASUS models. It also includes an SD slot, several USB ports, a Lan/Ethernet jack, web cam, microphone, and other things I'm probably forgetting. It weighs just over 3 pounds, which is notable since many notetakers weigh between 2-4 pounds and laptops around 6 pounds or more.

I'm still working out the kinks of getting a new computer, but this weekend should be rather fun as that process happens. Now I can understand why wireless web surfing is so much fun. Earlier, before all the storms, I was on an unsecured wireless netbook and going to Google and other websites. I actually signed into Gmail before I remembered that this was an unsecured network, and then I quickly signed out. I even was able to stream, all be it in fragments, a video and a radio station's audio. That brief wireless experience will see me investing in one of the many wireless routers out there. Though I have used my PAC Mate notetaker wirelessly before, it was somewhat limited with pocket versions of Internet Explorer and in the JAWS quick keys that actually work in the IE Mobile application, which by the way aren't nearly as many as on a PC. Now though, I've got full support on the netbook for any JAWS feature I want to use and in full versions of applications such as Internet Explorer.

Though I still have some kinks to work out and essentially a new computer to get used to, I'm more than pleased with my purchase and research, and look forward to many happy hours of mobile computing! Incidentally, if anyone has any resources for getting started with the netbook I have, then please email me through my site and let me know. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 1

Our first year

Greetings. How do you summarize a partnership or a year’s worth of events, emotions and feelings? Today is the first year anniversary. One year ago, I was matched with my current Seeing Eye dog Gucci. It all began when I was sitting in a chair in a lounge in Morristown, waiting for my future match. When my trainer brought her over to me and introduced me to her, she pretty much set the tone by putting her front paws in my lap and without hesitation giving me that first lick on the face. Though I was initially wary and unsure of how things were going to work out, after having not worked a dog for 9 years, Gucci took those fears and that uncertainty away by putting one or both her front paws on my arms, chest, and even shoulders. I clearly remember one of the first nights that I had her, when she put first one then the other of her front paws on my shoulder and held that position for several minutes. When I asked a trainer about this later, he said that she was showing that she was comfortable with me.

Then, all too quickly we were on the plane coming home and I was in tears at one point, having fully realized what I had done in getting her and fully appreciating having her. AS time went on, things were perhaps not as smooth as I might have liked, but we both were adjusting to each other and a new lifestyle, as well as her adjusting to my home and work environment. Countless times I have patted her on the bus, run my fingers through her triangular Shepherd ears, or just stayed calm when she was looking at me for direction. Now we’re a year later and we’ve come up with different games and things we do when at work and at home. She’s attuned to me and I to her. Any uncertainty I had felt in walking with her through the open parking lot of my apartment complex, is now gone as I trust her to make the right turns and guide me safely to and from the complex’s office. Sure, she might get distracted or turn when she’s not supposed to, but I’ve also let my mind wander at different times and not realized what she was trying to tell me or point out to me.

She still walks between two people that are spaced out but having a conversation, which I don’t pick up on until we’re already through, and then I’m apologizing. And she still pauses when coming to a crowd or upon someone with a cane at work, of which there are many people that use canes at work, but I’m glad I got her and that she’s mine.

So thanks Gucci for the memories, the past year, the times of running around the apartment or playing tug with the rope, or just for laying quietly under my desk and having people forget that you were there because you were so quiet. For being there for me when I needed comfort from waking from a bad dream, being nearby when I’m in the shower and just keeping your eyes on me when not on duty, and for being there for me at the many doctor’s appointments that we’ve been to over the past year. And for being there and having fun all the other times. I got worried back in May when I had dropped your leash at the horseback riding place, but that brief instant at which the leash was on the ground, when I called, you turned back to me as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’m here.” For getting me back to our apartment last fall when the taxi had let us off on the other side of the apartment building. That particular event happened just a couple of months after we had returned to Austin and I was so proud of you and impressed with your abilities. Here’s to more years of loyal service, fun times and good companionship!

Monday, August 31

JAWS 11 beta released

Greetings. For those interested, the JAWS version 11 public beta was released today. Before you install it though, you might want to check out the FS Cast for August 2009 that covers JAWS 11 new features. For the record before anyone asks: betas are not officially supported by Freedom Scientific, so if you come across problems, don't call tech support. Rather, use the beta report form on the JAWS 11 beta page linked above to report errors. Give as much detail as you can. Unlike prior years, you have to have a licensed version of JAWS 10 in order to run the beta. I say unlike prior years because in the last few versions, FS has allowed anyone, whether currently licensed or not, to use the beta. This time though, you have to have a current license for version 10. However, if you don't mind the 40 minute demonstration mode, you can still use the beta. There's no official release date for version 11, though if the FS Cast is any indication, they hope to have it out around the October 22 release date of Windows Seven. I think the big thing that jumps out at me with this version is the Research It tool that they've included, where you can look up pieces of information from various news/sports/weather sources. It's similar to the functionality that the average Joe has with the various gadgets in Windows Vista and Seven. The improved ARIA support also looks interesting, mainly because I'm hoping it will help out more on some of the Google ARIA sites, like the Calendar and Docs applications. Time will tell if this is a good release or not. It will be interesting to watch what is fixed during the beta cycle and when the final release comes out. Enjoy.

Friday, August 28

JAWS and ARIA

Greetings. ARIA, or Accessible Rich Internet Application, is an emerging set of web technologies that allows people to interact more with the web in new and different ways than HTML was designed for. HTML, or hypertext markup language, was for a long time the language of the web, as I've told my Internet class students. It tells the text where to go and what to do on a web page. However, now that we've entered the world of growing applications or what many people are calling Web 2.0, such as Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace, and even some of the Google apps like Calendar and Docs (documents), we need more from our WWW and we need it to act in different ways that HTML might not be able to do. Enter ARIA.

I'm focusing on JAWS here because that's what I'm familiar with, but given the dynamic nature of the WWW these days, in that it's always changing, and that many people want to keep up with those changes, I don't know for sure but it's probably safe to say that other screen reader manufacturers are also working on support for ARIA applications/sites. Though before you ask, refer to their documentation and versions of screen readers for more details.

As far as JAWS goes though, version 10 is where the ARIA support has started, and I'm sure it will be further developed and enhanced with future versions of JAWS. On the browser side, we saw some support for ARIA in Internet Explorer 7, but even more in version 8. And I've heard that Mozilla's Firefox was the first browser to "officially" adopt ARIA support.

For more on ARIA and how it will effect our daily lives in a short time, a colleague of mine predicts within a year we're going to be seeing it everywhere on the web, check out these resources:

In the January FS Cast (direct link to download the show)
ARIA was the topic of discussion. In that broadcast, Jonathan mosen spoke with Glen Gordon, the Chief Technology Officer of Freedom Scientific all about ARIA, then Jonathan did some demonstrations of how one might use ARIA on the web.

On May 26 of this year, Glen and Dan Clark appeared on a webinar, an online interactive seminar session, jointly hosted by FS and EASI, covering ARIA from a web developer standpoint. they also provided more of the history of ARIA. Download an dlisten to this broadcast at
http://www.freedomscientific.com/doccenter/archives/ARIA-GlenGordon.zip Click here to download the zipped HTML files from Glen's presentation on ARIA.

I'm sure that there are other resources out there, including some good ones mentioned in Glen Gordon's presentation linked above, but these will at least explain ARIA better and provide examples of where you might find ARIA applications/sites. Enjoy.

Booksense tutorial

Greetings. I came across a tutorial for the Booksense produced by Hims, the main manufacturer of the Booksense, that is around 2 hours in length and in 6 parts. The link below is for a zipped copy of the tutorial that has been put on Send Space. I learned of this from the Booksense list from GW Micro. This tutorial is for the Booksense XT, however users of Booksense Standard can still benefit from it. Remember that the only differences between the standard and XT models, aside from their colors, are: the XT has 4 gigs of internal storage, can be paired with a Bluetooth wireless headset, and has a radio. Other than these, all features are the same. The link is:


http://www.sendspace.com/file/6tuwq6


Enjoy.

Thursday, August 27

Booksense audio demonstration

Greetings. Rick Harmann of Blind Geek Zone fame has recorded a podcast demonstrating the Booksense from GW Micro. Find the audio for this podcast and download using this direct link: http://www.blind-geek-zone.net/Audio/BGZ035.mp3 The booksense demonstration is after the review of the Quitter program for using Twitter. Since I don't twit or tweat, whatever the wording, this doesn't really interest me, but some of you might find it of interest. At any rate, enjoy.

Wednesday, August 26

Site trouble update

Greetings. For those interested, I've fixed the issues with the Wayneisms and White Cane Day sites over the weekend by upgrading to a more expensive plan from my web host. This will not only give us the proper allotment of bandwidth, but it will also give the sites, specifically the White Cane Day site, room to grow for the future. Thanks to those that have been visiting lately and will continue to visit. On a personal note, the Wayneism site recent passed the 6800 visitors mark. This is notable since it passed the 5800 point back in March. I'm not sure I've ever gotten around 1,000 visitors in such a short period before! The White Cane Day site has gained around 2,500 hits in the same 6 month period. again, this hasn't happened before. Thanks again to those that are visiting these sites regularly. Remember to get those WCD shirt orders in by the deadline for your 2009 shirts. Enjoy.

Talks version 4.1 released

Greetings. For those interested, Nuance recently released version 4.1 of Talks, their mobile screen reader. Here is a direct link to download Talks version 4.1 from the Blind sea website. It looks like this is mainly a bug fix release, except for the added ability to switch between Talks voices. This seems kind of confusing to me since Eloquence is the main voice for Talks, but perhaps Nuance will be coming out with more voices for Talks in the future. Time will tell. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 20

My sites may be down

Greetings. For those that have been trying to access my Wayneism and White Cane Day sites today and who have gotten error messages saying that the bandwidth has been exceeded, I'm aware of the problem and hope to have it fixed in the next day or so. In the 7 years that I've had a site or sites on the web, this is the first time that this sort of thing has happened to me. It seems that the White Cane Day site is getting lots of traffic and that's likely the cause of the bandwidth demands.

Seeing Eye on ABC Friday

Greetings. I received the following announcement from The Seeing Eye earlier. If you can't catch the initial broadcast/print story run of these stories, then check out the links below. Note that the time listed for the ABC World News program is eastern. Enjoy, and happy birthday Seeing Eye!

***

Breaking News!! Two stories on The Seeing Eye are about to hit the press!

The people and dogs of The Seeing Eye will be featured as the “Person of the Week” on Friday August 21 at 6:30 p.m. on ABC World News with Charles Gibson. The “Person of the Week” is a feature done every Friday at the conclusion of the network ABC news as a tribute to an individual that is making a difference in the world. The Seeing Eye was selected as this week’s honoree because of our 80th anniversary and the Graduate Reunion that is occurring this weekend. ABC News was impressed that about 200 graduates out of 1800 active graduates are returning to our Washington Valley campus, despite the economy.

ABC News was on campus yesterday, interviewing Jim and Ginger, accompanying an instructor training a dog, and filming a litter of black Lab puppies. They will return tomorrow to capture graduates at the Reunion. Look for the 2 ½ minute Seeing Eye segment on your network ABC news Friday, August 21 at the conclusion of the 6:30 pm broadcast.

The second news story will be a Friday, August 21 feature on the Graduate Reunion on the front page of the Star Ledger, the leading newspaper in New Jersey. The Star Ledger spent most of yesterday on campus interviewing our staff.

If you are unable to tune in or read the article, both stories will be made available on the Internet at
http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerindex
and
www.nj.com/starledger

Monday, August 17

RFB&D now free for individuals

Greetings. I came across this announcement from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic and hthought it worth posting here. The below message is what I sent to some work colleagues regarding this announcement, but for full details, check out the link below. It would appear that if you're an individual and have a compatible RFBD player, such as the VR Stream and soon to be the Booksense, then you can now download books for free! This is awesome news and I'm sure will be welcome news for any student, be they in school or students of life. Enjoy.

***

Unlike Book Share, there doesn’t seem to be any restrictions for being apart of any particular group, such as in school. It looks like as long as you can play the RFBD digital books, if you’re an individual then membership is now free.

*Aug. 18: here's an addition from one of my colleagues regarding the free memberships.
I spoke to RFB&D and the grant they received is for one year, so the free membership is just for one year.

When a individual consumer signs up online, the consumer does not have to pay the one time registration fee or the or annual fee for one year. If they have a portable audio book device such as the Victor Stream, the UAK (User Authorization Key) to download books is free also for the first year. If the grant is not renewed, the fee schedule will go back to what it was next year. Institutional memberships are not covered by the grant.

Read the following link for more details:



http://www.rfbd.org/membership-individual.htm

Tuesday, August 11

FS Reader now free

Greetings. For those interested, Freedom Scientific has announced a change in pricing for their FS Reader program that allows you to read Daisy material on the PAC Mate and PAC Mate Omni machines--in short, it's now free! Read the official press release regarding the free FS Reader. This is a good thing and will allow more people to be able to read Daisy content. Others would theorize why this was done; I won't. I'll just say this: I'm still waiting for a ntoetaker manufacturer to step out and add the ability to read the new NLS digital talking books with their Daisy program. Thus far, no one has done this. When this happens, I think that said company's Daisy program will see it's popularity soar! In the press release above, it is hinted that FS Reader will also be fre with the new JAWS 11 to be released later this year, and also for demonstration versions of JAWS. This is a good thing for students or those who may not have the funds to purchase a full license of JAWS. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 5

At 1 point her hind legs were on bottom and her front legs were trying to dog paddle.
Gucci got in the ocean yesterday. Not sure she liked it though.

Monday, August 3

Went to the beach tn and gucci got her paws wet. She still backed away from the waves that came in fast.
When Gucci saw water, she backed up and stood behind my mom. She stayed under an umbrella and watched from the beach.
Went to the beach earlier. Had fun. Gucci not sure of water.

Sunday, August 2

Got to gate for first leg of trip. Walking with a blind guy and not talking doesnt work :)

Saturday, August 1

Family vacation 2009

Greetings. Tomorrow I leave for Florida to join my parents and later in the week my other siblings, niece and nephews for a family vacation. For many years, we did semi-regular vacations in Colorado. However, thankfully we've switched states. Not that i have anything against CO; i love it up there. But what I get out of vacations and what other members of my family get out of it are different things I believe. Also, those long car trips driving upwards of 15 hours or more just to get there, have burned me out on long car trips. It's somewhat necessary in Texas, but anything too much longer than 3 or 4 hours is too long for me. So, while my parents and older brother and his family are driving there, both myself and my younger brother are flying from our respective cities. Besides, I much more like the idea of arriving in 3-4 hours verses 14 or more. Anyway, we'll be staying in a friends beach house, which from what I hear is pretty nice, with the beach a few blocks away. I talked with my mother a few times today and it sounds like the area around the house is nice, and like there are a lot of runners, joggers, bikers, and people doing other things nearby. OH, and there's the wonders of the beach, which I haven't partaked in for about 16 years or so. I'm glad i setup the ability to do mobile posting from my cell not long ago. I hope to do a few posts next week on what we're up to, so keep watching this space for periodic updates. Though it's only for about 6 days, I'm looking forward to it. We haven't done a real family vacation like this in several years, so it should be fun. Talk later, and see you on the sand, :)

Monday, July 20

The History channel and l8r Discovery r running shows about moon missions tonight.
Just watched 1969 tv coverage of moon landing and walk. Cool!

Saturday, July 18

Interesting story from a blind iPhone owner

Greetings. I came across this post to the Blind Phones email list regarding the new iPhone 3GS, which is reported to be "accessible." I applaud Apple for building in accessibility in a screen reader and appropriate gestures to read and activate things on the screen, however, the nature of the phone as a touch screen leaves me a little skeptical of how practical it really is. Even though I've got a colleague at work who is excited about the possibility and saving her money for one, and even though a student yesterday in one of my classes was really encouraging me to take a look at one (even after I had spoken to him with another teacher of our skepticism), I'm waiting until I can actually get a look at one and see for myself. I've got my Nokia N82 and am quite happy with it. However, here's one person's experience. In short, they used the new iPhone for about a month and ended up returning it to the store and going back to their N82. Read more about it at http://tinyurl.com/nfzktx Enjoy, and think about it before you buy.

Blog comments and communication

Greetings. For those that choose to make comments on any post on this blog, take note of the following. While Blogger is supposed to email me and give the option of publishing or rejecting the comments, so I can weed out any potential spam, that doesn't always happen. I say this because earlier, in browsing the main blog's area for making new posts, accessing settings and the like, I saw a message that there were 18 comments which have yet to be moderated. As I'm going through some of them, I'm finding comments from as recent as earlier this month, to as far back as January this year or even further. If you need to get in touch with me, putting a comment here may not be the best way. In fact, given that I don't go through the comments on the Blogger side and moderate them very often, I'd actually say that if you are content wiht hardly ever receiving a response from me, then commenting here is the best way. However, if you actually have a concern, question about a technical gadget or computers, or want to ask something else, then please use another method. I'm on many different email lists and certainly don't mind receiving off list emails from people. Though I prefer not to put my email address on the web, I will in this post, more or less. Another good way to get in touch would be to fill out the feedback form on my site, linked below in the Sites to Watch section. Those forms go directly to me. If you want a response back, then replace what's in the subject with something like "Please contact me," and I will. So, for those that want to get in touch with me directly, here's the one and only time I'll put my email address out there, at least in this form. I try and limit the times it's out there to try and control any potential spam. Take note of how it's written and convert that into how they're usually written, remembering to remove the star (*) symbol. It is:

wcmerritt *at* gmail* dot* com*

Again, trying to trick the computerized bots that troll the web harvesting email addresses.

One other note on commenting: If you put your email address in your comment, it will not be filtered out when your comment is published. Further, it could be harvested by these computerized bots and you could begin getting more spam. So in shorrt, take note before you write your email in these comments. Remember, once I approve them to be published, anyone on the web can read them. Again, for private communication with me, either use the email above or fill out the feedback form on my site, which will both go directly to me. I'm not trying to discourage comments, but don't want to miss any private messages that might come through them, that could have gotten to me in other ways. Thanks.

Mobile posting

Greetings. I've added the ability for me to post via text message. I tried to write this in a post, but found that Blogger cut off most of the message and only showed the last two lines. Guess I need to not write novels each time I send messages from my cell phone. Anyway, I looked at Twitter, but figured that this would be easier since I already have a blog and since blogger has added this feature at some point in the last few months. I wish I knew of this or that it was out there when I went to train at The Seeing Eye last fall, but oh well. I'm not sure i'll use this a lot, but it will be handy for when I'm out of town or away from my computer, such as perhaps during the trip to Florida I'm taking with my family in a couple of weeks. Talk later.

Another person blogging at The Seeing Eye

Greetings. I love reading posts or blogs from someone who is currently in training for their guide dog. Such is the case with Stacey and her time at The Seeing Eye starting today and going for the next few weeks. She's returning for a successive dog, so her stay won't be as long as for a new dog, but nonetheless you can read more on her Live journal blog which I've listed in my bookmarks as Stacey's Seeing Eye training. She has some posts already there leading up to when she left last night to travel to New Jersey, and she promises to post during her training. Whenever I read a blog like this, it reminds me of when I went for Gucci last August. Can't believe that was almost one year ago; there's a trip to remember. Hopefully she'll continue posting about her adventures with "new dog" after she returns home. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 15

Overdue horseback riding update

Greetings. Sorry for not putting up an update recently about my horseback riding. For whatever reason, after I get home and rest, I get distracted and have forgotten to update everyone on my progress. Well, here's a summary of what we've worked on in the last month. I didn't go on July 4th due to the holiday.

We've been working on counting steps around the arena. I learned by doing this that the arena is 14 by 28 steps square, or rectangle as it is. We counted steps when both Paint was walking slow and a little faster and came up with more or less the same numbers. I've learned from a volunteer that the reason for this is to work up to having me ride in the arena without any front or side walkers. Back in June, Brenda had one of her teenage volunteers stand in one part of the arena and talk. The first time this happened the girl didn't know what to talk about, and pretty much just said hi to me each time we got close to her. The next Saturday, Brenda gave her a book on dressage to read aloud. A little while into the lesson, when passing her, the girl said that she was learning so much about dressage that she didn't realize before. Brenda said that this would help me get a feel for how large the arena was, and more of an idea of distances. Last weekend I wasn't able to ride Paint, due to him recovering from surgery, so I spent the time learning more about grooming and leading him in the arena. When leading, I learned how to turn right and turn left. The concept of pushing him to the right for all right turns took me a little while to fully grasp. I was confused and thought that Brenda said to use this pushing method for both turns, even if we're going counter clockwise, but I later learned that this wasn't the case. When walking around the arena, Brenda asked one of the teenage volunteers to tap each of the lettered cones she had out for dressage. She has also set out a radio near the gate, so that on one end I hear the radio and the other end I hear the girl reading the dressage book. This has worked out quite well in helping me get my bearings in the arena, and leads me to think that this might be how things are when I ride solo. Right before leaving when talking with Brenda, I heard one of the other students there, an autistic girl, whinny like a horse. I said to Brenda, "Wow, that's an interesting sounding horse you have; and it sounds so human but it made a horse sound. Hmm." The whinny ended in a laugh, so that's kind of a dead giveaway. Anyway, I'll try to get back to regular updates. This weekend I'm not sure if I'll go riding, perhaps might put an errand in the riding's place, but I'm definitely going on July 25 before a break in the first 2 Saturdays in August. Until then.

Tuesday, July 14

Labs and text messaging with the Google Calendar

Greetings. IN part, I read earlier on the official Gmail Blog that Labs features are being added to the Google Calendar. I've stated before on this blog that many of the Labs features are what I consider fluff, such as a background image or putting colored labels on different emails. However, there are a couple of features that jumped out at me and actually looked helpful. Now you can access some of these on the Google Calendar. As features go, these are experimental things and may or may not work. It's like Google is testing the feature before they go live as it were on the application itself. The two things I saw and quickly enabled in my Google Calendar Labs settings were: jump to date and view next appointment. The Google Calendar could stand for some accessibility improvements as it is, but after some browsing around, it's not too hard to figure out what's what. After I saved my settings and was taken back to the Google Calendar page, I was pleased with the results. Apparently, a heading is placed on the Next Appointment area, which is good. And, the jump to date area is a series of combo boxes where you can choose the month, day and year of the date you want to go to, be it in the past or the future. In other words, at first glance, it looks pretty accessible and usable by a blind guy who is using screen reading technology. Now, if Google would only carry over some of the Labs features from Gmail, or as stated before on this space, combine the Basic HTML with the Standard interface without losing any accessibility, then all would be right wiht the world. So thanks to the Google Calendar people for adding some Labs features to their application. I look forward to more.

Text messaging: If you go into your Google account settings area, you can now add the ability to have Google send a text message to your cell phone with a password reset code/reminder if you forget your password. Of course, this assumes you can access and read text messages on your phone. However, in this day and age of more cell phones being accessible with all of the software and different types of phones out there, this is a good move. Also, in the Google Calendar, you can check your calendar via text message, or even schedule via text message. Read more in the Google Calendar Help area for how this works. Good on you Google Calendar people!

Tuesday, July 7

Gmail out of beta?

Greetings. I read earlier today on several Google related blogs that many of their applications are out of their beta cycles. This includes Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and others. Given that Gmail has been "in beta" since 2004, it's about time. My big question now is this: if Gmail is out of beta, when will those who use the Basic HTML interface start seeing some of the enhancements, new features, and "Lab only features" that have been in the Standard interface for some time now? Granted, many of the Lab only stuff is what I call "fluff." For instance, I don't have a lot of use for colored labels since I cann't see the colors. However, there are some Lab only things that I could find uses for and would find helpful, such as applying more than one label to a post at one time. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone from Google or Gmail that could answer this? Or, here's something, how about combining the Standard and Basic HTML interfaces and making one big interface that has enough glitz for the sighted people, but that also is accessible with plenty of headings and other HTML elements to enhance navigation with a screen reader or other AT product? I understand the benefits and uses of having a separate site that's "accessible," however why not be inclusive as well and accommodate everyone equally? After all, that's one of the big goals with many disabled people, to be treated on equal grounds as those who are "normal." So, how about it Google?

Friday, July 3

Using your PAC Mate as a Jaws Authorization

Greetings. I received the following information via an email list. I posted this, or something similar to it, back in 2005 but it's probably time for a reset. I'm not certain, but I believe this works best if you're using PAC Mate versions before the Omni. I believe you can accomplish the same thing with the Omni, but have to use a Bluetooth connection. Not sure on that though. Perhaps someone can post a reply with those steps. Anyway, enjoy.

***

Did you know that if you own a PAC Mate you also own a copy of Jaws for
the PC? Your PAC Mate acts as an authorization. This is something not a
lot of people are aware of but there are times when it can come in
handy. The option is called "Active Sync Remote PAC Mate". Not only does
it allow you to use Jaws on a PC but it also allows you to use the
keyboard and c display from the PAC Mate to control the PC.

The following steps will get you started:

1. Install Jaws. You must use a version later than 6.2 for this to work
properly. You don't need to activate the Jaws but you can if you wish
to.

2. Establish an active sync session between the PC and the PAC Mate.

3. From ere there are 2 ways to go. There is a program included with
Jaws called Pac Mate Desktop. This needs to be running before this will
work. You can run this directly from the Start Menu, Programs, JawsX [X
being the version of Jaws you have installed], tools, PAC Mate Desktop.
If you want this program to automatically start when your computer does
then you need to start Jaws. Press JawsKey J to move to either the Jaws
window or the Context menu. Go to the Options menu, locate Basics and
press enter. Tab until you hear "automatically start PAC Mate Desktop"
and make sure the check box is checked. Press Enter to exit the Basics
dialog. Now exit Jaws.

4. Your PAC Mate has a built in command for starting Jaws. Note that if
you don't do it this way Jaws will not recognize the PAC Mate as an
Authorization. To start Jaws press Insert Shift F4 on the QX. Press
DOTS 1-2-7-8 CHORD, D or DOTS 1-5-7-8 CHORD, D. Your PAC Mate will say
"PAC Mate remote mode on" and Jaws will start. You now have control of
your PC through the PAC Mate and a fully authorized Jaws.

If you wish to use the PAC Mate functions you can turn off the Remote
Mode with the same keystrokes you turned it on with. This will not shut
down Jaws on the PC and you can still use Jaws with the PC keyboard.

To stop working in remote mode, press Insert F4 on the PAC Mate if you
have the QX. If you have the BX press DOTS 1-2-8 CHORD, D or DOTS 1-5-8
CHORD, D. You will hear "Do you really want to quit JAWS? Press Enter to
quit now or Escape to cancel." Press ENTER to unload JAWS from the PC
and the PAC Mate returns to normal mode.

Note that because the BX does not have many of the keys necessary to
control a PC alternatives have been set up. See your PAC Mate BX
documentation for more details.

Thursday, July 2

The Booksense makes sense

Greetings. I have yet to place my order for this new and exciting device, and I'm already posting about it here on my blog. The Booksense is one of the newest book reading/MP3 playing devices out there. Rather than me ramble through lots of features, let me point you to two resources. The first is a Comparison chart between the Booksense, VR Stream, and Plextalk Pocket and the Booksense Unvailing (MP3 file direct download link). Both of these will give you more than enough information on this new product.

I initially read over the comparison chart out of curiosity, to see how the Booksense would stack up against the Victor Reader Stream. However, I found myself going over sections of the chart several times to make sure I was reading it right. Shortly after I had finished, I was on the phone with a local dealer of GW Micro products asking about pricing and other features. The price for the Booksense XT might seem a little high at $499, but given that all you get, and add on the discount they're running till September 30 where they're taking off $50 of the XT price and $35 from the Booksense Standard's price, it more than makes up for it. So, below is a summary of some of the key features or distinguishing characteristics of the Booksense, at least compared to the Sttream, and other notes. This is not an exaustive list, but these are some of the things that jumped out at me. Check out the two links above for more details.

Cons:
* Wording: the dealer told me that the Booksense is still under development to a degree and the manufacturer's are working on some of the wording in certain parts of it. Nothing big, but coming from the perspective of a computer teacher, there are some terms used that are usually used with Windows, and the way you interact with said item differs from how you might do it in Windows. The Booksense is not a computer, but I couldn't help but notice this conflict.
* Battery life: the Booksense runs for 12 hours, verses the Stream which runs for 15 hours. I haven't timed my Stream from start to finish, so I don't know if I actually play it for the full 15 hours. However, given that this is really the only major problem I have with the Booksense, and that the pros listed below more than make up for the battery life, I can deal with it.

Now, here's some of the pros that I found interesting:

* Folder names: the names of the folders where you put your reading material or audio files make more sense than the Stream. For instance, instead of calling the music folder VrMusic, on the Booksense, it's simply called Music. What a concept?
* Battery charge time, especially since it takes half the time of the Stream, at 2 hours verses 4 for the Stream.
* Recording formats: You can record in some more standard formats on the Booksense, rather than an obscure one where you need special software in order to convert them into a standard format.
* Built in FM radio: not a big thing and not a deal breaker for me. I'd be just as happy without a radio on my device, but in this day and age of combining multiple tasks into one device, I'm all for it. This way I can just take one device with me on trips, rather than carrying my reading device and a Walkman or other portable radio.
* Built in storage on the Booksense XT model: try 4 GB of storage! Since I have a 32 GB SDHC card, built in storage isn't a big deal, except for perhaps important documents or files that I don't want to accidentally delete on the sD card, like perhaps the user manual.
* Smaller size: according to the unvailing event linked above, the Booksense is 30 percent smaller than the Stream. Meaning, it's about the size of a candy bar cell phone. That sounds pretty good to me!
*Every Booksense comes with an SD card. The size of the card will depend on which model you buy: the standard has a 2 GB and the XT has an 8 GB. I can't tell you how many people I talked with, that when I told them of the stream, I also had to endure the disappointment from them upon hearing that the Stream didn't come with a card included. It's definitely a downer to find that you have to buy something else when you've already spent a certain amount on a product. Not a big deal, but definitely notable that each Booksense comes with its own card. And no, there's no way to not get a card. Consider it another option for storing lots of tunes or books.
* Ability to charge the Booksense via USB: yes, if you have the unit connected to your computer via the USB cable, then along with transferring files, you can also charge the battery. There's forward thinking.
* Ability to read Audible, Book Share, NLS digital talking books, and coming in the next release in another month or so, RFB&D files.
* Ability to read Word documents, including Word 2007 files.
* And more.

I'll probably read over this list later and think of things to add, but this list is a start. Considering that I was looking at netbooks and seriously considering which one to buy, and now this netbook purchase has been moved back for several months, that tells you where my buying priorities have shifted to.

Will the BookSsense overtake the stream? Who knows; only time will tell on that. As the dealer said earlier, there are people that will like one over the other, and there will be those people that like both. Also, both of these devices are great devices. In a sense, the Booksense is an extension of the Stream, just as in the next year or two, there may be newer devices that build on what the Booksense is doing. Will I get rid of my Stream after I get a Booksense? No way; the Stream is special. Personally, I think the Stream was the right device at the right time in the right place when it came out. I sat down one day not long ago and calculated approximately how much money the Stream has made HumanWare in 18 months, given a certain number of units that were sold in that timeframe. The first 18 months saw around 15,000 Streams sold, which assuming they all cost the same price and that everyone paid for them (yes, assumptions here, but I had to go off of something), I came up with over $5,000,000! I wonder how many other devices for the blind have made that much money in their first 18 months? I'm not sure that the Booksense will capture that following that the Stream had it its history, but then again, who's to say it won't? It will be interesting to watch how things go for GW Micro over the next few months and year.

One other question I want to toss out: with GW Micro and HumanWare diversifying their product lines in recent years, having screen readers, screen magnifyers, portable magnifyers in some cases, note takers, and now book/Daisy reading and mP3 playing devices, when is Freedom Scientific going to join in with their contribution? And, how will that contribution compare with what's already out there? Time will tell on that front as well.

AS for me, I'll be reading up on the Booksense over the next 2 days, and anxiously awaiting my own unit. If the attendance at the unvailing of the Booksense or some of the comments I've read from other people on the web is any indication, this looks to be a device that many people will want to get their hands on. A colleague of mine wrote that he's already preordered his and will have it when he returns from the NFB convention next week. At the time I read that, I thought, "How can you preorder a device that you haven't even seen yet? Crazy." However, now I think I know.