This week J.J. and Joe power through the week's news, show off a few things with a demo or two and the winners of the Jet competition are announced. Of course we also have Sound Off" and the "Last Word". This show may have been recorded as the last show of August, however, it airs as the first show of September. How amazingly "timey wimey" of us.
This episode is brought to you by HIMS, who would like to remind you that "Your needs are our solutions". Check out the E-Bot Video Magnifier, the Blaze EZ reading solution, the new Smart Beetle Braille Display and more by visiting the HIMS website. Or, follow them on Twitter.
In The News:
Also, mmm ... sprinkles, BBQ regular Shelly Brizbin has started a new podcast
Demo: Resurrecting an Old Braille Display
J.J. demonstrates how to hook up a HandyTech BrailleStar 40 braille display from 15 years ago to a modern screen reader using the Keyspan by Tripp Lite USA-19HS High-Speed USB Serial Adapter This trick will work on all sorts of old tech, making some of your tech that's gathering dust new again.
Demo: Multi Path Audio for iOS
It's a modern day take on the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" game with snazzy narration and lots of replay ability. Multi Path Audio for iOS has a simple interface, high contrast based controls and a simple "pick up and play" approach to interactive story telling mechanics. Each story is $1.99 and there are currently four stories available. The stories can be played offline for those long trips away from the internet. And you can try a story out before you purchase it in case you find one not to your liking. Each story has multiple endings and you will want to find them all. You can skip past the portions you have already completed, or start over from the beginning and live the adventure to its fullest.
Tip: Give me a Hint
There's a little event happening on September 9, but what exactly will Apple be announcing? IN this week's tip, J.J. asks Siri for a hint on what might transpire.
Jet Contest Winners
A few episodes back, we asked you to post a comment on our website to be entered in a drawing for fabulous prizes (prizes not fabulous). Congratulations to Louis D and mcikeyc who each won a one year membership to Jet. In case you missed it, you can check out our review of Jet from a few weeks ago.
Jan Brown writes in with another review and a few more comments this week.
"I ordered the Six Dot Braille labeler made by Logan Electronics after hearing it demonstrated on one of your CSUN broadcasts.
I am a gadget geek and for this reason was a bit unsure about this product. I had a difficult dymo labeler in the past which took forever to use.
This new labeler features a Perkins style keyboard with a cutting button which works and is easy to activate.
All of my kitchen spices are beautifully labeled now and the next project is the dread deep freeze and some cupboards.
I really like the product which works as claimed.
The only drawback is the lack of a charger. It works off of 6, yes, count them, 6 double A batteries. We turn it off between label brailling. You can read what you have written as it comes out of the machine and the back is fairly easy to tear off of each label.
I am not a fan of bar code scanners. I am not good enough to locate the bar codes enough of the time.
Taptapsee used to be a favorite but so often I would get responses telling me I held a bottle or box.
I am also a bit concerned by the lack of privacy of these crowd sourced applications.
Nothing beats simple braille for ease.
Yes, you will need sighted assistance to determine what you need to label, but nothing is perfect, least of all me.
Suck it up, buttercup, and get the needed help and you will never have to wonder what you are really having for dinner again."
Ken has lots to say about some of our past episodes as well.
"Joe commented about the desire to return to menus for Microsoft programs in a number of BBQs and possibly one summer conference recording over the last few weeks. I will not try to list the incidents where this topic was mentioned.
Screen Reader Experts prejudice
JJ s passing comment in BBQ 24 about Accomplish CashManager to me is another example of many screen reader experts prejudice against less known accessible mainstream programs. I find the lackluster acceptance of programs like CashManager by people like JJ and Joe when compared to a company like Intuit that gets massive praise for producing a somewhat accessible program years after another company developed a highly accessible alternative annoying.
The whole Quicken situation reminds me of a quote allegedly attributed to Larry Ellison one of the founders of Oracle. I paraphrase the quote as: The way to succeed with software is not to create great software. The way to succeed is to be first in the market with something that is good enough.
I will bring up ancient history. The dismissal of BLIO once made accessible is another example of screen reader experts not crediting companies that do good work if they are not a market leader. This despite the fact that BLIO provided useful screen reader access to mainstream books almost a year before Kindle or Nook. I will just mention that I got to read four or five books that were not available in an alternate format or provided by either Kindle or Nook for almost a year and still use BLIO. I vote with my dollars so if there is a book that I want and is not available in an alternate format I start with Blio.
I have observed many other cases of the behavior that I described. I used Quicken and BLIO as worse case examples.
Kelly Ford and Quicken
As someone who gave up on Quicken years ago due to screen reader accessibility issues, I am unsympathetic to Mr. Ford s problems with Quicken. I am aware of two programs that if his interest is in personal money management will meet his needs:
- American Printing House Money Talks
- Accomplish Global CashManager (light/home)
I have used Money Talks for about 10 years now. It has a file importing function that supports quicken and comma separated value formats. It also has a categorization and subcategorization function including reporting that should meet the needs of any personal user. The only feature that I cannot make work is print checks. I use on-line payments so almost never need that feature.
I tested several flavors of the Accomplish CashManager two or three years ago. All of the flavors were highly screen reader accessible. I only found two unlabeled buttons in one of the business versions and had to drill deep into the program to find them. I did not find enough enhancements in CashManager to switch from Money Talks. If I were to start a small business, I would use CashManager based on my review. I especially liked the report creation function that produced properly formatted and accessible PDF reports. This is a useful feature for any organization with blind computer using members.
I restate a paraphrase of what I have heard for years from screen reader experts within the assistive technology field including Joe. Try to work with mainstream developers to fix accessibility problems but you better be willing to find alternatives if you want to succeed.
For those with a burning desire for sources, The Kelly Ford situation and the Quicken general discussion are found in BBQ 24.
Windows Verses Mac
I waited for years for someone like Mr. Duncan of Blazie UK to publically state that full featured Windows screen readers are more efficient than the Apple VoiceOver on Macs. I rejected Apple years ago once I learned how the interact mode worked in VoiceOver. I was never convinced that the process of drilling through levels of controls/functions could be as efficient as the methods used by full featured Windows screen readers. Mr. Duncan's comments are from one of the Sight Village recordings. The Blind Bargains URL for the recording is http://www.blindbargains.com/b/13154
This week's Twitter response was a reply to the following from our @blindbargains account...
... the response that amused us greatly was...
@ASquared_Editor: Does that mean that the canister is made out of an animal or that this vacuum can vacuum up animals? ;) The latter could be useful, though the former is just cruel.
Well played sir!
Joe vowed there would be no food links for this episode. This is what happens in this segment if he isn't thinking, or reading, about food.
Next week, Apple Event Commentary! Expect the show to come out just a little later to allow for us to record our reactions to all the new stuff they are going to drop on us this holiday season. Until then, guard all piggy banks closely.
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Regarding the USB to serial converters mentioned in the demo of making an old braille display work on a new computer: I'd caution that you be very careful with adapters that claim to use the Prolific PL2303 chip. While the one JJ recommends is likely all right, the market is seemingly flooded with counterfeit chips. This is a real problem, for instance, with cables provided with, or for, cheap Chinese handheld ham radio gear. Working around these issues is not trivial, as one has to locate an old driver and then be sure Windows doesn't try to update it. The trouble here is that Prolific has a check in their driver which makes cloned/counterfeit chips not recognize properly in Windows, thus, the adapter doesn't work. Which means you've wasted $10 or however much instead of saving a bunch of money. Generally, people seem to have better luck over all with adapters based on the FTDI chip. It's the same sort of thing, a USB to serial converter. To be fair, there was a brief time where the FTDI driver would actually render counterfeit FTDI chips completely inoperable...yes, it really would brick your adapter. FTDI updated their driver and my understanding is that the latest versions don't do this anymore. FWIW, I'm using two different cables with FTDI chips in them, and I've definitely run into the fake Prolific chip problem. Also, I actually found a converter that also came with a USB extension cable, with the FTDI chip, for less than $15. It's one of the adapters I'm using and works pretty well.
Alexx Tuesday, 08-Sep-2015 09:49 AM ET:
Hi! Intresting to listen to J.JJ- and how to use an old braille display on a new computer. Hoverer i wonder how to use an Braille woyager 70 who only have and old standard usb for a new computer? Hi have oportunity to buy one from a friend. As i understand Optelec does not provide 64 bits drivers or does not have any suport for this braille display any longer. So i would be glad if some one have a suggest how to solve this, running windows 10 on a 64 bits Maschin?
DebeeArmstrong Tuesday, 27-Oct-2015 1:37 PM ET:
For those of you who really want that ancient Braille display to work with Windows, don't forget that NVDA supports BRLTTY. BRLTTY is a Linux-based Braille display screen access solution, but it's been ported to Windows. The NVDA documentation has a link to the page with its unofficial builds. Documentation is scant, but simply pick the latest version, download the .exe file and run through its install. It will be installed as a service which you can restart or disable with the Microsoft services console (type services.msc from the run dialog box). The service will already be started, but knowing about services.msc is helpful for troubleshooting. To change or check out its configuration file, find Brltty in your Programs (x86) folder and under its etc directory you'll find brltty.conf, a text file which contains all the configuration stuff where each comment begins with a number sign. This is a standard Linux-style configuration file. The only two variables you really need to care about are braille-device which in my case is set to Serial:com1 and braille-driver, which in my case is set to ts which is their driver for all TeleSensory devices. Brltty even supports the routing buttons on my 1995 PowerBraille. The Braille-Driver entries are all two-letter codes, and the Brltty manual has a list of these. There are drivers for lots of really old displays from the 1990s and even the 1980s TeleSensory Navigator. You can also use the code Auto, for the Braille driver, and it will attempt to auto-detect, which in most cases, despite its documentation's warnings, does work fine. Note these variables and values are all lower-case, and sometimes the brltty.conf file has only line-feeds. In 64-bit Windows, when NVDA is not running, you won't have access to the command prompt, but in 32-bit Windows you will. So even with only Braille, you can troubleshoot a bit more in 32-bit operating systems. When a graphical screen is active, as is mostly true for Windows, you'll see the words No foreground window on your Braille display. This is when NVDA is not running. If NVDA is running, Braille will appear. Also if you search for Braille displays on Ebay, you can find many supported by Brltty, often purchased and rarely used by agencies, hence in excellent condition.
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Joe Steinkamp is no stranger to the world of technology, having been a user of video magnification and blindness related electronic devices since 1979. Joe has worked in radio, retail management and Vocational Rehabilitation for blind and low vision individuals in Texas. He has been writing about the A.T. Industry for 15 years and podcasting about it for almost a decade.