Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

The Walled Garden

June 24, 2011

In the latest Tech chat from Serotalk, Mike Calvo expressed an annoyance for the “walled garden”.

Here is what I have to say about it.

Android 2.1 2.2 and 2.3 were frangmented. What’s fragmented mean? Well it means that the OS source code was given out by google and then developers were able to do whatever they wanted to it. Google decided in HoneyComb the latest verson of the android software to keep the OS closed. People were up in arms about this and it made all the major tech blogs around the net. No more source code or very little would be let out. This isn’t a bad thing Google relized to have a good operating system they needed to make some people made and take control of their operating system. Much in the way Apple does with IOS and MAC OSX. This isn’t a bad thing to me, because the OS isn’t be fragmented anymore and updates can be pushed across all devices not just devices the carrier and developer decide to push out updates too. It also makes it easier for blind people to use it because there are not all of these inaccessible skins over the OS. So, that means that it can be made more accessible which is good and great!

What do you think?

Update

June 9, 2011

Guys I know I haven’t been writing much on this blog and I apologize for that. I’ve had to gert school stuff ready and there hasn’t been a lot to talk about lately. Well, now I’m going to start a new series of posts on Apple’s keynote address at WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference). I will be talking about IOS 5 Mac OS X Lion and ICloud. I will be also doing a series of posts on being a first time back user and using the screen reader onboard the machine. I will also go through different apps that I find accessible and give you a full rundown of them. This is all new coming up and I hope you guys will enjoy the posts. So, please stay tuned for those and more from SAA.

Aaron

The Cloud, Why it’s good and why it’s Bad

June 3, 2011

For a long time now I’ve been using a service called Dropbox. Dropbox is a cloud based (meaning it stores information up on it’s servers)service that stores your information in the cloud, for people who don’t know the cloud is the internet. Now, over all of about 2 years I’ve realized that there are a few downsides to this and also a few good sides.

One major good advantage to the service is it’s free!!!!!! Seriously, you can put at least 2 GB worth of data and access it from any computer or mobile device. For instance I could put a photo up to dropbox and go on my iPhone and look at it. Or, I could go look at it on my laptop. I could even show a friend that same picture on my desktop computer on my 20″ screen. The posibilities are endless. Another cool feature is that you can get 2 GB free when singing other people up. This is exactly what I did when I created my podcast site. I store all my podcasts and intros and ideas for podcasts up to dropbox. How did I do that? Well, I created an account but I used my personal account to send an invite for my podcast cloud. One of the best things that I like about dropbox is that I can store anything up there.

So, say your dropbox account gets compromised and you have photos of family your dog and your friends. Or say that you have a word document for school. (NOTE: this rarely if even happens though). What would you do? This problem occurs a lot with pc hard drives when people don’t back up their drives. So, even though dropbox is a good service for keeping stuff on the internet always have a backup. I actually have two. In my desktop pc I have a 500 GB internal drive and a 250 GB external drive. I keep everything that is important to me (meaning pictures, books, music, documents, podcasts, and podcast stuff ) on both of those drives. Now, you may be thinking well I want everything up in the cloud. 1 bad idea it’s fine to have certain hear me out certain things in the cloud but not everything, especially stuff like bank account information credit card info. No! none of that. It’s ok to have for instance fall class schedule, things like that but no personal info.

Overall it’s a cool service and I enjoy using it, if you need more storage they also have that as well and it’s fairly priced.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a Dropbox spokesperson I am only speaking from my experiences using the service.

Android vs. iPhone

May 14, 2011

After about a whole week to look at my friend’s android powerd device, I’ve got a lot of things to say about it. First of all it’s not like the iPhone so don’t expect to have everything done for you. Also don’t expect for your android phone to automatically get updates. Many different carriers are now sporting android devices with verizon being number one in this space. But, as far as accessibility goes there’s a big difference. One of the biggest things I noticed is that the android platform is not as intuitive as the iPhone. What I mean by this is you know that on the iPhone you can take four fingers and hit the top of the screen and that will take you to the top of your window. On any android device that’s not the case. Also when you are on an item on the iPhone you can double tap anywhere and the iPhone will preform that action. Android doesn’t allow for this which was one of the hardest things for me to master. E-mail and web browsing on the iPhone are great experiences to say the least. Not so on the android devices, browsing the web and e-mailing are not capable well at least web browsing. To get a good browsing and e-mail experience you have to buy a seperate application that is a screen reader and a suite of mobile applications, which is $79. To me it was very expensive when the iPhone already has this feature built in. There is a screen reader that you can purchase for free, it works great but it’s not as good as the iPhone screen reader. The build quality of the device I got to look at was a good build with a slide out keyboard. I really liked this feature and wish that it would come as an option with the iPhone, although the on screen keyboard does an excellent job for short text messages and short emails. If you need to do a lot of typing for emails and taking notes possibly, you’ll want to get a better keyboard. Maybe even a Bluetooth keyboard from apple or even a third party one. The notification system was awesome. It’s not as noisy as the ios notification system. Overall, I enjoy my iPhone and prefer it over any android device. There has to be a lot more done with an android device. It’s just not for me. I’m not saying that the android platform is bad it’s just not for me. I would suggest that if you are in the market for a new phone check both android and iPhone out. They are good alternatives if you are looking for a new phone.

Google Chrome

May 13, 2011

I just downloaded Google’s so called fast browser. I’ve only had it for a few minutes but I wanted to give my take on it. Boy is it fast. I really enjoy it. I really do. As a legally blind person using a mixture of screen reading technology and magnification I find that the magnification works really well. I use Zoomtext from AI Squared and it works perfectly whether I’m using Firefox, IE, or Chrome. I also use JAWS. JAWS is a screen reading program that converts what a sighted person would see into synthesized speech. Unfortunately JAWS doesn’t work with Chrome. However, a free screen reader called NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access) quite ironically works. Why is that? I have no idea but, it does. There are some problems however that present themselves when using NVDA with Chrome. When going on to youtube.com and hitting (b) for button the screen reader won’t read the labels on the buttons. This is quite annoying to say the least. But, overall it’s a fast browser and I enjoy it.

Mainstream and Specialized Technology

May 3, 2011

Life has gotten in the way. While life has been getting in the way I’ve had some time to thing about what my next blog psot was going to be about. Well, I’ve got the next thing. You will see from the title what it’s going to be about apparently. So, here it goes. Adaptive technology has been around for a long time. Before the first pda for sighted users came out blind people got there hands on a braille n” speak. I did get this and used it for a long time. The reason why this was a big deal was because a tradional braille writer was heavy, bulky, and LOUD. Very Very Very LOUD. So, when this device came out a lot of people flocked to it. I didn’t have to have a lot of braille paper with notes for school in different folders and then have those folders labeled. This little device cleared all that up. No more paper to sort through just files. I loved it. At this time I was learning to use a computer and loved that as well. But, there was nothing as powerful to me as having a note taker in my hand that was small and I was able to listen to what the teacher had tos ay and also take notes at the same time without having to apologize for my braille writer being loud. Technology has advanced over the years I’ve gotten smarter. Well at least I think I have… and adaptive technology has gotten better. No longer do you need a laptop to do all your word processing on you can have a specialized noe taker. The only disadvantage is that agencies for the blind have to buy them why?? They are expensive the braillenote Apex which is one of the if not the leading note takers for the blind costs $7,000. That’s right that much. The reason? Blind people are a small part of this world. Apple wasn’t ever popular when I was growing up. I only knew windows. Now, that I’m older and a young adult apple has entered the blindness playing field as we’ll call it. Offering everyday devices for the blind. The iphone and the ipad along with their line of laptop and desktop computers. You see, in the windows side of things a list of folders that a sighted person would see is called a “tree view” in the blindness community. So, when you are trying to talk to someone who is sighted about windows your terminology is different espically if you’ve been blind since birth. Apple has since changed that, I’m not saying that apple doesn’t have it’s faults nor am I saying that windows is better. All I’m saying is that we now have choice. Apple can improve in this writers opinion in order to keep up with the screen readers of today like JAWS the leading screen reader and window eyes. But, they do have a shot. Apple has leveled the playing field by providing a solution where sighted and blind mac, iphone, ipad, and ipod touch users can talk about the platform and get things done. A source list in OS X or OS 10 for the blind is also known as a source list to the sighted apple user as well. I see mainstream taking over adaptive. I don’t say this lightly, adaptive equipment does do some things that mainstream will never be able to duplicate but with the prices being compeditive there’s no denying that mainstream will catch up. Adaptive tech will always have it’s own community of people and place in the tech industry, and yes some people will use a mix of adaptive and mainstream devices like myself. But, mainstream is getting better and faster and blowing adaptive tech out of the water.

The Yeti is for Real!

April 12, 2011

What is the Blue Yeti?

The Blue yeti is the latest microphone in a line of usb microphones. It’s pretty big and you need a lot of room for this microphone to sit. It’s retail price is $149 but I found it on amazon for $99. The yeti offers a wide range of patterns and unparelleled recording environments. I really enjoy this microphone.

What does it offer?

The blue yeti offers a wide range of patterns for recording anything. There are 4 microphone patterns. (Omnidirectional, bidirectional, stereo, and cardiod). The difference between bidirectional and cardiod is that bidirectional sounds more bassy. Stereo is nice for interviewing and recording music. Omnidirectional gives you the whole range of the mic and picks up everything you do. This mode is good if you are recording a whole bunch of people or in my case demoing the iphone. The manual is well written out and gives a good detailed look about the different patterns and what you can do.

The Pros

The blue yeti has a lot of buttons on the fromt you have a mute switch and volume control around the back you see a gain knob and the pattern selector. On the button you will see the usb connector and a full size microphone thread for mounting on mic stand. You also have a headphone jack that provides no latancy monitoring in real time. I love this feature a lot and also the mute switch.

The Cons

There are really only two cons of the blue yeti. It’s really heavy so don’t be thinking your going to be putting this into your backpack and carrying it around. The second thing is that when you want to mount this mic onto a microphone stand you have to twist the knobs at either end of the mic that hold the included steady stand in place. This is hard to do, so, if you don’t need to do it then don’t.

Overall I love this microphone for the price. I rarely use my xlr microphones and mixer anymore because of this microphone. I think it was a good buy and there are a lot of reviews online and a lot of demos if this microphone on youtube.

IOS and Apple

April 11, 2011

IOS apple’s mobile platform was introduced in 2007 when the iphone came out. I suppose it was the same was it is now and the only reason I say that is this. In my last blog apple didn’t make it’s devices accessible until the iphone 3gs was announced. So, I don’t know how it looked and really can’t say if it looked the same or has changed since it was released in 07. Apple has done a good job incorporating a screen reader into it’s mobile platform. It’s a real joy to use, with the triple click home feature you can make your iphone usable by a sighted person in a few millaseconds, and just as easily convert it back into the state you had the phone in last for you the blind user. Access is great and I really can’t say enough about this. Apple has just done a great job with their accessibility by not only building in a screen reader but also a magnifier and a large text option for mail, messages and contacts. The iphone is easy to use as well. With VoiceOver on, which is the screen reader you can drag your finger around the screen and the voice says whatever is below your finger. Double tapping on an item opens the app, once in the app flicking right or left moves you through the app interface. Note: you can also use the flicking method while on the main screen of the iphone and with all apps that are accessible.

The Walled Garden

 Mac OSX and IOS are closed platforms, and for me the end user that’s not a bad thing. If I don’t want to get into my system and hack it like I could windows. I still could hack into my IOS or Mac computer if I wanted to, but the reason I don’t is because apple have built their OS from the ground up. They’ve included everyting you’ll every need. Yes, it may be expensive but you pay a premium for something that is going to last you supstantionally much longer that a pc or any other phone would do. Now, I do have a few problems with the “closed mindedness” of apple, expecially when it comes to my iphone. Apple I paid the freaking money for your device, I bought the hipe, I bought into the apple franchise adn love the a11y you put forth. But, I bought the phone ok, so now let me customize it the way I want. Apple’s “strangle hold” on their mobile os is driving a lot of people to jailbreak. Yes, jailbreaking is legal but apple is trying to stop it. Ok, here’s my solution to that. Apple if you want people not to jailbreak then make IOS 5 customizable get off your soap box about how we are better than everyone else and listen to your customers. Just giving some consumer advice here folks. I’m just saying.

Computer God

The next topic I want to cover is this “Aaron your such a fan boy of apple because you use a macbook and an iphone, your always saying how good it is”. Wrong!!!!!!!! yes, I do applaud them for making a11y mainstream. However, there are some bugs within IOS that I have constantly sent emails to apple and I get the same email in return, but that’s for another post. I’ve been a windows user for a long time, a very long time. I’ve also used and will own a mac for school. I use what works for me depending on what I’m doing. Apple has a lot of things to fix with their iwork suite of applications in regards to VO (voiceover). People either think your all mac or all windows and you can’t use both systems to get things done you have to use one. The knowledge that you have had in windows before you switched over tot he Mac doesn’t apply. Hello!!! Wake up yes it does. Hacking OSX (apple’s OS) requires you to know some windows things. Bringing your knowledge from the pc does you good when you convert to the mac espically if you are a blind user. Explain in windows there are certain commands whether your using JAWS or Window Eyes doesn’t matter, that allow you to move around in a table. Well, look here the same thing for Mac. Yeah, it’s different commands but it’s still basic knowledge of how a table is laid out that works on either platform. This cult that apple has is stupid. Why, do people feel the need to defend apple? Apple is just a company and if something is wrong then tell them. You don’t owe apple anything just like you don’t owe HP, Dell, Toshiba or Microsoft anything. When my pc breaks and yes it has, I call up HP and say fix this. I don’t just say well that’s the way it is and here’s and priase HP for something that’s not there fault. Come on seriously people I mean come on. Am I the only one who thinks that apple should have incorporated VO into the orginal iphone? Heck no, but the mac had it before the iphone did so, why did it take apple 3 generations of the iphone and a lawsuit from the NFB to figure this one out? Now, you apple religionists can’t sit there and tell me “well they had to figure out how to get it in there”. “you just like windows mobile”. “apple didn’t do anything wrong you had a phone that worked”. WOH, apple didn’t do anything wrong? They didn’t do anything wrong? Let me reiderate a lawsuit by the NFB to get access to a mainstream device developed by apple. The a11y team at apple should have been thinking way ahead and should have put it in the original iphone not 3 generations later.

Ease Of Use

The mac is so easy to use, in fact, it’s almost boring. I am kidding it’s a blast to use. With a keystroke I can use my own computer, no additonal software to purchase to make it accessible. Applications run smooth and the screen reader reads them no problems. It’s the same on the iphone, 3 clicks of the home button and I’m ready to use my phone and whenever my friends want to see my phone or a person needs directions, easy just another 3 clicks of that button and speech is off. It’s so easy that a friend of mine who has never touched an iphone in his life picked mine up and was running with it in no time. I didn’t even show him a thing it’s that easy.

The Dark Side

I’ve said a lot of good things about apple, and I am generally happy with their performance. There are a few things however that are frustrating to me as a user.

1. In the music production app garageband you have to interact with everything and not just once but multiple times.

2. Syncing everything with itunes, it’s not a big deal but android doesn’t have you synce with a pc/mac application for everything.

3. Closed OS, why do I need to jailbreak to get features I want, I should be able to customize my iphone.

4. Putting something on then removing it then bringing it back. The 5 gen ipod nano had a camera, then apple decided to make it a touch screen and take it off on the 6th, rumor has it that the camera will be coming back on the 7th. My question why not just keep it in the first place?

5. Apple religion, this is not specifically apple’s fault but I don’t owe anything to apple they are a company when I bash a product or don’t like a move I’m gonna say it. There’s no reason to get defensive and protect them. Apple has lawyers to do that.

Conclusion

Apple is a great company, but a great company is gonna have it’s weak points. I commend apple for making accessibility for blind and low vision users a priority. But, under no circumstances do I give them credit for being so controlling over their mobile platform. Again, it’s my device I pay the bill every month I should be able to customize my phone any way I want. Once apple starts paying my cell bill then fine let them control it but until then (which that will never happen) I want control of my phone and have to optioin to customize the software.

So, my question to you is what do you like and hate about apple??

iPhone The Blind have Equal Access

March 24, 2011

In 2007 this revolutionary device called the Iphone was introduced. People who were using phones with qwerty keyboards and who were fed up with blackberry, palm, Nokia and the infamous windows mobile platforms flocked to the device. It was the big thing to have an iPhone and still is. But, sadly blind people were once left out as they usually are when companies bring out new products. I’m not whining about this fact it’s just that we are not big enough to make much of an impact without suing or telling a company “nicely” could you make this product accessible, here’s what’s wrong and needs to be fixed and added. So, after the iPhone then came the iPhone 3g, which, you guessed it was still not accessible. Many people wondered how are apple going to put access for blind and low vision into a fully touch screen device?? Well in the later part of 08-09 the iPhone 3gs came. Now sporting accessibility in the form of a screen reader called VoiceOver. A lot of blind people were wondering how is this screen reader going to work with a full touch screen. Going back a few years phones were made accessible by 3rd party software that you had to pay for to have your phone speak to you. It was only available on windows mobile or Nokia’s symbian platform. Well a lot of people went with windows mobile and for good reason, you could sync all your data from your pc to your phone. I for the longest time had a windows mobile device because of this fact and loved it. I even had a Nokia product before then because of the form factor of the phone which was a claim shell. I loved being able to just whip out my phone and write a text message without having to strain my eyes to see what I was doing. Then, I moved up to windows mobile. I loved have a full qwerty keyboard to play with and got so used to having a great keyboard on a windows mobile phone. As I stated above I had that device for a very very long time. Now, I have an iPhone 4. I was very skeptic at first on how the screen reader would work. I did my research and was hesitate to get the phone because I was so used to a tactile phone. I knew about apple products and how good they were, I had a ipod nano 4th gen before it just died on me and I had to throw it away. So, I knew how good and solid they were for sure. I gave in and got the iPhone. I spent a little bit of time learning the screen reader looking at what apple had put up on their website and found help with friends who had there iPhone’s way before I did. Surprising I found myself enjoying this new experience of having just a small phone without a tactile keyboard to go along with it. I enjoyed my new phone and I continue to learn about all it can do and how to use the screen reader in different ways every day.

Apple’s iPhone is becoming the most popular device to have with the blindness community. Everybody that I’ve talked to that has one have had good things to say about it. I’m not saying that there are not some things that need to be changed because there are, but for the most part iPhone 3gs or 4 work great and ancient technology like windows mobile and Symbian will be left behind never able to catch up.

The one thing I do miss though is having a hardware keyboard, there is just nothing like the feeling of having a physical keyboard. Not saying that the virtual qwerty keyboard on the iPhone is bad, it’s just that you can type a lot faster with a hardware keyboard. I haven’t found a hardware keyboard I like yet but I’m still looking. Overall, the iPhone is the best phone in this writer’s opinion for the blind. Why, because it already has the screen reader built into the phone. With other phones you have to purchase software to have your phone talk to you.

Now, I know I’m gonna get emails saying “well, I have an android phone and talkback works for me and it’s free”. Yes, I agree but how well does it work??? The difference between iPhone and Android (one of the main differences) is that you can surf the web with iPhone and do everything without (again) having to buy a 3rd party application that allows you to do so. I am talking about Code Factory’s Mobile Accessibility for Android. I can do everything with my iPhone with the screen reader that is built in and not have to pay for a 3rd party solution. I’m not saying that a MA (Mobile Accessibility) is bad just saying I’m not willing to pay for a 3rd party app when I already have my “eyes free” solution on the phone itself.

So, in conclusion the iPhone is a revolution for the blind. Is it worth the switch you ask. Well, for some people it may be and for others it may not be. I suggest that you go into an apple store and try it for yourself and just see. I’d look at your opinions and really do research. Whether you love apple or hate apple doesn’t matter what matters is what are you going to do with your device and how independent do you want to be when it comes to learning a new phone? Because, let me tell you with Android a lot of people are not going to be able to figure it out. iPhone you’ll get the basics of the device in no time flat. Again do your research and see for yourself as for me, iPhone and never looking back .

Disclaimer: I am not trying to put down other mobile platforms. I am just giving you an idea of how the iPhone has changed my life when it comes to staying in contact with friends and family and also getting work done. I would never say that iPhone is the answer because for some it may not be. But, I truly believe it’s a game changer. I do not claim to be an Apple fan boy nor am I. I just choose the product based  upon how accessible I wanted my phone. I am not bashing Code Factory I think what they have done is great, I just don’t want to spend the extra money for access.

As always thanks for reading,

SAA

 

Red Laser helps you while you shop

March 23, 2011

If you read my other article about an app called Omoby for the iphone then you’ll love this app. The app I’m referring to is called Red Laser another freebie in the app store. Red Laser is a lot like Omoby in that it identifies things. But, here inlies the differences. Red Laser uses bar codes to identify items unlike Omoby where you can use a shirt of some sort to find out it’s color. One of the things that I like about Red Laser is that when you scan a bar code for instance it goes out to the web and finds you deals locally and online. That’s pretty cool and it also keeps track of what you’ve scanned. It’s 100% accessible with VoiceOver. All buttons are clearly labeled and the interface is quite nice and well thought out by the developers. It’s perfect for using it in a grocery store. That’s mainly the way I use it. The app will recongize anything with a barcode. Cd’s, dvd’s, books, any sort of food. One of the things that I have a lot of trouble with is ther is no sound (like beeping) to let you know that the camera is on and searching for a barcode. There is also no indecation if a barcode has been found. So, it’s pretty hard if you don’t have any sight to use this app because there are no tones letting you know that app is searching  or if a barcode has been found. Other than that the app is really good and a joy to use.

SAA

Bringing Technology to the Masses


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