New iDevice Game for the Blind

From the developer of the ColorVisor iOS app, an audio based game for both blind and sighted was recently released. The game is called, MouseKick, and is 0.99 in the App store.

There is a Youtube demonstration one can access

For information for MouseKick in the App Store,
go here.

The game, according to the developer, is fully VoiceOver compatible. There are different sounds for the mice and there is a training mode to get the user accustom to the game sounds and play.

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Apple Updates Their Accessibility Pages on Their Website

For those who might be interested, Apple has revamped their accessibility pages on their website. There is a lot of information and great links to additional resources. They are also open to suggestions and comments as well. You can check out the changes
by going here.

Posted in Accessibility, General, iOS Devices, OS Mountain Lion | Leave a comment

WWDC 2013, A Lot of Announcements

Since I was working with a client, I wasn’t able to hear the keynote address at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s conference. However, I did catch bits of it and have read plenty of information about it. I summarize the major announcements on the
News page of the site

There will be a new Mac OS coming in the fall that is being called, Maverick. No, not Sea Lion, as was a joking remark made during the keynote that someone I know took seriously. Also, iOS 7 will be launched in the fall as well, and the entire interface has been redesigned. So, us Apple junkies will have some major toys to play with later in the year. This doesn’t even include the new Mac Book Air, Mac Pro and Airport equipment upgrades.

No, folks, there was no accessibility news announced during the keynote address. I have no idea why so many people on the blindness lists seem to think that we are going to hear about VoiceOver improvements or accessibility in general. I can only recall it happening once for the Mac and for iOS over the years. Otherwise, as much as some folks hate to hear this, we really don’t get any kind of billing at these events. For whatever accessibility news, we will have to wait and see. I will surely post anything major I know is credible and that does not violate any NDAs.

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A Few Other Items

A couple of items that might be of interest to folks.

First, there is a typing application for the iDevices called, TypeWay, that might be of interest to some. According to the developer, their approach is different than that of Fleksy:
” “TypeWay” allows optionally larger letters in the typed text,
and in essence it adapts the configuration of keys to the hand’s position
and to typing habits – see
for what makes sense for 10-finger touch typing.”

You can also see that same link for specifics about TypeWay.

For those looking for some tutorials on using VoiceOver and Mountain Lion, Sarah Alawami has made some of her tutorials available for sale. In fact, you can purchase a zip file worth of them for only $6.00.

Please go
for all of the details.

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The ACSP Journey, Part 2.

Just over a year ago, I posted the story of my preparation and experience in taking the Apple Certifies Support Professional exam for Lion. I received a lot of reactions from a number of kind people over the year, and I have been very happy to know that I served to encourage others to take the exam, both blind and sighted alike. To me, that was really the best result of my story. The fact that I helped to inspire and encourage others to succeed was simply a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and pride.

On April 29 of this year, I took the ACSP exam for Mountain Lion Essentials at NovaWorks in New York City with William Keogh, once again, reading me the exam. I managed to pass that exam with another 92.5, and, thus, I am now certified as a Support Professional and Trainer for OS X Mountain Lion, along with my certification for Lion.

I think that the automatic thought from some would be something along the lines of, “well, he took the Lion exam, so the Mountain Lion exam should have been easy”. In fact, that was my initial notion as I began the process of preparing and studying for the Mountain Lion exam. It seemed logical that having already memorized so much for Lion, it would only be a matter of learning the Mountain Lion material. And, how much new material could that entail?
. Continue reading

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Updates, 5/4/13

I’m sure most folks know by now, but the Kindle application for the iPhone was updated by Amazon to now be accessible to VoiceOver. One cannot buy any books through the app, but books can be purchased through the Amazon website and then synced through the app in its settings.

I have not played extensively as of yet with it, but it is certainly VoiceOver friendly now. To me, its great that we now have yet another choice for buying and reading electronic books. If you do your share of reading, I would recommend getting the app, which is free. You can get it,

The next link is something that showed up on a few lists, but was emailed to me privately by Al Szymanski. I haven’t tried doing this myself for Mail, but I thought it might be of interest to some. You can read about it


Lastly, on Monday, I passed my Apple Certified Support Professional exam for Mountain Lion Essentials. I will be posting some information on that experience soon, as I know some have asked me about it.

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A Rough Review of the JetPack 5510

Once again, with the kind permission of the author, Scott Granados, here is what he calls a “rough review” of the JetPack 5510.

Per request, here’s a rough review of the JetPack 5510 MyFi device.

First, what is it? It’s a mobile hotspot that can deliver internet to up to 10 connected devices using WiFi and LTE wireless technology.
Appearance wise the box ways about an ounce and is about as large as two boxes of big red gum stacked on top of each other. The case of the MyFi is oval in shape with a single USB port and a button on one side. There’s also a removable battery cover on the bottom.
What’s in the box, 1 USB cable, one AC power adapter / charger and 1 MyFi.

Operation is silly simple. Simply press the button on the side for about a second to power up, press the same button again to power down. There’s no sound or other indicators but unlike previous versions of this device once you press the power button the signal is available for use almost right away.
Speeds are very good, north of 15 megabits per second in far less than ideal conditions. (I used it all day today from the center of a Verizon Complex in their lab. (AT&T’s signal did not reach at all)
Who needs this device, if you’re a mobile worker, if you have a commute or you have the need for mobile data this is the device for you.
In terms of carriers, Verizon has the most wide spread LTE deployment at this time. I think right now Verizon is the network to beat but in the interest of full disclosure they also pay me well so you may wish to take it with a grain of salt although if anyone is really interested I can detail what VZ is doing better and why.

In summary, the good points are the device is fast, very light / small, very fast to boot and extremely simple to use. On the down side, no sounds or audio queues to let you know how the device is operating. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars with the bulk of the negatives being a lack of audio indicators although the more I use the device the less I find I need them.

Posted in General, iOS Devices | 1 Comment

Another Interesting Item

I thought this might be something some folks might be interested in. I am posting this as I had received it. Please contact the author below if you want more details or have questions.

Mac Mini as a note block for the blinds?

The Mac Mini is small lightweight and yet one of the most performant apple computers out there.
So, if you don’t need a display… Why not use the mini as a notebook replacement?
You have heard of desktop replacements but yes you have quite correctly understood a notebook replacement is the quest we are concerned with in this article.

How the idea came about

I have been a blind computer user since 1995. First I used Dos than Windows and soon after that missing the accessibility of console based systems started to use Linux as well.
My discomfort always had been that Windows was giving me all the fancy apps I needed for daily work but lacked a proper terminal environment.
When I happened to hear about voiceover I was curious at once. A Unix based system with a terminal and builtin support for the graphical user interface?

In 2008 I renounced my windows machine for a macbook. Not after long however I found that I needed windows apps and the web experience in Safari was not quite what I expected.
I used a triple boot setup running Mac Windows and Linux along side with each other. This setup however required me to boot and reboot all the time. Moreover it was quite hard to setup and to keep in a consistent state. You know how often Windows tends to fail. Reinstalling an OS into a triple boot setup most likely involves ruining the other two. 🙂
Since I wanted to stick to the Mac just to watch the development of the voiceover technology I sticked to Apple Notebooks.
However I was constantly short of battery time while on the go. Windows never ran quite as cool as Mac os X does thus consuming my battery very quickly.

I finally stumbled upon the solution to most of my problems…
Only to encounter a new problem.
Running Windows 7 on a Mac Os X host using Jaws for Windows rendered the investigation of large web sites as slow and sluggish as Safari had been in my experience.
What to do?
Get a quad core machine!
The new problem had nothing to do with computer science. It rather was about economics. Have you seen Apple’s price tags on modern quad core notebooks let alone the ridiculous prices for more memory?
And what’s more… Why should I be prepared to pay for a retina display and dedicated graphics? And so I was looking into a Mac Mini.
The ram was easily upgradable and it offered a quad core i7 for under $900.
I didn’t need a display and found the freedom of choice if I happened to need one for a particular situation quite compelling.
The mini has more usb ports than any Apple Notebook more connections for peripherals and still is nearly as easily carried around as a Macbook Air 13 inch.
A new problem however is as obvious as the rising sun at a new days dawn.
The Mini has no builtin battery. Being a desktop machine why should it?
There are three ways of approaching this problem:
– either you don’t care about sitting on the train working on your noteblock
– or you take a battery with you and connect the mini to it
but the Mini wants wall socket power or to be more precise 100-230VAc. The numbers are less problematic than the letters “ac” signifying that the computer takes not the power supplied by batteries but by power sockets.
I am aware that there were Minis out there which had an external acdc power supply. Those would be very easy to power from batteries but if you are in the market for a quad core machine you are bound to use these Minis that have there power supply builtin.
The former Minis have been and are widely employed as car hifi computers. Material can be found via a quick google search. So
I had a Mini late 2012 and thus it had an internal power supply. and so I bought a dc to ac power inverter. They are used to power electronic devices normally used indoors via the power socket in a car or on a boat. However measuring the input current and the output current even feeling the heat my inverter dissipated I was well informed that I was not only running a computer from my battery but a heater alongside it.
At last I told my friend who is a electrical ingeneer that he had to do the job for me.
Which job he asked wondering what my rather crazy mind had come up this time with.

We had to choose the third option:
Ripp out the internal power supply and connect the Mini’s logic board directly to the battery thereby avoiding the need for inverting and boosting the batteries voltage to wall socket specs and then using the internal power supply to feed the logic board with the smooth dc current it demands to survive the struggle of daily computing tasks. 🙂

The implementation of the project

Replacing or removing the power supply of a Mini involves taking it apart nearly to it’s last screw.
Fortunately the guys at have thorough guides on doing this for each and every Apple computer.
The next problem was to determine the polarity and voltage of the current supplied.
We were so fortunate as to hook up the removed power supply to a power jack. The device has a 9 pin cable connected. Four of them are hot the other five are ground. There is no signal wire or any resistor that needs to be pulled to activate the power supply. As soon as the device is connected to a wall socket it supplies a steddy 11.85VDC.
The problem with batteries is that while they discharge they drop in voltage. A three cell li-ion battery for example ranges from 12.6V when fully charged to 9V when totally drained. Would the Mini run on 9V? We tested it. The Mini quitted service at around 10VDC. But would the logic boards dc to dc regulators stand anything above 12V? We didn’t want to test. Economics after all played a vital part in the quest that rendered my Mini a heap of parts and screws for some three weeks.
There was an other problem. Without the power supply the Mini’s logic board would be exposed to any electrostatic discharges that one carried around. connecting the Mini and incidentally touching the hot pole of the connector could easily render the sensitive and highly integrated chipsets to a heap of useless silicon waste.

The solution to the problem of varying voltage as well as to the problem of electrostatic discharge obviously is a dc regulator.
Mojo-audio sells them for audiophiles. But these are linear not switching power supplies. They offer the best stability of voltage at the cost of efficiency. While power consumption doesn’t play a vital role for an audiophile audio server it does so in using the Mini as a mobile computer.
While we went the switching power supply route I have to thank Ben from Mojo who encouraged me to risk the life of my Mini. Switching dcdc regulator boards are widely used in all sorts of applications. However if you don’t order loads of them you are not likely to find them for reasonable prices.
And herein my motivation for publishing this article is based. For the project at hand we modified a spare board manufactured by Mekrell but if there were more people out there wanting to use the Mini as a notebook replacement one could design a board and have them made by these companies that do small series of boards from eagle designs for tinkerers.

Adapting the dc-dc board to our needs involved replacing capacitors so that they could stand the higher voltage and also modifying the voltage divider for the reference voltage.
We ended up with a board that supplied 11.6VDC at more than 5 ampere. That seemed stable enough. We checked for ripples in voltage and found it rippling with an amplitude of 200 milivolts at a frequency of some 200KHz. This seemed to fit the regulators switching frequency and we decided to give it a go.
Putting the Mini together again left loads of room where the former power supply had been located. One could probably fit in a super capacitor or a small lithium polymer battery inside the Mini. This would allow for using it in a car even while the engine started or stopped thereby making for a huge voltage drop. It also made possible swapping batteries or leaving stationary for mobile operation. while the Mini ran.

What we have got

A mobile Apple quad core machine for under $1000 equipped with a Samsung SSD 830 Series and 16GB of memory. It can be powered from batteries or even an old notebook power brick. Any voltage from 40 to 10 volts is possible. Even powering the mini from solar cells should be possible provided that you are not doing heavy load tasks and you have some buffering for changing weather conditions in place. It’s running smoothly for months now. I even tested stability using Prime95 torture test.

Currently I am using a small Apple usb keyboard and a braille display. The external notebook battery I shot from Amazon sat me back a cheap 99$. It has some 140Wh and supplies power for the mini running for 14 hours on battery alone.
While this is too much and the battery is to big and heavy it proves that the Mini can indeed be used as a noteblock for the blinds quite successfully.

I am using OS X more and more and run Linux and Windows 7 64 bit alongside in VMWare Fusion quite happily and have never encountered any performance shortages since then.
One of the best things with this setup is that a blind person is able to restore the whole setup on their own. Reinstalling Mac OS X from the web is a matter of pressing command+option+r and activating voiceover with the usual command+F5 and then following the installation routine.
Reinstalling the Windows and Linux virtual instances is a matter of retrieving the files from my backup server or from my time machine disk.

The only problem left is monitoring the batteries capacity. Currently the Mini would just pass out when the battery is completely drained. We are working on a micro controler solution here.

So if you are interested in the project drop me a line and we may look into designing the necessary dc-dc converter board as well as the internal battery.
Best wishes

Posted in Accessibility, General, Mac Mini | 1 Comment

Printing Braille from a Mac, Another Item that may be of Interest

Courtesy of Keith Reedy:

How to print braille from a Mac to an Index Embosser

This information was compiled and tested by Keith Reedy
Bibles for the Blind and
Visually Handicapped International,

Bibles for the Blind

Special thanks to,

Peter Engström,
Index Braille

Index Home

Knick Johnson
The Brailler Depot, LLC

Brailler Depot

The equipment used in this test is as follows:
iMac late 2012
iMac mid 2007
Index Basic-d V3 embosser
Index Basic D V4 embosser

If you have .brf, or, .brl files you wish to print from your Mac to your Index embosser connected by USB ports, you will need to download the following:

First of all, download the Mac driver from the Index website.

***If you do not have a login set up for the Index site, you will need to request a user name and password.

Here is the link to download the driver,

Go here.

To get the Index Print program, please call The Brailler Depot at 973-272-7667

Install the driver and the Index Print program then go to system preferences to print and fax, or, on the newer Macs, print and scan, add your Index embosser and choose the Mac driver.

After these steps are complete, open the Index Print program and follow the prompts.

This works quite well for us here.

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Netatmo Urban Weather Station

Again, this might be of interest to some folks. Please see below.


Netatmo’s Urban Weather Station, the first Made for iPhone personal weather station with air quality sensors, is now compatible with Apple VoiceOver!

The Netatmo Weather Station allows users to monitor indoor and outdoor environmental elements such as: CO2 concentration, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, noise pollution levels and air quality, indoors and outdoors.

The Netatmo Station sends real-time data via Wi-Fi to the Netatmo App on the user’s iPhone.

The Netatmo Personal Weather Station’s VoiceOver capabilities make it the first Weather Station that allows low–vision and blind users to access real-time weather and air quality measurements.

The Station’s indoor measurements help users to improve their comfort and wellness in their home environment. For instance, the station sends real-time alerts, helping to prevent the accumulation of unhealthy, stagnant indoor air by prompting users to ventilate their home.

The Station’s outdoor measurements help users assess the best moments for outdoor recreation, when outdoor Air Quality and Weather are of the utmost importance.

With the first Wi-Fi connected personal Weather Station, Netatmo also aims to create the largest weather and air quality monitoring network ever established.

For more information on Netatmo and the Urban Weather Station, please contact me:

Annika Beck,
Netatmo international PR manager:

You can also visit our website:

or read our Press release:


Best regards,

Annika Beck

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