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,
here.

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

here.

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.

Posted in Accessibility, General, iOS Devices, iPhone | Leave a comment

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…
Virtualization.
Only to encounter a new problem.
Performance
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 ifixit.com 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
Jeronimo@leierweg.net

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
973-272-7667

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.

Posted in General, OS Mountain Lion | Leave a comment

Netatmo Urban Weather Station

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

Hello,

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:
E-mail: annika.beck@netatmo.com

You can also visit our website:

www.netatmo.com

or read our Press release:

here.

Best regards,

Annika Beck

Posted in Accessibility, General, iOS Devices | Leave a comment

Another Announcement That Might Be of Interest to Some

This might be of interest to some folks. I just saw this on an email list.

Announcing the Beatbox portable wireless bluetooth speaker!

Small size: big sound; at an afordable price.
The BeatBox bluetooth speaker will fill your room with rich sound, and not break the bank!

Don’t have a device with bluetooth? No problem, this speaker also supports line in so you can connect all portable electronics including note takers, mp3 players, book players, or anything else with a headphone or line out jack.

No longer do you have to spend high dollar amounts, to have a portable Bluetooth solution for home or travel.
In order to help you decide if this speaker is right for you, we have put together an audio demonstration; showing the Beatbox in use in a variety of settings.
In addition, we have included some audio samples of the speaker alongside the small version of the Jambox Bluetooth Speaker, by Jawbone.

We invite you to take a listen to our audio demonstration

The direct download link for the audio is:

here.

In adition to the audio demonstration, we have put together an accessible users guide. to read the users guide, visit

here.

If you like what you see and hear, and would like to purchase, please visit:
here.

Type with confidence
SpeedDots: Your home for cell phone accessories and makers of the Tactile Screen Protector
http://speeddots.com/
Find us on twitter:
http://twitter.com/SpeedDots
Or, like us on Facebook:
http://facebook.com/SpeedDots

Posted in Accessibility, General, iOS Devices | Leave a comment

Voice Dream Reader

I am not the kind of person who truly finds himself “raving” about an application. I have come across more than a few very good and impressive applications for both the Mac and iDevices over the years, but I don’t find myself really talking up one all that often.

However, I must say that the Voice Dream Reader app for the iDevices by Voice Dream LLC, is a great application. Not only does it handle Bookshare books with its own text to speech, but you can read PDF and RTF files as well. Additionally, you can use Dropbox to get files to your iDevice, which, to me, is a great feature. If you are not satisfied with the voice that comes with the app, additional voices can be purchased through the application for under $2.00 each.

The application is quite easy to set up and use, and it is worth its $9.99 price tag for all it does. I know I am not covering everything and this is not meant as any formal review or the like. One can find more detailed descriptions and reviews of the app in other places, but I certainly recommend the app. The developer is quite responsive to questions and bug reports, and is constantly adding new features to it. It is another example of a developer who deserves our support, and I am happy to have bought the app.

You can find more information about Voice Dream Reader
here.

For a nice podcast on the Voice Dream app done on Applevis, go

here.

Posted in Accessibility, General, iOS Devices | Leave a comment

For those who might be interested.

I thought this might be of interest to some folks. Check it out.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ATLANtA, Georgia (Feb. 27, 2013) – In conjunction with the release of the
first ever multimedia ebook created for the blind, by the blind, Fedora
Outlier, LLC, is offering an opportunity to win a free 16GB iPad Mini to
those who enter the giveaway and answer the question, “What was your biggest
challenge when learning to use your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch?” Anyone
interested in entering can find a registration form and official rules by
visiting http://www.oldhatguide.com/giveaway.

The book, “The Old Hat Guide to iPhone Accessibility,” is slated for release
sometime next month, and the winner of the iPad Mini will be announced
during the company’s first Twitter chat, #AccessChat, held on April 2nd at
8:00PM EST.

“Our team is beaming over the opportunity to share this book with the
community,” Scott Rumery, a senior partner with the company, said Tuesday.
“This release is part of the direction we’ve wanted to head for a long time,
so it’s exciting to finally release the book and giveaway to the public.”

Fedora Outlier, LLC, is a nationally-recognized teaching and support firm
based in Atlanta, GA, and is one of the first agencies to focus on support
and education for the array of accessible devices made available by Apple
Incorporated. #AccessChat is the first blindness-oriented Twitter chat
committed to highlighting accomplishments and innovations by mainstream
developers, assistive technology vendors and educators working with blind
and low vision students.

For more information about the upcoming book release, the iPad Mini giveaway
or Fedora Outlier, LLC, please contact the company’s president, VaShaun Jones, at (678) 404-2635 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting
skype-ie-addon-data://res/numbers_button_skype_logo.png(678) 404-2635 FREE
end_of_the_skype_highlighting , or via email at
excellence@fedoraoutlier.com.

Posted in Accessibility, General, iOS Devices | Leave a comment

A few more things

Just as a few other notes, I added the iPad user guide for iOS 6 to the
Documentation
section of the site. This, as usual, is an RTF version of the user guide provided by Apple.

As an additional note, LookTell, the makers of the Money Reader app, recently released a great little tutorial for the iDevices called, VoiceOver Tutorial. It is free, and is worth checking out for both new users and advanced ones as well. It has a couple of games one can use to sharpen ones gesture skills. It is definitely an app I am going to recommend to my clients.

You can find it
here.

Posted in Accessibility, iOS Devices, iPad, iPhone, Updates | Leave a comment

Updates, 3/1/13

I know it has been a while. Unfortunately, a combination of my father ending up in the hospital again for about a month and some other crazy things going on around here has diverted my attention. I was basically training folks and running up to the hospital or nursing rehab center since the beginning of January.

In any event, I have some things I am going to add to the site over the next few weeks. I wanted to mention a item of “interest though. I’m sure it has probably made the rounds by now, but I want to mention it anyway.

Mozilla Firefox continues to improve with VoiceOver support. Version 19 for the Mac has brought a lot more responsiveness than previous versions. There are still some odd bugs, such as oddness in some text fields and the way VoiceOver identifies some tables. Nevertheless, the browser is pretty close to being something I feel I will use with Safari and dump Google Chrome, as I am going to avoid using anything done by Google because of their abuse of privacy and disconcerting stance on net neutrality.

You can get Firefox from the Mozilla.org website
here.

As usual, I would encourage the developers to keep up their hard work and thank them for all they have done so far. Of course, also report any and all bugs, VoiceOver or not, to them.

Posted in Accessibility, General, Updates | Leave a comment