Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large episode 159, the unacceptable price blind audiophiles pay for audio description, 20 years since George Harrison died, and our Chromebook series concludes
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is Mosen At Large. The show that’s got the blind community talking. On the show today, the high price blind audiophiles are paying for audio description. It’s 20 years ago since George Harrison died. And we bring our Chromebook and ChromeVox series to a close.
Welcome to Episode 159. And if you’re a regular, thank you so much for being so. If you’ve never heard the podcast before, a special welcome to you. I hope that you’ll enjoy it here and that you’ll also feel free to send in a contribution because we very much look forward to getting listeners thoughts on a wide range of issues and we seek to do so in a way that is very rare these days, it seems. In a climate of respectful debate, talking issues through, mindful that you can have a different opinion from somebody without demonizing the person who has that opinion.
Imagine that, dude, how radical is this? I hope you had a good week and if you’re in the United States, I hope Thanksgiving went well for you. I love the concept of Thanksgiving. As I’ve mentioned in various podcasts over the years, I do keep a gratitude journal and I think it’s great to just take a step back and note all the things that you are thankful for. We’ve all got troubles and especially as a blind community, sometimes we feel like we are struggling. Like we are banging our head against a brick wall and every so often the wall does move that little bit, but we do have a lot to be thankful for. And I like the concept of taking the time to do that.
I also very much enjoyed popping in virtually to the Carroll Center’s Tech Fair. And I gave a presentation a few days ago on self-advocacy. How do you optimize the likelihood of getting the results you want when you’re advocating to someone to make their app more accessible or their website more accessible? So I enjoyed this. We got a lot of people in attendance and some very thoughtful questions at the end of the process. I visited the Carroll Center when I was doing a lot of international travel for work, they’ve got a great facility there and dedicated instructors, so it really was a pleasure to have been invited to give that presentation.
But, for me the big highlight of the week has undoubtedly been the release of the Get Back series. This has been put together by New Zealand film director, Sir Peter Jackson. He did the Lord of the Rings and he’s done a lot of other things as well and he spent lockdown with the Beatles. Lucky man. He got access to the film that was made at the time of the recording of what became the Let It Be album. It was a pretty difficult time for the Beatles. They were really coming apart. They had no manager. Brian Epstein died in 1967 and the Beatles made a call to manage themselves. They wouldn’t appoint anybody else as their manager. That was a disastrous call. They were brilliant musicians. They were not brilliant business people. That isn’t what they did.
So they really were coming apart. They were continuing to produce great music, but it was becoming more difficult. It wasn’t as fun as it used to be and there wasn’t the cohesion that there used to be. Increasingly, Paul took on this leader role where he was the one trying to organize things, rally the troops, get people back into the studio to do things. And that created a bit of resentment as well from the other band members who thought that Paul was very bossy. He was also going through an incredibly prolific period musically. When you look at the material that Paul was writing back then, he was just on fire musically, astounding stuff. So a lot of tensions. John had Yoko, of course. The pressures were enormous, everybody was growing up.
And it’s in that context that the Beatles decided to get back to their roots. And so the original idea was that they would do a show, a live show somewhere. They would get rid of all the frills and the multi-track production glory that was the hallmark of the Sergeant Pepper album and they would have a film crew filming them rehearsing songs in advance of this live show, which they hadn’t decided on yet. They hadn’t made a decision about the form that live show would take. It almost broke the band up a little before they did break up because George did really not like the idea of a big live show. He was, of all the Beatles, the most traumatized by the madness that went on when they were touring in the mid sixties. And so ultimately, they said, “Ah, the heck with it. We’ll go up on the roof of our building and we’ll perform there.” And for the first time you do get to officially see from the Beatles that complete rooftop concert. Although it’s been out all over the place and if you’re a Beatles fan, you know where to get it.
I am very much enjoying the Get Back movies. I’ve seen two of them now, as I put this podcast together. It’s a three part documentary. It was originally before the rona came along, going to be in the movie theaters. And it would have been a lot shorter, but now it’s developed into this magnum opus, two hours plus for each episode. And it’s just fantastic. There’s not a lot new here for me because I do have the audio of all of that raw video. It’s pretty painful to sift through a lot of it. Peter Jackson’s done an amazing job of picking the good bits. It’s just great to hear the Beatles jamming around. Sure, there’s some acrimony there, but there’s also that musicianship, that camaraderie. As I said, Paul is just on fire musically.
And it’s amazing how, for example, you hear the song, Get Back, being formed, where he’s just jamming around. He gets this little riff or a little snatch of lyric in his head. You see him sitting at the piano and Let it Be and The Long and Winding Road come to life. It’s just, the guy is incredible. He still is. But back in the late sixties, the seemingly infinite number of melodies he had in his head, just brilliant. It’s awe inspiring. It truly is.
So there is the content which I’m riveted by, but the geek in me is saying, “Haven’t they done an incredible job of restoring this audio?” Now I’m totally blind. So I can’t comment on the quality of the video. Although I have heard people say on social media, the video is stunning as well. And I delved deep, I heard an interview with Sir Peter Jackson talking about the process.
He makes the point that, when they began this project turning up to Twickenham Film Studios in a kind of a nine to five cadence as well, which also got the group members grumpy. They used to like working through the night. There was no professional recording equipment there. The only equipment recording what was going on was the film equipment in mono with pretty basic microphones. I presume they’re using shotgun mics or something like that. But it’s not designed for recording musical instruments. So you’ve got this mono stuff. What they did was, he says they developed digital technology that separated that mono audio into component parts using artificial intelligence. So the AI would be able to work out what was vocal, what was guitar, what was bass, what was drums and separate all of that into separate tracks. When you do that, not only can you get stereo, but you can also mix it.
So what I’m hearing with this amazing audio on the Get Back movie is so much better than anything I have ever heard before, even though I have heard the audio before. They’re also vocally enhancing the dialogue. So it is easier to hear the dialogue and where the dialogue is a bit muddled, there are subtitles and that takes me on to the audio description. It’s being audio described. So you can hear this Get Back movie with audio description that is very well done. And where there are subtitles, the subtitles are being read by audio describers too.
Now there’s only one downside. I’m really sorry to raise this, but I am annoyed by it. And it’s something that I raised some time ago. I was actually quite surprised by how little reaction, how little outrage was expressed when I raised this. You’ll remember that last year I went on the journey of purchasing a new Sonos Arc when that came out. This is the sound bar from Sonos. It was the first of their products to support Dolby Atmos. We also have a couple of Sonos speakers serving as real surround. So we’ve got the whole system. We’ve got the Sonos sub as well.
What I found very quickly was that a lot of the studios producing audio described content, do not encode the audio description track in all of the formats that the main track is available. Apple is a notable exception. So, well done apple. I have not seen this once on an Apple title. So let’s say that you’re watching, I don’t know, Invasion or Foundation on Apple TV Plus, if you choose to turn on audio description, you will still get the Dolby Atmos soundtrack in the background. So all the effects will come to life. When planes are flying overhead, they will fly overhead. It will be the immersive, glorious sound that you invested in when you bought a Dolby Atmos system. Even if you don’t have Dolby Atmos, you may have Dolby Surround 5.1 or DTS, one of those technologies. So things will come from behind you if you’re sitting in the right place. It’s a really immersive experience.
And of course, for blind people who can’t appreciate the pictures, they may well choose to invest in a decent audio system so they can make the most of the audio production that goes into a lot of these movies these days. But with a lot of providers, what happens is that when you switch on audio description, the Atmos goes away or even the 5.1 surround sound goes away and you are left with stereo. So here we have Sir Peter Jackson, who’s done all of this work on a documentary about the best band in history. And this is all about sound. The pictures are secondary. This is all about the music. It’s all about the dialogue and Peter Jackson and his team will have taken a long time to get the Atmos mix right.
Now, you can hear the difference. All you have to do is start playing the Get Back documentary and if you’ve got an appropriate system, 5.1 or Dolby Atmos, you will hear the immersive effect right from the very beginning. Then go into your language track and select audio description. What happens? You get stereo, only stereo. You lose the surround sound and just stuck with stereo. I think it is outrageous that so many of these studios are treating blind people this way. Blind people, a lot of us anyway, care about our audio. Why would you do this to blind people of all people who may well appreciate all the effort that’s gone into the surround sound mixes, the Atmos mixes, more than anybody else?
And yet you’re faced with a stark and difficult choice. Enjoy the movie with audio description and find out what’s happening on the screen. And actually you do miss out on quite a lot as a blind person if you don’t have the audio description on with this one. Or enjoy the fully immersive mix as Sir Peter Jackson intended it. I do think that it’s time that we confronted this issue. And I do think that it’s something that the consumer organizations in the United States should be taking on. We are getting a second class experience just for the privilege of having audio description and it’s simply not good enough. It is not acceptable. I’m really disappointed that I’m not able to enjoy the movie as much as anyone else, and I am a major, major diehard Beatles fan, because of this discrimination.
Now, while we are on the subject of the Beatles, it is a sad anniversary in the Beatles calendar coming up on Monday, the 29th of November. It is 20 years since George Harrison died. And I should have thought about putting out a call earlier so we could include some thoughts on this episode, but if you would like to share your memories of where you were, how you heard that George Harrison had died, and your thoughts on what George and his music and his philosophy meant to you, you’re welcome to share those and we’ll include them next week. I remember exactly where I was. I was actually working and I was in Christchurch in a hotel room by myself, and I got the word that George Harrison had died. I remember tuning around the dial and so many radio stations just went into playing back to back Beatles music. I tuned into talk radio, and it’s all they were talking about. Their memories of the Beatles, how the Beatles came to New Zealand in 1964 and what that was like. There was just this overwhelming sense of loss.
And I do remember going home that weekend and doing an ACB Radio tribute to George Harrison. That was so difficult to do because I wanted to do it well, but I was deeply affected by George’s death. To celebrate George Harrison’s life and his contribution, we are running a three hour special on Mushroom FM. You can ask your smart speaker or your smartphone to play Mushroom FM, and it should do that. Or you can go to mushroomfm.com and use the accessible player on the website. This special will air twice. It will air at midnight and midday, US eastern time on the 29th of November.
No, I mustn’t do that. Every time I do that, I get pinged by the Canadians and rightly so. “We use Eastern time too, eh?” they say. And they do. So, North American Eastern time. It will air on Monday the 29th of November at midnight and then again at midday. And the special will run for three hours. It is the same special if you’ve been listening to Mushroom FM for a while that we ran 10 years ago, because I put a lot of work into that. And there’s really not much else to say or do. So we’ll rerun that special that we ran 10 years ago. It is a documentary that essentially traces George’s life in his words and other Beatles words and music. There’s no narration from me except at the beginning. So it’s very much a free form, flowing kind of documentary, plenty of music, a few things that may be a little bit rare. And I hope that if you are a Beatles fan, that you will enjoy that.
If you are not in North American Eastern time, you can go to the Mushroom FM schedule page at mushroomfm.com/schedule, and we’ve got some magic jiggery pokery, that means that you can see the schedule in your time zone. So you know when it is on where you are. I hope that you enjoy the George Harrison tribute. If you have thoughts of George or thoughts about this Get Back magnum opus documentary, please feel free to share them. He’s not too far away from where we live, Sir Peter Jackson and his studio. And I often thought, I wonder if I could just call him up and say, “Please, Sir Pete, can I come down and just sit? I promise, I won’t say anything. I’ll just sit in the corner quietly and listen to you working on all this Beatles stuff.” But it has been worth the wait.
There’s a lot of recycling going on, sometimes a bit of remixing of Beatles material, but to hear this volume of new Beatles material, and it really is new to most of us, and the way that it has been so carefully put together and restored, it is a joy, an absolute joy. I only wish we could have the audio description with the Atmos too.
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Jonathan Mosen: Let’s return to the subject of visual description at the beginning of meetings from presenters. And that’s a subject that is galvanizing a lot of people, good discussion. Here’s someone who wishes to remain anonymous, who says, “The one and only time I was in a virtual meeting where people described themselves, as in their hair color, what they were wearing, et cetera, I was the only blind person in the room and it felt incredibly awkward to have these people I did not know describing themselves to me. Since I was in a professional setting, I thanked them and did not mention how uncomfortable it made me feel. Perhaps if there had been others who were attending the meeting who were blind or visually impaired, I wouldn’t have felt so uncomfortable.”
“I wonder if those who have lost their sight in adulthood may find this more useful. I am totally blind and have had a visual impairment since birth. I do like the idea of people giving out their pronouns, as sometimes their voices can trick your ears, which can be quite embarrassing. Part of me wonders if the reason I am so uncomfortable with this whole thing is that it just seems like person first language all over again. On the other hand, I see your point. But I guess for me, even though my job is doing accessibility testing and remediation and teaching and troubleshooting for staff in my organization that use AT, visual description feels like waving a flag and saying you are different. At the end of the day, I want to do a good job on the projects I work on and be respected as someone who has a great deal of knowledge in the assistive technology realm and who constantly seeks out more knowledge.”
Well, this is interesting. Thanks for the contribution. I’ll get onto your questions in just a sec, but just to say, I don’t think it’s got to do with whether you’ve been blind since birth or not. It might just be one’s degree of curiosity about the world around them and how people look. Because I’ve been blind since birth and I find it absolutely fascinating. I also find it instructive. And I did hear from somebody this week who is blind… I won’t disclose their name either because I don’t think I have the permission to do that, because it didn’t come through the usual channels. But this person said to me that they were working in a pretty well known organization and didn’t know that they were not complying with the dress code for some time. They were way overdressed for the organization that they were working for. It wasn’t until somebody pointed that out that they were aware of it. But if visual descriptions had been in place, they would have been aware of it sooner.
It also makes me sad to hear somebody say that they’re reluctant to take an accommodation because they’re concerned that they won’t be respected. If we are moving towards a less disabling society, then one would hope that people will become more accepting of accommodations. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for somebody in a wheelchair to say, “I’m worried about this building being wheelchair accessible because it singles me out.” Or in a blindness context, “I’m worried about having to use a screen reader because that singles me out.”
So the anonymous contributor continues, “I have two questions I hope you or other listeners will be able to assist me with. The first question is, is there a list of keyboard shortcuts that work with the Mantis and the iPhone? I find some of the keyboard shortcuts I have used in the past don’t seem to work with the Mantis.” I’ve not found any commands that don’t myself. As far as I’m aware, the Mantis should just be appearing as a standard Bluetooth keyboard. It certainly appears to for me. So maybe you can write back and let us know what keyboard commands aren’t working for you. But to the best of my knowledge, if you just consult the Apple knowledge base for voiceover Bluetooth keyboard commands, they should all work.
Second question, “Does JAWS 2022 fix the issue of JAWS not reading or displaying the information on the calendar in schedule view? I discovered this issue in 2021 and reported it to Freedom Scientific who were able to reproduce it. But when I looked at the updates for 2021, I did not see it mentioned anywhere nor did I find it in the What’s New and JAWS 2022 section on the Freedom Scientific site. I use this view as it seems to be the only efficient way to keep track of six other calendars as well as my own. If it has been fixed, do you have some suggestions or workarounds that may be more efficient than trying to use control plus tab and control plus shift plus tab to move through all the calendars?”
I simply don’t know the answer to this question. So I hope somebody else can chime in and comment on schedule view and managing other people’s calendars or keeping track. So there’s a great question. And lastly, “Please tell Bonnie, I hope all goes well for Eclipse. My guide who was eight and a half had to have a tumor removed last September. I thought it was a cyst, but it was actually cancer. Fortunately, they seem to have got it all out and she is doing well.” That’s wonderful to hear. “So my thoughts are with her as I know how nerve-wracking that can be. Thanks again for all your hard work in putting your podcasts together each week.” Thank you so much for that email. Really appreciate it and you sharing your perspective. Hopefully, somebody can give you an answer to your question about schedule view in Outlook.
John Wesley Smith: Hey Jonathan, this is John Wesley Smith from Missouri in the USA. A couple of comments and questions about descriptions of meeting attendees. I’m not on Zoom terribly often and I’m not in business meetings and so on and so forth. So forgive me if my questions come from ignorance here, but I guess my concern is this. Why is knowing about what people in the meeting look like relevant? I understand the access to information argument that you make. We ought to have the same information as sighted folks, et cetera, but why is this information relevant? Unless it is relevant to the content of the meeting, it seems like it’s unnecessary to me. If your main argument is access to the same information that sighted people have, then why doesn’t somebody tell us what color the walls are? What color is the table? What color are the chairs? Where are the lights positioned in the room? Et cetera, cetera, et cetera.
I don’t mean to be snarky about it, but that’s just what comes to my mind when I think about this. Now, what I would want more than anything else is the description information about slides or any kind of information that’s in a visual presentation. If there’s screen sharing going on, I’d like to know what the document is, what it says and so on and so forth. Those are just my thoughts. Take them for whatever they’re worth.
Jonathan Mosen: Good to hear from you again, John. And sounding very pristine since you’re recording that on some sort of device and not phoning in. There you go. You make a really good point. And my answer to your point about what’s the relevance of somebody’s appearance is this. If it’s not relevant, then let’s not turn our videos on, on Zoom calls and Teams calls and Google Meet calls and all of these services that we are using at the moment. There is an increasing awareness of what’s been called Zoom fatigue. And they call it Zoom fatigue, because Zoom has become the dominant platform in this space as a result of the pandemic.
And people have said, “Look, after a day of Zoom meetings, I’m much more tired, I’m much more fatigued than I would be with face to face meetings.” And so inevitably, a lot of people have done some research on this and they’ve concluded that the reason for Zoom fatigue is the video being on a lot and the need to look good and the idea that you are constantly on camera. So some businesses are now suggesting that really a lot of meetings don’t have to take place with the video on. Let people wander around if they want to and stay active and focused. And that if you’ve seen somebody once and you know what they look like, why do you have to pin them to a video call every single time? So I think that this is a wider question. Why is video actually relevant in many of these meetings? And it may be that everybody would be better off and more relaxed if it was just an audio meeting.
Now, if it becomes just an audio meeting, then no one can see what anyone looks like and we are all on a level playing field. But in my view, if video is deemed relevant to sighted people, then audio description of that video is appropriate for blind people. We do it for TV. There was a period when the NFB was opposing its mandate. They’ve moved on from that now. So there is a general consensus in the blind community that audio description of television is appropriate. I think this is just a natural progression. And I for one, would appreciate a visual description of the layout of the room as well.
Tabo is writing in from Botswana and says, “Hello Mosen at Large community, I am one person who is really interested in how the other person looks. I always ask my girlfriend, how do speakers look whenever we attend a meeting together. She’s now gotten used to that so nowadays she tells me before I ask. I am in 5000% agreement with Microsoft’s move in this case, I do wish it spreads to other companies. I feel connected when I know how the speaker looks.” I’m with you there. When I was married to someone sighted, she would often describe people at my request. And I suppose you can use Aira for this or Be my Eyes or whatever, but it should just be something that’s included as part of an accommodation, as part of accessibility.
Terry writes in and says, “Not wanting to draw attention to oneself is very shortsighted thinking.” Ableist language on Mosen at Large. “If you don’t think you want to know or are afraid of embarrassing for others as has been stated, most people are proud of who they are. Also, the sighted world has access to this information and, like it or not, they utilize such information to inform and shape their own thinking, attitudes and acceptance of what is ‘normal.’ The more you are exposed to other people’s appearances, the more you are prepared to accept and modify your own thinking about differences. Most of all, you will be more informed in what kind of dress people wear as presenters and can make changes in your own manner of dress so as to look and act appropriately in different settings.”
“Too many blind people that say they don’t care what others look like, don’t attend to their own dress, behavior and personal appearance. They will never advance in their career if they don’t keep up with what is appropriate in a given organization. Like you, Jonathan, I have always wanted to know what others look like, how they dress, mannerisms, even their size, large, overweight to very thin and or small in stature, as well as hairstyles. I have sought out such information about colleagues all my working life, which spans 45 years. And I believe that information has played a part in my success as a professional and let me climb the ladder of advancement. Also, if you are knowledgeable about others as a supervisor, you are better prepared to address inappropriate dress and behavior among your direct reports. Just because someone in your chain of command tells you that George is dressing inappropriately is not sufficient enough to take action. You need to have your own base level of knowledge as to what is acceptable. If one discounts such information as superfluous and unimportant, that person is left in the dark.”
Yes. I fully agree with every word of that. And thank you for writing in Terry. It’s certainly something that I do check when I’m interviewing potential staff. How did they dress? Did they look unkempt? Did they take pride in their personal appearance when they turned up for a job interview? Those things are very important. And I suppose the difference there is that you aren’t asking the individual to describe themselves. You are asking someone else to. But the point you make is important. Visual information does matter. And an audible description of it is the only way we can access it.
Iona: Hi, Jonathan. This is Iona from Montreal. I just love all these interesting ideas that you bring up that are interesting food for thought, such as now, this visual descriptions issue. I have to say, I really don’t think it’s a good idea. I think it’s an interesting concept that raises awareness of the need to have access to this information. But my key issue is that it would need to be on demand. I know you were comparing it with audio descriptions being available in a movie theater. I think that’s a great idea, but nobody’s asking the movie theater to put the audio descriptions track on for the whole audience. So I guess what I’m saying is that it should be an option available on demand. So somebody that is visually impaired participating in a meeting should be able to say, could I please get a visual description or people should announce that they are willing to offer it on demand. Ideally, I think people should just use Aira or be my eyes, or some other individualized option that gives them the information they’re looking for without affecting the format of the meeting for everybody. In top of it, it’s not even clear as you also stated, that the blind community is united on this idea. To make it a require when maybe there would be blind or visually impaired people there that wouldn’t even be interested in this, is for me not practical. On top of it, there is the context. I mean, it’s true, I sometimes would be listening to a concert and would wonder how the performer was dressed, because I need to make choices for myself when I’m on stage and it would be nice to gather information, but I would not expect and I’m not considering ever sitting on stage preparing to play a concert and saying, “By the way, I’m dressed in this or that way.” I think it detracts from the overall experience and the focus of the concert. It’s a matter of content and for me, it’s a matter of being able to access it on an individual basis, and also only on demand.
Jonathan Mosen: Some very interesting thoughts coming through on this. If you would like to add yours, you can, of course, drop me an email to email@example.com with an audio attachment, like Iona just did, or you can just write the email down. The phone number in the United States, 864-60Mosen 864-606-6736. (singing)
Scott Rykowski: Jonathan, Scott Rykowski from Sydney here, I wanted to personally thank you for bringing to our attention, the issues with your Dell XPS 15 and Realtek drivers. I personally haven’t heard of this particular Realtek issue, causing certain PCs minutes to boot. I’ve seen issues where if you install an updated Realtek driver, you lose the base and treble components and everything sounds like a transistor radio. I’ve seen this myself when I updated my Realtek driver. I think it might have been last May I think, not exactly sure. Then, I lost some of that functionality because they’re using a technology called Max Audio and basically it enhances the base and treble and things of that nature. I’ve now got that functionality back, because there was another update about a month ago to the Realtek driver. I’m also very surprised at the fact that Dell had no idea about this issue or if they did, they didn’t bring it to your attention when you rang up to get your display replaced.
I’m a little bit hesitant in now buying a Dell XPS 13. I don’t know whether I’d encounter the issue with the XPS 13, but since they did look after you, regarding your display, when it came to finding out why the Realtek driver was causing issues for certain customers, they just tried to wash their hands of the issue. Just say, “Oh, we’ll look into it.” I just wanted to take the time to thank you for bringing the issue to our attention. It’s unfortunate that it did occur, but hopefully it’ll save other people from going through the grief of resetting their PC back to defaults and finding out that it was the Realtek driver that caused the issue.
Jonathan Mosen: Yes. Good to hear from you, Scott. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. It’s such a time waster. Then, to know that we didn’t need to have gone through that process, if only somebody at Dell had been told about all the issue that were coming up on their forum, it is frustrating. I suppose one’s perception of a technology company is only as good as the last tech support experience you’ve had. This is the first time I’ve actually had to have any interaction with Dell tech support, since I bought the XPS 15 about 11 months ago. The way they looked after me with the display replacement, having someone come over here, as you say, that was first class, but the software issue was interesting. I wonder whether the Realtek driver update that fixed your issue, of the lack of base and treble, I do know that transistor radio effect because that’s what I got on the XPS 15 when I installed the native Microsoft drivers. I wonder if that driver update was the one that broke mine and other people’s Dells. I don’t think that this should necessarily put people off buying a Dell. You’re going to have dodgy tech support experiences, no matter who you go with. Sometimes people have had them with Apple. I know that people have had them with Lenovo. It is just the luck of the draw sometimes isn’t it. The Dell XPS 13 comes highly recommended.
There are developments to report. There are developments regarding the new ThinkPad of awesomeness. I’m so excited about this, I can barely get the words out because the ThinkPad has shipped. It is exciting. Yes, the production crew is upstanding and applauding with vigor and enthusiasm. I have the tracking number it’s in my parcel app, which is such a cool app for tracking all your packages at this time of year or any other time of year. The estimated arrival for the ThinkPad is the 8th of December, but I have found in recent times that carriers are being very conservative with their estimates, and that often things are arriving quite a bit earlier than the estimate. Whatever happens though, I will have it in time for Christmas and I’ve decided to put my Dell XPS 15 on Trade Me right now, in the hope that someone might like it for Christmas. Because Dell will fix this software glitch, but even if they don’t for a month or two, the reality is that most sighted people will be bothered by this hardly at all, because they’ll have fast start turned on, which is the Windows default.
If you power up with fast start on, this issue really isn’t manifesting itself. I feel quite okay about selling it on and it is on Trade Me now. I may even post a link in the show notes, Trade Me, by the way is the equivalent of eBay, in most parts of the world. it’s a New Zealand entity, it was founded in the 90. It’s really ubiquitous in New Zealand. I’m pleased to say it’s a pretty accessible experience for the most part. If you’re in New Zealand and you want a Dell XPS 15 9500, a little under a year old, with a pristine, shiny new display, just replaced, then I am going to be able to help you with that one.
Keith Waters says, “Hi Jonathan, after listening to your podcast about the Dell and Realtek, I got thinking about a problem I had some time ago with my Dell. My sound was echoing, which turned out to be that I needed to turn off the enhanced setting. I did try using a USB sound card and this worked as well. Until I found the setting to stop the echoing. I just wondered if a USB sound card or similar might help with your slow startup. I’m probably talking rubbish and you would have to use headphones or speakers. If nothing else, I’ve given you a laugh. Thanks for the great podcast and the way you talk about different topics in a nice lighthearted way. Best wishes to you and your family, from Keith Waters, in the UK.” Great to hear from you, Keith, and thank you for the suggestion.
Before Silenzio and the feature in JAWS that now exists about speech cutoff, I did used to recommend just a simple little USB audio interface to people who had that speech cutoff problem, where you were trying to work and you lost the first half a second or so of your speech, whenever you let the speech stop talking for even two or three seconds. Now that we have a solution to that problem in software, then I don’t recommend it as much because it’s just another thing to carry around and to plug in. If you have certain audio editing needs or audio production needs, then the built-in audio may well not be sufficient. I think the only way that it might help me to plug in an external audio interface would be if I completely disabled the onboard sound. If I went into device manager and essentially switched the thing off, uninstalled the drivers even, although the driver would probably come back. That’s quite a dramatic thing to do because if you found yourself without the audio interface around and you didn’t have a Braille display, you would be up the proverbial creek. It’s not something I want to do, but I appreciate the suggestion, bit of lateral thinking there. (Singing).
We’ve been talking a little bit about gaming lately and Katie Frederick has emailed in, with word of a research study that you might like to complete if this topic is of interest to you. The research study is how accessible and enjoyable are video games for blind and low vision gamers? What are the different experiences of blind and low vision people in gaming? What are the perceived barriers and enablers? Would making video games more accessible, encourage blind or low vision users to play video games more often? These are some of the questions that the RNIB Accessible Gaming Research Consortium is seeking to answer. This consortium led by the Royal National Institute of Blind People is supported by researchers with experience in media and gaming from I2 Media Research at Goldsmith’s University of London and University of Edinburg, Moray House Schoolhouse of Education and Sport.
The study is aimed at understanding the experiences of blind and low vision individuals, their needs and preferences, in relation to playing games and how this compares with sighted gamers. It will also seek to understand how enjoyable existing games are to play, for people who are blind or low vision. The research team will also explore the level of blind slash low vision awareness that exists in the gaming industry and look at how to improve knowledge of accessibility features, remove barriers for their inclusion, and encourage their adoption in games. Below is the link to a survey for all gamers and blind or low vision people. We want to hear from all gamers, full vision, blind and low vision, and from non-gamers and X-gamers, who are blind slash low vision. I will put a link to this in the show notes, but if you want to go straight there, you can go to surveymonkey.co.UK that’s surveymonkey all one word.co.UK slash R for Romeo, slash gamingsurveyRNIB, all joined together. We expect most people, it says, will take approximately 15 minutes to complete the survey. The questions you get will be tailored to you based on your answers to previous questions. If gaming interests you, this may be a survey that you would like to complete, and thank you, Katie, for passing it on.
Steve Bower: I’m Steve Bower and with me as Becky Camp, and we are talking about a topic that is really important, and that is employment. Specifically, employment of persons with disabilities, in the blindness world, we’ve heard this number for many years, 70% of people who are blind or visually impaired are unemployed. We’ve also heard that of those that are employed, 90% are Braille readers. Braille is extremely important. Becky, introduce yourself to us and tell us about your disability and where you’re coming from.
Becky: Hi Steve, thanks for having me. It’s an honor to be here. I am from Pennsylvania and I created the group, well, I created my Facebook page called One Blind Business Lady and a Veteran. I created that page because, well, I’m the blind business lady and my husband’s the veteran. We created it because we wanted to help curb the gap from the employment gap. When I first started my business five years ago, a friend of mine, who was my mentor, helped me for free and said, the only thing that he expected in return is that I pay it forward. This is my attempt to pay it forward.
Steve Bower: Describe your business for us.
Becky: Right now, we are what is called third party sellers. We sell on the platform, Amazon.com. There are other platforms that one can sell on. You can sell on Walmart. You can sell on Etsy. You can sell on eBay, but I don’t like to throw that in the mix. That’s more of an auction site. What I’m referring to right now, are actual business models. I’ve been selling on Amazon for five years now, and we are hoping to move into Walmart very soon.
Steve Bower: What kind of products do you sell?
Becky: What a third party seller does, is we basically find products for Amazon. That’s just putting it simple and short. We source products, wholesale products, like grocery, the sky is the limit. Amazon sells those products and we get paid. Now I’m making this sound very simple. Obviously it’s not that simple, but for lack of time, that’s the long and short of it.
Steve Bower: You’re not limiting yourself to products specifically, you design for a particular disability.
Becky: Oh, absolutely not. No. The products that we sell have nothing to do with people being disabled. I mean, it could, if I were found something profitable, this is just a business, the products I sell have nothing to do with being disabled.
Steve Bower: This really is a work from home type of a deal that people want to get involved. Is that correct?
Becky: Absolutely and that’s why I feel very passionate about this. I feel this could bridge the gap, the huge gap. Right now, we’re just talking about blind people. We’re not talking about people with other disabilities. We’re just using this as a reference number, since we are both blind, and we know the most about that. Could you imagine the amount of people, that if they took that first step, that we could help employ? It is absolutely work from home and it is your own business and it’s not marketing, it’s not MLM, multi-level marketing. It’s not a pyramid scheme. It’s an actual business and you get paid by Amazon.
Steve Bower: All right, so how do you find the products when you’re wanting to add them to your mix?
Becky: This is why we created the business. We have of special software that scans stores and wholesale companies, and searches for products, compares the prices. The software is very, very inaccessible, and so we had to come up with other ways so that I could handle this myself. Once I figured out that, yes, you can do this. I decided that I wanted to help other people with disabilities, who maybe didn’t have the resources that I was lucky enough to have. Maybe income or family, a lot of that plays into factors when you’re starting a business.
Steve Bower: How much time per week is required for this, or is that something that you determine how much time you put in?
Becky: Well, like I said, it’s your business, so you determine how many hours a week you’re going to put in, you either fail or succeed on your own. What you put into it, is what you’re going to get out of it. Right now, we are in fourth quarter sales, so I would probably say we put in about 80 hours a week at least. This is my full-time job.
Steve Bower: Okay. Well, that’s good. It keeps you off the streets.
Becky: Out of trouble, except when I talk to you.
Steve Bower: That’s right. If people want more information about your business or would like to contact you, how would they go about that?
Becky: My Facebook page is One Blind Business Lady and a Veteran. That’s the best way to reach me. Our group is completely free. The reason that is, is because Amazon coaching can be extremely expensive and we are hooking people up with volunteers, who are willing to teach them how to sell on various platforms, or maybe read a screen or pick a different disability, say, oh, cerebral palsy, let’s say, and you can’t pack a box. Somebody will help you come pack your boxes. We’re really trying to connect people with people, if that makes sense. Job seekers, with people who are experienced and just want to help.
Steve Bower: All right. Do you do any webinars, training webinar type things at all?
Becky: Yes, we do. All our coaching is available, our courses are available online and it’s a work in progress. We are just starting out. People are growing with us so we have no definite dates that we set webinars up. It is just when we actually have the time to put them together. They go in sequential order. Lesson one was how to start on Amazon. Lesson two was how to source on Amazon, so people can peruse these and then they can come back to us with questions, help, if they need help, I think that’s it. Yeah.
Steve Bower: When you start a business, it always takes some money. It’s always there. It raises its ugly head, but what’s involved in getting started. If someone would like to volunteer to help people that are working in this business, what’s involved?
Becky: You can start a little as a hundred dollars per month. We are trying really hard to work with disability offices to get people grants, but as you know, that’s going to be an uphill battle. So we’re also thinking about some fundraising activities. They can just contact me on my Facebook page and like I said, we are looking for volunteers to maybe help someone read a screen, help someone pack a box. Even if you do not sell on Amazon or a third party platform, you can still help. There are still ways to help. Also, our group is not just for people with disabilities, it is for anyone and we want to make it very community based. Keeping in mind, that we go a little slower, because of the accessibility issues that a normal class would take.
Steve Bower: All right. Give us that Facebook page one more time.
Becky: One Blind Business Lady and a Veteran.
Steve Bower: All right, Becky, we wish you wish you a lot of luck with your new business and getting people involved.
Becky: Thank you for having me.
Speaker 3: On Twitter, follow MosenAtLarge for information about the podcast, the latest tech news, and links to things we talk about on the podcast. That’s MosenAtLarge, all one word on Twitter.
Kim Polk: Hello, Jonathan, this is Kim Polk. Thank you for your work and your platform and to your fantastic audience for the sharing of ideas and strategies so we can all live at work and play with greater ease with vision loss and for some of us with hearing loss. Recently, I received a student newsletter from Helen Keller National Center here in New York. They are standardizing, according to an announcement, their spelling of DeafBlind across their communications. They stated that other organizations globally are doing the same thing. The spelling is DeafBlind, one word, both words capitalized. So it is capital Deaf, capital Blind, DeafBlind. I was formerly using a common spelling, which is deaf-blind with a hyphen and I found that my screen reader, which is voiceover, would most commonly pronounce that as deep blind. The single word, both words capitalized, seems to be all always pronounced correctly by voiceover. I like the fact that this is a very accessible spelling, so I am adopting it. It reminds me to share with everyone, the simple fact that although hashtags, web addresses, and email addresses are not case sensitive, it is perfectly okay to capitalize the words in them. That doing so makes it easier to pick out the words visually with screen readers and with brail displays. I highly recommend that we adopt and spread the use of capitalizing words and hope that everyone has a fantastic weekend.
Jonathan Mosen: The same to you, Kim, thank you so much for that contribution. It’s good to hear about the standardization. It makes a lot of sense mixed case, or camel case, as it is sometimes called can really help improve intelligibility for screen readers. When I’m using Twitter hashtags for example, I do endeavor to do that cause it really does help with intelligibility. This makes a lot of sense so I will make sure that I use capital D capital B when I’m referring to DeafBlind people in future. Now we just have to keep working away on the brail with an uppercase B.
Robbie: Hey Jonathan, it’s Robbie here from Canada. I just want to say, I love your show a lot and I heard that you use Reaper to record your show. Now, I’m interested in Reaper, I’m in the process of taking a little course on Reaper. And I was wondering if you could do a little bit of a demo because, I just want to know how you use it. I’m curious of how you use it. I’d like for you to do some sort of a demo on the podcast about how to use Reaper as a blind individual, if you could do that, that’ll be amazing.
Jonathan Mosen: Great to hear from you Robbie, and thank you so much. I’m glad that you are enjoying the show. Now, Reaper would be a huge rabbit warren to go down, because it is a very powerful complex program and there are some really good Reaper resources out there. There is the free Reaperaccessibility.com website you can go to. You may have found that already. That has quite a few resources including to Osara, which is essential for blind people to make the most of Reaper. Brian Hartgen at Hartgen Consultancy recently updated his Reaper tutorial. It’s now called reaping the benefits and it’s right up to date with Reaper and Osara and I highly recommend getting that if you want to learn Reaper, certainly from the perspective of audio recording and podcasting. I don’t believe that course covers music and many people are using Reaper to produce great quality multi-track music as well, but Brian’s course focuses on creating audio with Reaper. I will talk a little bit about my Reaper workflow for Mosen At Large.
For every project that I work on consistently, such as Mosen At Large, and also the Small World kid show that I produce on Mushroom Escape. I have a template that I have built in Reaper. Whenever I want to do a new Mosen At Large episode, I load the Mosen At Large template. On track one, I have a place for all of the elements that you hear in the podcast, the opening theme, the little promos, that kind of thing. They all go on track one. On track two, go vocals that I record directly into the Reaper project, such as the announcement at the beginning. Sometimes I’ll do some intro stuff that I record straight into that project, but I actually record a separate Reaper project for each contribution. Now, I could use sub-projects for that, but I just find it easier to create a Reaper project. It has dates that the contribution was received. I do try and play things in sequential order. There are some exceptions to that. For example, if we’ve got a really hot topic that has started running from week to week, I don’t want that to be interrupted.
I don’t want the dialogue to be interrupted. I do prioritize certain ongoing contributions on certain topics. Otherwise, I give the project numbers based on the month and the day that they came in and try and work through them sequentially. I render each project to a FLAC file and then import that into the main Mosen At Large project. When contributions come in that have a lot of noise and things like that, I do apply some noise reduction, and I use iZotope RX9 to do that. Sometimes I just do a pass with their excellent noise reduction program. In certain extreme cases, I will use the dialogue isolate features of iZotope RX 9. I have this set up as a secondary editor in Reaper, and I can send an item to the iZotope RX9 application, apply some dialog isolate, and then bring it back into Reaper. It’s a pretty straightforward process once you have it set up.
Sometimes, if I’m doing interviews, which I record via Cleanfeed, then I will use the dereverb feature of the little bit of acoustical bounce from the person who I am interviewing. We’ve covered Cleanfeed on a previous edition of Mosen At Large, but for those who didn’t hear that episode, Cleanfeed is a wonderful tool for recording podcast interviews. It also works in live scenarios as well. You can hear an interview with the Cleanfeed developers in the blind podmaker podcast feed. I record each track using Cleanfeed’s multi-track feature, but as a backup, I also use the loop back feature in my Focusrite 8i6 audio interface, so I record my microphone on one track and I record the audio from Cleanfeed that’s coming through the loopback feature of the Focusrite in another track. I’ve got that second recording just in case something goes wrong with Cleanfeed, but nothing ever has.
In my studio, I have an Allen & Heath ZED22 FX mixer. That is an analog mixer. It does have a USB port that you can go into, but it doesn’t allow you to assign individual channels to individual tracks. I learned a trick along the way, that allows me to use the insert jacks associated with each channel, as line outs for that particular channel. I’m making really good use of this and that’s one of the reasons why I went all the way to an 8i6. It means, for example, that I have a direct audio link from the Heil PR40 microphones that I use so when we do the Bonnie bulletin, I can record her on one track and me on another track. I also have another cable that I can use with either my laptop, or my iPhone, or an Android phone, or the Chromebook, and that can also be assigned to a separate track. It means that I’m not limited to a single analog feed that comes from the mixer into Reaper. That gives me plenty of flexibility, but if I want to record a good old fashioned show, just using the mixer radio style, then I have that option as well.
For broadcast and podcast related work, I normalize everything I produce to negative 23 LUFS, which is the European broadcast union standard. I finish it all off by sending the final version of the podcast, which is rendered as one big FLAC file through Auphonic. Auphonic is a fantastic tool that does leveling, does a wee bit of EQ. It does some noise reduction and it just adds some consistency and shine and sparkle to the production, at the end of the process. It also levels out the audio at minus 16 LUFS so I record at a reasonably low level of minus 23 but the final product is minus 16, so it is quite a bit louder. That is the standard that services like Spotify and Apple podcasts, and the Amazon soup drinker are looking for. There are two versions of Auphonic, you can check out the website, at Auphonic.com. That’s A-U-P-H-O-N-I-C.com, and they give you two free hours of use with their cloud-based service, or you can download standalone applications for the PC and the Mac.
You can make chapters in Reaper, but since I’m doing this through Auphonic, I let Auphonic handle the podcast chapters. This is the very popular feature that allows you to skip between the sections of the podcast. The way that I choose to do it is to create a bookmark at each point that I want a chapter to be. I do this in Reaper, and then when it’s all over, I export those bookmarks to a CSV file, which Auphonic then processes. Now, there are other ways of getting that job done with Auphonic, but I like this workflow because it allows me to upload a FLAC file and that doesn’t take very long at all. Also, because I’m making these bookmarks along the way, and I create the CSV file, they form the basis of the show notes that you see in each episode. I’m killing two stones with one bird by creating those markers along the way. That, in a nutshell is what we do to put Mosen At Large together. It’s a workflow that I’ve developed over time. When I started Mosen At Large and indeed for a long time when I was podcasting, I did make use of APH Studio Recorder but now I do absolutely everything that I record on my PC in REAPER. It’s just muscle memory now. And it’s such a powerful tool. Something happens and I still learn something every couple of weeks or so that improves my workflow.
Speaker 4: (singing)
Jonathan Mosen: Welcome to my fourth installment, and at this stage the last in this series of our Chromebook review. We’ve been looking at all sorts of aspects of the Chromebook over these four installments, and I hope that you’ve found them helpful. The feedback has been great.
Before we get into new material, it’s important for me to do an apology and a mea culpa and make a correction. Last week I introduced you to ChromeVox’s Braille support and we looked at that with two devices, the Freedom Scientific Focus 40 Blue, and the Mantis from APH, which has a qwerty keyboard. When I was discussing Braille input using the Focus 40 Blue, I made the comments, repeatedly actually, that Braille input did not support contracted Braille. I was wrong about that. When you press G Chord to go into contracted Braille mode, not only do you get contracted output on the screen but you do also get contracted input. I apologize for the error and the misinformation. Every so often, like all humans, I will get it wrong. So if you are wanting contracted Braille input, you have it with the latest version of ChromeVox.
Now let’s take a look at this week’s new information. There are various ways to do things on your Chromebook. You can go to websites. You can run progressive web apps. As we’ve heard in some of the comments about this series, you can also run Linux apps, although it appears that that is not accessible at present. And you can also run Android apps.
For those with Android devices this is pretty exciting because it means that purchases that you have made may work on a Chromebook. Not all Android apps work on the Chromebook. So the best way to find out whether the app that you are interested in does or not is to search for it and see if it comes up when you’re running the Google Play Store on your Chromebook. When you run an Android app on Chrome OS, you are not using Talk Back, you continue to use ChromeVox. The Play Store app is available on my ChromeVox, and I did have to enable it the first time that I used it. Once that’s done, which was a straightforward process, it’s easy to launch it. I’m going to press Alt+ Shift+ L to go to the launcher.
ChromeVox: Launcher button. Shelf. Toolbar. Window. Press search plus space to activate.
Jonathan Mosen: I’m going to press the tab key now because I’ve got the Play Store pinned to my shelf. It is an app that I use quite frequently.
ChromeVox: Google Chrome button. YouTube button. Play Store button. Press search plus space to activate. Play Store requests your attention.
Jonathan Mosen: Well, it’s going to get it. It is definitely going to get it. I can actually just press enter to activate this as well.
ChromeVox: Play Store. Play Store application. Play Store.
Jonathan Mosen: I’ll navigate right now by pressing the ChromeVox with the right arrow key.
ChromeVox: Try Google Play pass free for one month. Enjoy hundreds of games and apps. Completely free of ads and in-app purchases. Try free for one month then $4.99/month. Not now button. Press search plus space to activate.
Jonathan Mosen: That’s what I’m going to do.
ChromeVox: Play Store. Application.
Jonathan Mosen: Now I’m going to press the ChromeVox key with right arrow. I’m in the Play Store app.
ChromeVox: Search for apps and games. Signed in as Jonathan Mosen. Games. Apps. Movies and TV. Books. For you. Top charts. Children. Categories. Produce stunning designs and photos. Check it out button. List with zero items. Press search plus space to activate.
Jonathan Mosen: If you’re familiar with the Play Store on your Android device then this will be a very similar experience. So at the top you’ve got a list of categories that you can drill down into, and then you have some content that Google wants to highlight at the moment in the main Play Store app, and that’s where we are at now. But I want to go back to the top of the page, so I’ll press ChromeVox, ctrl, left arrow.
ChromeVox: Search for apps and games.
Jonathan Mosen: There we are. I’m going to press ChromeVox with space to activate that.
ChromeVox: Search for apps and games.
Jonathan Mosen: And now I’m in an edit field where I can type in some text, and I am going to type Code Factory.
Jonathan Mosen: I’ll just type that quickly and I’ll press enter.
ChromeVox: Play Store.
Jonathan Mosen: Because what I’d like to do is see if I can install any of the Code Factory voices that they have in the Google Play Store. So I’m going to press the ChromeVox key with right arrow.
ChromeVox: Navigate up. Code Factory. Search Google Play button. 4.0 stars and above. 4.5 stars and above.
Jonathan Mosen: This is where you can narrow what’s displayed, by how many stars the app has received, but I’m not going to do that, instead I’m just going to press the ChromeVox key with right arrow a few times.
ChromeVox: Family premium Play pass recommended for you. App. Notepad star rating, 4.4.
Jonathan Mosen: Not sure why that one’s there but we’ll keep going.
ChromeVox: App, My Kitchen. App, PRODA. App, Endless Calendar star rating… App, File Manager star… App FortiClient 6.0. App, Equalizer FX: Sound Enhancer star rating, 4.3.
Jonathan Mosen: That actually sounds quite interesting, but I’ll keep going.
ChromeVox: App, MMX Hill Dash star rating four… App, Vocalizer TTS Voice (English) Code Factory Productivity star rating, 3.11 million plus downloads.
Jonathan Mosen: Wow. That’s quite a lot of downloads. So I’m going to press the ChromeVox key with the space bar.
ChromeVox: Details for app. Vocalizer TTS Voice (English). Navigate up button.
Jonathan Mosen: Now we are on the page for the app and I’m going to press ChromeVox with the right arrow.
ChromeVox: Search Google Play. More options. In-app purchases.
Jonathan Mosen: Now I’ll keep moving forward.
ChromeVox: Image of app or game icon for Vocalizer TTS Voice (English). Vocalizer TTS Voice (English). Code Factory. Install button.
Jonathan Mosen: Now that’s significant because if it were not possible to install this on the Chromebook you would not get that install prompt, instead you would hear something like, “Not compatible with this device.” Another way that you can install apps onto your Chromebook is to go to the Google Play Store on another device. For example, if you use a Windows computer, you could go to play.google.com, you could search for an Android app there, and when you find it it will tell you the Android devices that you own that are compatible with the app, including any Chromebooks that are associated with your Google account. And then when you next switch the Chromebook on, if you’ve chosen to install to your Chromebook, the app will just magically appear. There’s a lot of other information here. I’ll keep going.
ChromeVox: Average rating 3.1 stars and 7,000 reviews. Downloaded 1 million plus times. Content rating, everyone. Screenshot. Screenshot.
Jonathan Mosen: There are some screenshots.
ChromeVox: About this app, natural and expressive text to speech voices in over 50 languages.
Jonathan Mosen: Very good. So I’m going to go and find the button again for installing this.
ChromeVox: Screenshot. Install button. In-app purchases. Press search plus space to activate.
Jonathan Mosen: There’s the install button, and it does tell me at this point that there are in-app purchases and I do have some of those already, so I’m going to activate the button.
ChromeVox: Navigate up button. Press search plus space to activate.
Jonathan Mosen: Now let’s go right.
ChromeVox: Search Google Play… More option. Download in progress. List with 13 items. Vocalizer TTS Voice download in progress.
Jonathan Mosen: Now it’s downloading the app from the Google Play Store. So to recap, what we had to do was search for the app that we wanted, go in there and make the purchase or do the install. In my case it wasn’t necessary to make a purchase because I already own this app. If I navigate around the screen right now while the download’s taking place-
Jonathan Mosen: … we hear that it’s pending.
ChromeVox: Verified by Play Protect. Verified by Play Protect. Image of app or game icon for Vocalizer TTS Voice (English). Cancel button. Open disabled button. Group end.
Jonathan Mosen: Currently the open button is disabled but it will be enabled when the download is finished. I do find that the downloads can sometimes take a long time, so to guard against you going to sleep on me I paused the recording and now the app has downloaded. One little trick that’s handy is that if the app is taking a long time to download, you can back out to the previous screen where all your apps that you’ve searched for are listed and the downloading one will show you how the progress is going. Now I’m going to press alt + shift + L to get into the launcher.
ChromeVox: Launcher button.
Jonathan Mosen: And press the space bar.
ChromeVox: Sticky mode.
Jonathan Mosen: And I’m going to type vocal.
ChromeVox: Displaying seven results for vocal.
Jonathan Mosen: And there’s Vocalizer Voices as the first result. I’ll press enter.
ChromeVox: Allow Vocalizer Voices to access photos, media, and files in your device. Deny button. Allow button.
Jonathan Mosen: I’m going to allow.
ChromeVox: Please wait. Application. UK English. List item… Okay button.
Jonathan Mosen: I’ll start from a common point of reference and go to the top of the screen. I’ll press the search key with ctrl and left arrow to do that.
ChromeVox: Vocalizer trial available.
Jonathan Mosen: Navigate the screen.
ChromeVox: The Vocalizer trial period has been restarted. You can check remaining days in the about dialogue. To test a voice, start the purchase and select the trial option. Okay button.
Jonathan Mosen: I will dismiss this by pressing the okay button.
ChromeVox: UK English. List item, 1 of 59.
Jonathan Mosen: We’ve got various languages here.
ChromeVox: Australian English. UK English.
Jonathan Mosen: UK English is the one I want, so what do I do to activate this? I’ll press the ChromeVox key with the space bar.
ChromeVox: Argentinian Spanish Diego, $3.99.
Jonathan Mosen: Somehow I’ve got into the wrong place so I’ll press the back button.
ChromeVox: UK English.
Jonathan Mosen: UK English is still at the top of the list.
ChromeVox: Australian… UK English.
Jonathan Mosen: I’ll try pressing enter on UK English.
ChromeVox: UK English Daniel purchased. List item, 1 of 7.
Jonathan Mosen: There we go. Now I’m in my list of voices I can down arrow through these UK English voices.
ChromeVox: Listen to a sample. Button select.
Jonathan Mosen: I’ll press the space bar on that.
ChromeVox: Buffering button selected.
Daniel: Hello. Nice to meet you. Here I am to be the voice of anything you would like.
Jonathan Mosen: So it’s great that you can have these Vocalizer voices on your Chromebook. I’ll press the tab key.
ChromeVox: UK English $3.99 cents. List item.
Jonathan Mosen: I’ll press tab.
ChromeVox: UK English Malcolm $3.99. UK English Oliver, $3.99.
Jonathan Mosen: And if I down arrow…
ChromeVox: Listen to a sample button…
Jonathan Mosen: … we can listen to a sample of this voice. I’ll press the space bar.
ChromeVox: Buffering button selected.
Malcolm: Hello. Nice to meet you. Here I am to be the voice of anything you would like.
ChromeVox: Listen to a sample.
Jonathan Mosen: Now I do have Daniel already, because I like that voice.
ChromeVox: UK English Daniel purchased. List item, one of seven. Selected list with seven items.
Jonathan Mosen: So I’ll press enter to selected, and down arrow.
ChromeVox: Listen to a sample button. Download voice.
Jonathan Mosen: And there’s download voice. I got there by right arrowing, and now I’ll press Enter.
ChromeVox: Selected. Embedded_Pro purchased. List item, one of two. Selected list. Embedded_Compact purchased. 18 megabytes.
Jonathan Mosen: I actually want the compact voice because I prefer the sound of it. I know some people don’t agree with me but I like the way you can crank up that voice to a very high speed and it still sounds pretty intelligible. So it’s the Daniel compact that I am after.
ChromeVox: Select UK English Daniel. List item, one of seven selected. Progress indicator.
Jonathan Mosen: And it started to download the voice and never finished. Now I’m not sure whether this is something to do with my particular Chromebook, whether if I power washed the Chromebook, which is we’ve heard in previous editions is the process of resetting it to factory defaults that would fix it, but the download of the Vocalizer app was very, very slow, even though it was only a five megabyte download. And then the Daniel download never completed. It just kept saying, “Download in progress,” and there was a cancel button. It is not a general speed issue with this Chromebook because I’ve done speed tests on it, and was getting over 540 megabits down on the Wi-Fi, so we’ve got a great internet connection here.
And interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be all Google Play apps. At first I thought there’s something buggy with my Google Play Store app, but that’s not the case either, because I’ve downloaded other Android apps and they whizz into the Chromebook, so I can’t explain why this particular app, which I was very keen to get installed and working because I’d like to have my Daniel voice, is acting up like this, because I do understand that others have been successful in getting the Vocalizer voices working. So perhaps some clever, more advanced Chromebook user than me can expand on why this might be.
So the best way to determine what apps will and won’t run on your Chromebook is to just search for them and see if they pop up. And you will find that quite if you do, and there are also some that you really may want to run that don’t. And this can change quite frequently. When I started using a Chromebook back in February of 2021, you could run the Microsoft Office suite for Android on a Chromebook but recently they have decided that the best way for you to work with Microsoft Office is via their web applications. But other things do seem to work. For example, I have installed the Dropbox app for Android a few months ago. Hopefully that still works. So if you want Dropbox you can have that. I think OneDrive works in a similar way. So there is a lot that you can do. And the good thing is that if you’ve paid for apps that are running on your Android device, assuming you have one, then you don’t need to buy them again if you are signed into the same Google account.
Of course if you are going to get into using a Chromebook regularly, then you probably just want to surrender to the force and use the Google ecosystem as much as possible on all your devices. If you have Chrome, and Google Drive, and Google Docs and all of those services all working on your various devices, and there really isn’t a device that they can’t work on, they work on iOS, Mac, PC, and of course all the Google offerings, you’ve got a pretty slick solution with all your data being in sync all over the place. You may well be pleasantly surprised about what does work on your Chromebook. For example, I’m just going to open Podcast Addict, which is a very popular, reasonably accessible podcast app.
ChromeVox: Podcast Addict window. By continuing you agree to accept our policy. Light theme off. Switch off.
Jonathan Mosen: That’s Podcast Addict, and we are in here now and I presume we can just proceed and configure this in the same way that we would on a mobile phone or tablet. So when you consider how cheaply you can obtain a Chromebook, particularly this time of the year, when it’s Black Friday time, you are getting a lot of value for money in terms of the functionality on these devices.
Before I wrap up this introduction to the Chromebook with ChromeVox, I want to show you the Files app. This is akin to File Explorer on Windows or the Finder on the Mac. Smartphone operating systems also have an equivalent. I’m going to go to the launcher.
ChromeVox: Launcher button
Jonathan Mosen: And I’ll press the ChromeVox key with the space bar to activate the launcher.
ChromeVox: Search your device.
Jonathan Mosen: And let’s just move through by pressing ChromeVox with right arrow.
ChromeVox: Vocalizer voices. Play Store. Docs. Files.
Jonathan Mosen: Here’s the Files app. I’ll press the ChromeVox key with the space bar to open it.
ChromeVox: Files. My files. Files. My files. Tree item. Expanded. Not selected. Five of six. Level one. Tree. Navigation. My files. Disabled button. Content info. Search button. Search. Switch to thumbnail view button. Sort options button. Has pop up. Collapsed. More button. Has pop up. Collapsed. Content info end. Name button. Click to sort the column in ascending order. Name, size button. Click to sort the column in descending order. Types button.
Jonathan Mosen: Now I’m going to press the control key there. All of that happened just because I opened the Files app. So when you enter the Files app, it is quite a verbose experience, but the user interface in the Files app is quite similar to what you might find in any of these file management type apps. If I press the tab key…
ChromeVox: My files. Tree item. Expanded.
Jonathan Mosen: … I’m in the tree view now, and if I up and down arrow…
ChromeVox: Downloads. Tree item.
Jonathan Mosen: … there’s the downloads folder so I’ll press enter. And on Windows what you would do at this point, if you were in the tree view, is to press tab. Actually it’s in the reverse order here. So I’m going to press shift + tab now that I’m in the downloads folder.
ChromeVox: Recording on the Chromebook. Saturday 11:08 .wave
Jonathan Mosen: Let me tell you a bit about this file and how I made it because I think it’s an important example of how you’ve got to get into a cloud-based mentality to make the most of your Chromebook, and when you do, you’ll be surprised how much you can achieve with a Chromebook. This is a Wave file that I recorded, and I did that because I was curious to find out how good the microphone on my Chromebook was. There are web-based versions of Teams and Zoom, and of course, Google Meet, which you would want to use if you were embedded in the Google ecosystem, so I wanted to hear what this sounded like to find out whether I could actually use this. Was the quality from the built-in microphone okay? There’s no built-in voice recorder in Chrome OS to the best of my knowledge, and it’s possible that I could have found an Android app in the Play Store that works with this device, but in the end I decided I would go the cloud route.
And you’ve heard on this podcast us talking about Cleanfeed before. Cleanfeed is a cloud-based service that gives superb quality audio. So what I did was go to cleanfeed.net, log in, and you can do this with the free version of Cleanfeed, and press the record button. When I was done recording I was able to press the download button from within Cleanfeed and it put the Wave file in my downloads folder.
So although Chrome OS is predominantly cloud-based, there is storage available here and there is a Files app so that you can keep files locally. You may want to bear that in mind if you are the kind of person that finds yourself in an offline location a lot of the time, maybe there’s no way you can hotspot to your phone, I think that’s highly unlikely but I guess there are times where that’s the case. That might determine how much storage that you choose to get for your Chromebook. So the recording on the Chromebook file is highlighted now, and if I press enter it should open the file and start to play it.
ChromeVox: Audio player. Recording on the-
Jonathan Mosen: I am now recording on my Chromebook and I want to see what the audio sounds like. So now…
And I’ll push ctrl W…
ChromeVox: Recording on the-
Jonathan Mosen: … and that closes the audio player. So there is a little audio player that’s built into Chrome OS that will pop up when you open a Wave file or an MP3 file or any audio file like that. If I press Alt+F now for…
ChromeVox: More menu. Show all play folders. Menu item, six of 10. Press up or down arrow to navigate. Enter to activate.
Jonathan Mosen: … I’ll do that and down arrow.
ChromeVox: Help. Menu item. Send feedback. Menu item, services. Menu item, 17.1 gigabytes available. New window. Menu item. New folder. Menu item. Select all. Show hidden files. Show all play folders. Help.
Jonathan Mosen: I’m going to press Esc.
ChromeVox: More button.
Jonathan Mosen: And I’ll press Esc again, and now I’m back in my downloads folder. This is quite a powerful file management app. You can, for example, connect a network attached storage device or other network device to your Chromebook. I have a Synology network attached storage drive, which has a lot of media that I consume regularly, and I can connect that. We’ll go back into this menu again. I’ll press Alt+F.
ChromeVox: More menu.
Jonathan Mosen: And I’m going to down arrow until I get to services.
ChromeVox: Services. Menu item.
Jonathan Mosen: I’ll press enter to choose the services option.
ChromeVox: Menu. SMB file share. Menu item.
Jonathan Mosen: Now this is the only service that’s installed at the moment, SMB file share, but you can connect other services to the Files app, and you can find those in the Chrome store. I’ll press enter to choose the service.
ChromeVox: Web content. Looking for file shares. Display name optional. Edit text. Username optional. Edit text. Password optional. Password optional.
Jonathan Mosen: I’ll press the ctrl key to silent speech. And what I’m going to do now is press shift with the tab key.
ChromeVox: File share URL. Edit text.
Jonathan Mosen: Here’s where I can enter the URL of the file share, and this follows the standard Windows convention. So I’m going to type \\, and then the name of my drive, and then a \ followed by the public folder, and I’ll press the tab key.
ChromeVox: Display name optional. Public selected.
Jonathan Mosen: And I’m going to… Yeah, that’s fine. Public is fine. Let’s fill that in.
ChromeVox: Username optional.
Jonathan Mosen: And I’m going to put in my username here and press the tab key.
ChromeVox: Password optional.
Jonathan Mosen: And I’m going to type in the password, which is quite a long one.
ChromeVox: [inaudible 01:22:10]
Jonathan Mosen: What a memory. I’ll press tab.
ChromeVox: Remember sign in info. Tick box. Ticked. Cancel. Add button.
Jonathan Mosen: And now I’m going to choose add.
ChromeVox: More button. Has pop up. Collapsed. Files. Downloads. Files. Downloads.
Jonathan Mosen: Now I’ve added my network attached storage drive. So if I press the tab key now to get back into the tree view…
ChromeVox: Recording on the Chromebook Saturday… Downloads. Tree-
Jonathan Mosen: Now I’m going to down arrow.
ChromeVox: Play files. Google Drive.
Jonathan Mosen: Of course this is a Google device so Google Drive is here and all set up.
ChromeVox: Public. Tree item.
Jonathan Mosen: And here’s public so I’ll press enter.
ChromeVox: Public. Tree item.
Jonathan Mosen: Now I’m going to press shift tab.
ChromeVox: Spoken word.
Jonathan Mosen: And here is my Synology drive, and spoken word is here. If I press enter on spoken word…
ChromeVox: The Cinnamon Bear. List item, TV series-
Jonathan Mosen: There we go. We’ve got the spoken word content and there’s quite a lot of content coming through there. So that’s how easy it is to map a network attached storage device to your Chromebook and now it is really easy to use it as a consumption device. I have many radio shows, TV shows, lots and lots of music, and it’s all here now available and accessible on the Chromebook.
I hope that this four-part series has demonstrated that a lot has been going on in Chromebook land in the last few years. And unless you’re in education, you may have missed out on this. These Chromebooks coupled with ChromeVox are a pretty capable device at a low price point. No technology is for everyone and no technology is perfect, but ChromeVox is a very capable screen reader and the devices are becoming increasingly versatile. Chromebooks are available at a range of price points, many of them very low price points, anywhere that you get technology. I hope you find this series helpful and we may well come back later to look at additional Chromebook features if there is demand for that.
Speaker 8: What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down. Jonathan@mushroomFm.com. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomFm.com. Or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.
Jonathan Mosen: As a non Windows 11 user, who’s perfectly relaxed about that, I cannot answer this one so we’ll put it out there for others who may be able to. Rebecca is writing in and says, “Hi. How does a user add a shortcut to the desktop in Windows 11? Sometimes some of us are not as familiar with the Run dialog. In Windows 10 I could type in the app I wanted and use the context menu to open file location and access the send to menu. Microsoft, like Apple, is making it harder to customize things. I am starting to hate Windows settings now. Oh, dear. Hell hath no fury, I tell you.”
I don’t know, Rebecca. I presume that by the Run Dialog you mean the search box that you get when you press the Windows key. The Run dialog is what you get when you press Windows with R, but what you are describing sounds to me like when you press the Windows key. So I don’t know the answer to that question, other than to say that when I googled this Google indicates that my method should work, that if you go to the start options, type in the name of an app you’re looking for, highlight it with the arrow keys, bring up the context menu from that start menu, you should then have that option to go to the location. But for those with firsthand experience of Windows 11, you may be able to provide some enlightenment, and that would be most welcome. Jonathan@mushroomFm.com is my email address. You can attach an audio clip to that email or just write something down. The listener line number in the United States, 864-60Mosen, 864-606-6736.
Let’s talk GPS technology. And Paul Hopewell says, “Hello, Jonathan. This is in response to the question on episode 154 about GPS apps and phone positioning. I use GPS apps on my iPhone SE 2020 for my daily walk of about three miles. About a month ago I was in communication with the support team of the GPS app GoodMaps Explorer. This was in relation to a problem with the app giving me the wrong bearing of a point of interest, POI. The app reported that the POI bearing was at five o’clock relative to my direction of travel, when it was actually at 11 o’clock. I learned that this app, and probably all GPS apps, use successive GPS positions to determine the direction of motion provided that you are traveling at two miles per hour or more. At this speed, the apps do not use the phone compass and so the positioning of the phone is irrelevant. However, if you are traveling slower than two miles per hour, the GPS app determines your direction of travel from the phone compass, and the positioning of the phone is then critical.
I position the phone in my left hand trouser pocket with the lightning port at the top of the pocket and the camera at the bottom of the pocket facing my leg. This gives reasonably accurate compass bearings, but if I rotate the phone around the vertical axis, so that the camera is still at the bottom of my pocket but now facing away from my leg, then the compass bearing is 180 degrees in error and the GPS app then gives incorrect bearings to POIs, and sometimes reports that a street intersection is ahead of me when it is actually behind me.
You can determine if your phone is giving correct compass bearings by first holding the phone horizontally in front of you with the lightning port towards you and use the compass app to determine which direction you are facing. You can then try different phone positions and use the compass app to determine if it reports an acceptable bearing in that position.
I have used the GPS apps: Nearby Explorer Online, Lazarillo, GoodMaps Explorer, and GoodMaps Outdoors, all in the UK. My favorite is Nearby Explorer Online as it tells me whether the next street intersection is to my left, or to my right, or ahead of me. And it is very customizable. However, it is no longer maintained. GoodMaps Outdoors also tells me whether the next street intersection is to my left, or to my right, or to both left and right, but it is currently not good at identifying the road I am on. Lazarillo sometimes reports whether street intersections are to the left or to the right, but usually just reports that they are ahead. The apps seem to determine the street you are on by the street address of the nearest house, which is sometimes confusing if you have just turned a corner to a new street but the address of the nearest house is still on the prior street.”
Thank you so much, Paul. Really appreciate all of that good information. I will just add that I also hold my phone this way. I carry my phone in my shirt pocket and I have the lightning port poking out the top and the camera facing my chest, so that would be why GPS has always just worked for me because I store my phone that way anyway. One of the numerous challenges faced by hearing aid wearers is watching TV with family at a reasonable volume. John Moore is writing in on this subject and he says, “Hi, Jonathan, do you know if there is such a thing as an HDMI to optical adapter? I got ReSound hearing aids and the TV streaming device only has RCA and optical connections.
While I have a talking set-top box and use it, I would like to try the Samsung Smart TV I got and maybe even turn off the box and use my provider’s app for smart TVs. However, the TV I have has no optical or RCA connectors. Regarding Oticon, my audiologist and I decided that Oticon hearing aids would not be a good fit for my particular situation, and so, went with ReSound.
Let’s just say that I had a generous benefactor who paid for not only the top-of-the-line hearing aids, but also the entire line of accessories for them. These have revolutionized my life in so many ways, I can’t document it.” I’m really glad the hearing aids are working out for you so well, John. You’ve got some challenges here, because there may possibly be one HDMI port that has the Audio Return Channel, ARC feature enabled. Or that can be switched on, which would give you output from the TV.
That is what you are wanting. So, it could be challenging to get going, but yes, there are such things in existence. You may want to just search for HDMI to optical audio adapter and quite a lot of searches come up, or sometimes they are called Toslink adapters. But, if you search on either of those things, you should find things on Amazon, assuming they have it in stock.
A lot of Amazon things are out of stock right now, but again, your mileage may vary and you may just decide that it would be better to invest in a good smart TV that has RCA out. The way I have resolved this, is that I’ve got a Sonos CONNECT, because we’re so embedded in the Sonos ecosystem in our house.
I just plug the TV adapter from Oticon into the RCAs of the Sonos CONNECT, which is part of the Sonos room system. We have a Sonos soundbar connected to the TV, so it just picks up the audio. Not just from the TV, but it also means that I can pipe internet radio and any number of other things through the TV adapter. That may be a bit too expensive an option to go down, but it’s really versatile. Good luck with sorting that out.
Speaker 9: (singing)
Jonathan Mosen: Some comments from contributors on various things that have been on shows recently. Starting with Eden, who says, “Hi, Jonathan, I’ve been enjoying your show as always.” Well, thank you. “As for comments on the balance option, this is the new feature in JAWS 2022. I could have used this 10 years ago or more when I worked in customer service and had no Braille, with an uppercase B, display.
Oh, by the way, last time, Braille not being capitalized was an error and unintentional.” Good for you, Eden. “Anyhow.” She says, “I digress. It was very confusing, much of the time, because I heard both my customers and JAWS in both ears. Now, I just use Braille almost exclusively, but this will help a lot of people. Thanks for sharing and demoing, keep up the good work.” Well, thank you, Eden.
Christopher Wright says “Hi, Jonathan, thank you for the comprehensive initial overview of ChromeOS and ChromeVox. You taught me a few things I didn’t know, including how to access lists of webpages, elements and the command list screen. I agree with you that ChromeOS is a very powerful and useful system for blind people.
I’ve run it on a Dell Latitude, using the Brunch Project from GitHub and I’m impressed. Brunch is not easy to install and you have to manually update the system, but it’s worth it. If you are technical enough to follow the install procedure and want to try the real ChromeOS without buying hardware. Running Android apps is very interesting, though I couldn’t get a few apps, such as Bard and Voice Dream Reader to install for some reason.
I was pleased to discover ChromeOS can use installed TTS engines from Android. I can use Vocalizer in ChromeOS and avoid the horrors of Google TTS. The only Google TTS voice I can tolerate is the male U.K. one. Do you plan on demonstrating Linux support? I’ve tried it out, but ChromeVox doesn’t seem to read the Linux terminal very well.
I can’t figure out how to get Orca working so I can use graphical Linux apps. I’ve avoided buying ChromeOS hardware because the cheaper devices only come with 32 or 64 gigabytes of storage. I’m not willing purchase a more expensive model, because I’d rather buy a Windows computer with far more functionality. How much storage does ChromeOS use when you set it up as new on a 32 gigabyte device? I’m curious how much storage you’re left to use for downloaded files and Android apps.”
Well, Christopher, hopefully you heard the episode in which we went into the storage. It does take over a gig, I think, of storage, but I did cover that in the settings in the second installment. “Thank you for the SharePlay demo.” He says, “I’m pleased it sends the audio through the call in what appears to be the original quality.
If you share your screen, does it send system audio, including voiceover to the other participants in the call? Could I start a screen share session and then start playing a book in Voice Dream Reader, Bard or Audible so everyone can listen together in high-quality audio? Other useful activities of this feature might include playing games and allowing everyone else to watch and hear what you are doing, assuming the feature works like I envision.”
Well, Christopher, it does seem that it works mostly like you envision. I’m quite surprised by this. When you share your screen, you cannot hear VoiceOver if you are on the other end of the call. So, VoiceOver stays on the device of the person who’s doing the sharing, but it sounds like other apps do actually get shared. I called Heidi and I played her a bit of an Audible book and Heidi doesn’t have the Audible book and that worked.
I then opened ooTunes, which hasn’t been updated for a long, long time. So, I know it doesn’t have SharePlay support and I put a radio station on and it did work. So, that is really interesting. It’s a bit more flexible than I expected it would be. On a non-techy subject, Christopher says, “I thought of a few more suggestions for playing games with sighted people. Playing interactive fiction, such as Zork, might be fun.
A lot of these games will make you think in order to solve problems and advance the story. Two or more heads can often be far more useful than a single player playing. Game books, such as Time [inaudible 01:37:11] or the Choice of Games series could work as well. The Soup Drinker and Google Home also have all kinds of games, including trivia ones that several people can enjoy together.
I don’t know if you know about this resource already, but I’m including it here for those who don’t, it’s 64 Oz. Games. They provide accessibility kits for retail games. I’m shocked I didn’t come up with these last week, but better late than never. The address is 64ozgames.com.” That’s the number 64, ozgames.com. Thanks Christopher.
Robert Monroe is writing in. He says, “Jonathan, Black Friday sales are upon us. So, I listened to your review of your Samsung TV from last year, today, as I considered which TV to buy. Thanks for a wonderful and thorough episode. I have two questions. First, has the quality of the voice improved with software updates?” No, it has not. It’s dismal, isn’t it? It’s dismal and it’s still the same.
“Second” Continues Robert, “Have you heard or read anything about the audio guide features on LG TVs? I’d like to get a TV with HomeKit because my family is not heavily invested in the Soup Drinker ecosystem, but I’m not finding any reviews about LG TVs in the places I usually look for articles about blind tech.”
Robert concludes. “Thank you for all you do for us all around the world. Please let me know if there is anything you need from here in Virginia.” Oh, that’s very kind of you, thank you. Oh, and it signed Rob, rather than Robert. So, the email field’s got Robert, but the signature’s got Rob. So, thank you, Rob. Really appreciate that.
I have heard that the LG TVs are quite accessible, but I haven’t had any first-hand experience. Because it’s a bit difficult to lug a TV into your living room and review it and send it back. Although, if LG want to send me one, temporarily, for review, I will gladly record a comprehensive review of the LG TV, like we did the Samsung one.
However, to help Rob out, if you’ve got an LGTV, if you’ve got the wherewithal to record a demo, we’ll gladly run that. Assuming it’s up to quality, but if not, by all means, just share your experiences of the LG TV that you have with the audio guide feature. What can you do with it? What’s the voice like? Do you have choices of voices? Are there any limitations that people who are Black Friday shopping should know about?
Please be in touch with any insights you can offer us, firstname.lastname@example.org is my email address. You can also call the Listener Line, 864-60MOSEN, in the United States. 864-606-6736. That incredibly soothing music ushers in another edition of the Bonnie Bulletin with Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie Mosen: Hi, guys.
Jonathan Mosen: Do you remember where you were when you heard that George Harrison had died?
Bonnie Mosen: Yes. I was living in Morristown and I was off that day, I was buying presents.
Jonathan Mosen: Not for me.
Bonnie Mosen: No, I didn’t know you.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah.
Bonnie Mosen: I’d heard it on the news that morning, but I went into Scotti’s, which was our local record store, to buy, I think a gift certificate for some friends. The owner was in there crying and playing George Harrison.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. It was really difficult. I remember getting home from a working trip that I was on in Christchurch. I’d heard that George Harrison had died and the kids and Amanda were there to meet me and I just burst into tears, you know?
Bonnie Mosen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jonathan Mosen: It was just such a sad time. Yeah. Unfortunately, George Martin had kind of spilled the beans a little bit and he had mentioned, a couple of months before, that George had cancer. I know George was pretty annoyed about that, because he was quite a private person. But, so, we were ready. We knew it was coming eventually.
Bonnie Mosen: He died in New York, I believe, wasn’t it?
Jonathan Mosen: I think it might have been Los Angeles, but-
Bonnie Mosen: Los Angeles?
Jonathan Mosen: I may be wrong about that.
Bonnie Mosen: I thought it was New York, but I may be wrong. I remember there was a story, and I never knew what the outcome was, but the family was suing one of his doctors? Because the doctor was denying him pain medicine until he signed a guitar for his son.
Jonathan Mosen: Oh my goodness.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah. I never knew the outcome of that story, but I do remember that being on the news and not long after, he passed away.
Jonathan Mosen: Also, very good news to report, which is that the incredible Richard Mosen, who many people will have heard on this show, he also, of course, was on Mushroom FM at one point. He’s now graduated with his audio engineering degree and he’s just walked into a job.
Bonnie Mosen: He did. In his degree of all things, which is almost unheard of these days. He hasn’t even graduated yet. That’s the thing. He’s finished, but he hasn’t graduated yet. Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: No, no. He’s finished it, but he hasn’t graduated. Yeah, yeah.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah, he starts next week. So, it’s super that he only applied for two jobs, thus far, and got it.
Jonathan Mosen: What a clever lad he is.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: I’m very proud of him, with all his audio engineering work that he’s been doing. He has been working on some really cool technology and I hope that we can just do a couple of things to make it screen reader accessible. It’s usable, I think, with the JAWS cursor, to some degree, but I think people really want to be able to tab around and things. So, we’ll see if he wants to get back to it, but he’s written this very cool all-in-one app.
The purpose of it is that you could put your old recordings that you’ve made through it, it’s optimized for audiobooks. So, if you are one of those people that used to record audiobooks onto your computer, to keep them before you returned them, off the cassette, then you’ve probably got a bit of a hiss and carry on. He’s written this software that cleans it up. It’s really quite amazing, the results that you get at the end of it.
Bonnie Mosen: Cool.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. He’s a clever lad.
Bonnie Mosen: He’ll be working for the New Zealand Archives.
Jonathan Mosen: He’s digitizing a lot of material that’s precious. Of course, tapes degrade pretty quickly. That’s good work.
Bonnie Mosen: Very cool.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. So, we took him and his partner Nadia to a vegan restaurant, because they are vegan.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah. It’s a classified as a vegan burger and junk food joint, is how it classifies itself. It’s funny, because it popped up when I was on the bus the other day, because I had Foursquare on and it said Mockingbird, burger joint. So, I’m like, “Oh, okay.”
So, it is on Courtenay Place, which is kind of a bar/restaurant corridor. Mostly for, I mean, anyone obviously can go and eat there, but it seems to be more geared toward the college crowd, young adult crowd. Because there’s a lot of bars and clubs and things along there, but it’s on that quarter. It was nice. It was very, very crowded, even for a Thursday night.
Jonathan Mosen: They were way understaffed-
Bonnie Mosen: They were way understaffed, yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: So, the service was a bit slow.
Bonnie Mosen: Which, honestly, it’s not a knock on Mockingbird, because I think just, every time I’ve ever eaten anywhere on Courtenay Place, it’s been that way. So, I think their biggest seller, obviously, is alcohol. So, I think they’re just wanting people to kind of sit in there and drink and chew the fat with their mates and then order. So, I think it was a little [crosstalk 01:44:33]
Jonathan Mosen: As long as it’s non-animal fat they’re chewing, in the vegan restaurant.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah, exactly. In the vegan restaurant.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. It was an interesting experience for me, because it’s actually quite hard to do low carb on vegan, because all you’ve really got is salads.
Bonnie Mosen: Pretty much, yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. If you want to try and do low carb, you can sneak a bit of nuts in, but to those people who do manage to maintain a vegan lifestyle and stay low carb, I salute you. Because it’s not easy.
Bonnie Mosen: No, it was a lot of phony meat burgers.
Jonathan Mosen: They’re blatant about it. I mean, they were talking about chicken and different things and I said to Richard, “This is a plant-based place, right?” Because I was getting a bit confused by the menu-
Bonnie Mosen: It was a bit confusing. Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. So, that’s good. So, that’s the Mockingbird. Shall we have the Mosen-At-Large Christmas party at the Mockingbird and invite all our listeners?
Bonnie Mosen: It would probably fit, I guess. We could.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. Do you think we could fit a few thousand people in there?
Bonnie Mosen: No. No. I don’t think so. Plus they would allow it under [crosstalk 01:45:36]
Jonathan Mosen: Imagine them all trying to get in here.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah. In the many ways. You couldn’t get into the country. They won’t allow it over Level Two or whatever we’re at now. So, yeah, that’s the most exciting. Our borders are actually, well, we’ve always been able to leave the country, but you can come back now. Without having to go into an MIQ facility.
Jonathan Mosen: Well, it’s a very gradual process, yes. So, if you are in New Zealand, you’ll be able to come back without MIQ starting in January, with Australia. Then, they’re gradually extending the reach of that.
Bonnie Mosen: Of course, that might change.
Jonathan Mosen: That might change [crosstalk 01:46:11] because we’ve got those brand new variants that seems to be taking on-
Bonnie Mosen: They’ve already banned seven countries.
Jonathan Mosen: You do have to wonder, where does this end, don’t you? Because it’s quite fatiguing. You think, “Okay, we’ve got the vaccines. We’ll gradually get it under control.” Then, some virulent thing comes out that is resistant to the current vaccines-
Bonnie Mosen: That’s the nature of viruses.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah, but it’s fatiguing, isn’t it?
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: Have you been shopping up a storm with the Black Friday deals?
Bonnie Mosen: No, but I’ve gotten a gazillion emails.
Jonathan Mosen: I always say-
Bonnie Mosen: One is coming out every two hours. I’m like, “Okay, this has to stop.”
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. I always say Black Friday is a great opportunity to find out whose email lists you’re still on and get off them. I’ve been having lots of fun hitting the unsubscribe button, on people who I don’t want to communicate with any more, businesses. But, there are some good deals to be had, but sometimes, you have to be so careful, with Black Friday. That you may not be getting the deal that you think you are.
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah, you’re not getting the deal you, yeah. You’re not. Who was it, bought something and got another one free or half price or different things? There was some person they had on the news this morning, who’d been in line for five hours to get some sort of game. I don’t know. There’s nothing that I want that I want to stand in line for five hours. I cannot think of anything I’m that desperate for, that I would stand line that long.
Jonathan Mosen: Well, the one thing I have not done, because it might break my heart if I did it, I have not gone over to the Lenovo site to see whether this mega laptop of awesome-
Bonnie Mosen: Oh no.
Jonathan Mosen: That I ordered is any cheaper now. But, I’m just not like that. I’m not the kind of person that waits for these things. If I want something, then I will get it. But, I’m not driven to buy just because somebody says, in an ad, that I should buy. But, isn’t it fascinating how pervasive American culture is? We don’t even have Thanksgiving in this country and yet, retailers are obviously aware that a lot of people here are buying from U.S. sites. So, they’ve got the Black Friday deals-
Bonnie Mosen: It’s all over the world, because I’ve seen ads in the U.K.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah, it is all over the world, yeah. But, that’s only been a thing since eCommerce came along. Was Black Friday a thing before eCommerce, or is it [crosstalk 01:48:24].
Bonnie Mosen: Yeah, I think so. Yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. So, even in the seventies or eighties, in the States-
Bonnie Mosen: I’m not sure if they called it Black Friday. I don’t remember when it started. Sometimes, it sounds like a horror movie, which I guess it kind of is, because the malls get all, people all crazy.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. So, the fact that people can buy, now, from these large American retailers, like Amazon in particular, has really meant that the rest of the world has had to adopt Black Friday, when we’d never heard of it before.
Bonnie Mosen: Then there’s Giving Tuesday and Cyber Monday. Yeah, everybody’s sort of shtick. Which is interesting, because, and this would be a good topic, I think, for future. Is a lot of people are wanting to boycott Amazon, because they claim it’s an evil company and going on to indie sellers. I’ve seen this particularly in the book area, but for a blind or visually-impaired person, Amazon’s wonderful.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah. Well, in one respect, I mean, shopping can have some accessibility challenges, but-
Bonnie Mosen: It can, but with anything-
Jonathan Mosen: If you shop with your Soup Drinker, it’s pretty neat.
Bonnie Mosen: But, with Kindle particularly, the Kindle books are great.
Jonathan Mosen: Well, they are now. I mean, remember, that wasn’t always the case and there were a lot of protests, I remember, outside Amazon HQ. About how just completely oblivious to accessibility Amazon used to be. So, it just goes to show, these things, sometimes people take them for granted. They don’t realize that we’ve fought damn hard for them.
those people who constantly sit on the sidelines and carp about those of us who advocate for accessibility and actually make the change, they’re like the story of the Little Red Hen. They’re quite happy to consume the thing when it’s done, but they will always complain and whinge about those of us who go in and actually make it possible for you to get it done. But, I’m glad you like your Kindle.
Bonnie Mosen: I love my Kindle.
Jonathan Mosen: That’s good. Now, another one that’s interesting. I’ve been talking to people about Get Back, The Beatles documentary. Watching coverage of that on social media go down. There seems to be a Disney backlash as well. Some people have said, “We’ll never do anything Disney. We won’t get Disney Plus because it’s Disney. Why are you confining this Beatles documentary to Disney? Because we want to watch it, but we don’t want Disney.” What’s all that about?
Bonnie Mosen: I have no idea. I think it’s like, with anything, it’s just a big conglomerate. Because Disney does own quite a huge amount of cyberspace. So, I mean, every company, every anything has its detractors. So, I’m not exactly sure what the whole Disney protest is about. Who knows? But, yeah.
It comes down, I think a lot of people don’t want to pay for stuff. I mean, I think that’s the bottom line with a lot of things. That’s why you see and have always seen alternative ways of getting things. But, it’s also on Apple TV, or not the Apple TV, but on the TV app, because that’s where I watched it.
Jonathan Mosen: But, I think the only reason why it’s on your TV app is that we have a subscription to Disney Plus.
Bonnie Mosen: Oh, okay. People don’t want to pay for stuff. So, yeah, I think that’s a lot of it. Some of it is annoying, particularly in the cable space, but, it’s what it is and it’ll be probably be on YouTube one day.
Jonathan Mosen: I am just amazed. I was talking to Anthony about this the other day and was saying, it is just amazing how much audio-described content we now have access to. I mean, our cups runneth over with all of these services and the audio description. So, it’s a great place to be.
Now, we just have to make sure that the formats that they offer the audio description in are the same as the formats that sighted people can watch the movies in, because that’s fundamentally unfair. Anything else we were going to cover on the Bonnie Bulletin?
Bonnie Mosen: The rise of the typewriter. The return of the typewriter. Apparently, and I predicted this would happen, the sales in typewriters have gone up. People, for whatever reason, during the pandemic, were buying typewriters.
Jonathan Mosen: Why? Oh, so you don’t know?
Bonnie Mosen: I don’t. But, I think they just, I don’t know. I think it’s probably the same thing, why are they buying vinyl records?
Jonathan Mosen: I mean, this is the biggest hoax of all time, this vinyl record stuff. All right, I get the idea that people like the experience of putting an album side on and sitting down and letting the album play. If you want to skip a track or whatever, then it’s more of an effort. I get the experience of that.
I even, even though I’ve never had this myself, get the experience of looking at an album cover, because the vinyl records are so large. But, don’t give me all this malarkey, to quote my friend Joe, malarkey about it sounding better. Because these days, when albums are being released on vinyl that are new, from bands like ABBA, for example, and various others.
So, they’ve just gone into the studio and they recorded those albums, they are recorded digitally. They’re mastered digitally and then they’re converted back to analog for the vinyl album. I mean, come on. If you’ve got decent gear, then the vinyl’s not going to sound better. If you’re not careful, it’s going to deteriorate over time, with the snap, crackle, pop. This is just malarkey. Malarkey.
Bonnie Mosen: I’m waiting for the flexible disc to come back to the library. But, the typewriter? I mean, there are, in-
Jonathan Mosen: And cassettes too.
Bonnie Mosen: Oh, they’ll come back. Yeah, they’ll come back.
Jonathan Mosen: But, they have come back.
Bonnie Mosen: This is just the thing, is anything will return. Stuff will back. You just hang onto it a little bit and it’ll be back in fashion. But, I mean, I know that there are authors, Danielle Steel is one of them, that’s been working on a 1940-something Olympia or 1960 Olympia typewriter. Olympia typewriter, manual, to write her novels.
Jonathan Mosen: So, what do they perceive the advantage of this to be?
Bonnie Mosen: I don’t know. I’d have to read more, because I was so stunned. I’m like, “Really?”
Jonathan Mosen: Because if you make a mistake, what do you do? You get Twink or whatever and you Twink it out-
Bonnie Mosen: White Out, or you start the page again, yeah.
Jonathan Mosen: Or you have to start the page again, or what do you do? Yeah.
Bonnie Mosen: It was actually my understanding it was invented for a blind person, the original typewriter. For an Italian countess, back in the day. It was a great thing for blind people, because we could type.
Jonathan Mosen: But, of course, you couldn’t read it back.
Bonnie Mosen: You couldn’t read it back.
Jonathan Mosen: That was that. I’m sure many of us will recall homework time or whatever. You’re sitting at home with the typewriter, clicking away and then, you hand it in or something-
Bonnie Mosen: Or it’s blank.
Jonathan Mosen: Or you show your parents and you found that the ribbon had run out.
Bonnie Mosen: Oh yeah, or worse, you hadn’t put paper in.
Jonathan Mosen: Well, I never did that.
Bonnie Mosen: So, if you need it, get a mechanical keyboard-
Jonathan Mosen: And break it like Bonnie breaks hers.
Bonnie Mosen: I didn’t actually break it.
Jonathan Mosen: Yeah, yeah.
Bonnie Mosen: No, I didn’t. That was someone that moved it [crosstalk 01:55:22]
Jonathan Mosen: I really do like my mechanical keyboard. I got one when I was writing a lot of my books and it was just such a good experience.
Bonnie Mosen: I really notice it when I, because I don’t have one at work, so I notice it. But, it’s really funny, because there’s two of us in my office that are real keyboard pounders. That we just like to do it. We both sit kind of in the same area, but we both just really like pounding on the keyboard. My boss was in there the other day and I was doing some typing and he came over. “Can I bother you while you’re typing away furiously?” It’s like I was cracking out a breaking news story or something.
Jonathan Mosen: What other retro things can we bring back?
Bonnie Mosen: The eight track. It didn’t do very well.
Jonathan Mosen: Analog TV.
Bonnie Mosen: Analog TV. The transistor radio still exists, but-
Jonathan Mosen: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Bonnie Mosen: The old Victrola. The stereopticon.
Jonathan Mosen: What about another run of the VersaBraille with the cassettes?
Bonnie Mosen: Why not?
Jonathan Mosen: That would be awesome.
Bonnie Mosen: Somebody was posting on Facebook, they really wanted a Braille ‘N Speak with the cassettes that came with it.
Jonathan Mosen: I just despair. This vinyl thing drives me nuts. All right. Thank you very much for another exciting Bonnie Bulletin. Get Christmas shopping at once.
Bonnie Mosen: Yep.
Jonathan Mosen: Okay.
Bonnie Mosen: Bye.
Jonathan Mosen: Bye. I love to hear from you, so if you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email, written down or with an audio attachment, to Jonathan, J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N @ mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the Listener Line number in the United States, 864-606-6736
Speaker 9: (singing)