Podcast Transcript: Mosen At Large episode 171, Ubers making progress, the big Brailliant bug, and memories of radio station launches
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Note that due to the nature of the content in the second hour of this episode, only the first hour has been transcribed.
Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. This week, an update on the We’re With U concert for Ukraine. New Zealanders get a chance to ensure Braille is always capitalized. Significant progress to report with Uber and memories of radio station launches, all this and more.
Welcome back to another edition. If it’s your first, well a special welcome to you. I have a lot of things to update you on today, so let’s get right into it. First of all, we’ll talk about the We’re With U Concert for Ukraine. This is happening on the 16th of April in the North American time zone at least at 2:00 PM Eastern, 7:00 PM in the UK. If you’re in my part of the world, that is Easter Sunday, the 17th of April, 6:00 AM, bright right and early in New Zealand, even earlier in Eastern Australia at 4:00 AM. How long will it go for? Well, we don’t know at the stage, but what we do know is we are getting a wonderful number of contributions coming. It promises to be quite a lengthy, but high-quality event. First of all, let’s talk about the most important thing making sure that the money goes to the people who need it most.
I’m very pleased to be able to say that we’ve got some partnerships that are really making a difference to the project and can give you some confidence that money is in the correct hands. I’m grateful to Mark Riccobono and the team at the National Federation of the Blind in the United States. When they heard about this concert, they reached out to us and they said, “We’ve been looking for ways to help the blind people of Ukraine. This seems like a great way to do it. We’re glad to lend our assistance and support.” They have provided a lot of practical support to us. We appreciate that very much. We also thank Marc Workman, the Executive Director of the World Blind Union, and his team. What we can tell you is that the funds raised for the We’re With U Event will go to the World Blind Union’s unity fund.
You can find out more about the unity fund on the World Blind Union’s website. We’ll also make sure we put that link on our We’re With U page. You can learn about where the money’s going, the fact that the World Blind Union is working closely with organizations in the area. The World Blind Union obviously has a global reach. They’re making sure that organizations who are providing practical assistance, both to blind people who remain in Ukraine and to those who are refugees.
I’m very pleased to say also that some commercial organizations are getting behind the We’re With U event and sponsoring it because let’s not forget the purpose of this is to raise as much money for those who need it in Ukraine or who have fled from Ukraine as possible. We’re going to have some fun while we also do some good. We have a sponsorship tier system in place, and this is appealing to organizations who have a philanthropic heart, who want to find ways to help blind Ukrainians and have confidence that the money is going to credible sources.
Now, there are various benefits that you can gain from being a part of this sponsorship program. For a start, you can donate to NFB who will pass on all of the funds to the World Blind Union, and that may be appropriate if you are a part of a United States organization and you want to take advantage of the tax deductibility that can come from donating to a US organization such as NFB. You can do that, but we have practical ways of saying thank you and acknowledging your sponsorship on the We’re With U Concert.
Of course, because we are trying to get the money in, what you get depends on how much you give. It ranges everywhere from having a We sponsorship message broadcast throughout the We’re With U Concert all the way through to a quick discussion on the concert itself, which will be listened to by many blind people from around the world. The most important thing, of course, is that this is a great cause. We want corporates to generously open up their wallets and give till it hurts and help the people of Ukraine.
Head on over to the We’re With U page for all sorts of information about the event. It is being updated regularly. Our partners are adding pages about the event all the time. I know that NFB has one. I’m sure that some of our broadcast partners have them by now. I’ve been a part of several interviews now with our broadcast partners too, so http://mushroomfm.com/withyou.
Let me just say a couple of things about the name of the event and the hashtag. We’ve had this We’re With U page up for a while now, and because of that, I’m not going to change the URL. It’s just WithYou all joined together, spelled the way that you would expect, but the official name for the event is now We’re With U with a capital U to signify that we are with Ukraine. If you want to tweet or otherwise post on social media about this event, it’s great for us to keep all the contributions together, particularly on the day of the concert.
Although we can’t gather together in some big stadium which would be just so cool to bring all the blind people and our allies around the place who want to be a part of this event and put them in a big stadium, we can use a hashtag and that hashtag is #BlindWithU. That’s the letter U, so Blind With and a capital U all joined together. If you want to ask questions or tweet about the event, then just use that hashtag in your tweet, in your post, and it will keep them all together.
If you are a musician and you haven’t got your contribution and yet, we are absolutely being deluged with them, but that’s okay. We will do our best to accommodate as many as possible. Do check out that page at http://MushroomFm.com/WithYu and find out all about how to contribute. This is quite a massive event from a logistical point of view. I want to thank everybody who is helping, who’s coming together for this amazing cause. I know that we’re going to make a difference on the 16th of April. Some comments coming in on the We’re With U events. Let’s hand over to Roy Nash for the first one.
Roy Nash: Yesterday, my wife and I were discussing how we might make a contribution to the people in Ukraine. I listened to your podcast, Jonathan, and you have provided the answer. You are providing a vehicle that we might make a meaningful contribution and know that it will go to the people who need it. I’m deeply grateful to you and all the other people who are making this possible. I used to play guitar and sing folk music, did it all my life. Since my stroke, I don’t play the guitar anymore, but I will be making a sizable financial contribution through Apple Pay. If you would tell me how to do that, Jonathan, it will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, like you, I am proud to be blind. To you, Mushroom Radio and Treehouse Radio, Radio Storm, and all the other people who are facilitating this concert, I’m deeply grateful and very excited to be involved in it. Go blind people, tap, tap, ping, ping, woof, woof, strum, strum, let’s raise some money. Let’s raise a lot of money for those people. Let’s show them how much we care for them.
Jonathan: Absolutely, Roy. Thank you for your encouragement. We’ll have to see whether Apple Pay is possible. We’re working on payment methods at the moment. I’m pretty sure that credit card and PayPal will be two options. We’ll just have to see what else we can muster up in time. I remember that you play the guitar because I think one of the first times you contacted the show was when Bonnie and I were having a discussion about the old folk song, Tom Dooley.
Ioana is in touch and says, “I’m planning to send a musical contribution to the We’re With U Initiative.” That’s fantastic. “I’m very grateful that it’s all coming together,” she says. “While I don’t know of any internet radio to approach in Romania, I left in ’89 way before there was any such thing. I’d be happy to offer any translation spoken or written or any other linguistic contribution I can make for a Romanian audience. I do also speak French and German. If this can be useful to you.”
That’s fantastic, Ioana, Thank you. I finally want to reflect on a more tricky point. I agree with you and others that it is so important to increase representation of quality content from blind artists, journalists, et cetera in the media. I know that this event’s purpose is to raise funds and awareness of the horrible plight disabled Ukrainians find themselves in during this tragedy. Still, this is also an opportunity to make an impact in the larger world and spotlight quality talent in our community.
I hope that other than selecting for adequate quality of recording, you’ll find a way to manage the tricky balancing act of giving as many people as possible a chance to lend their voice and support to the cause with applying some selection criteria for quality content without hurting anyone’s feelings. I hope this did not come off as too presumptuous. If it did, I apologize. I did hesitate quite a bit to include this last point. Many thanks for helping galvanize our voices in speaking out and supporting the needs of the disabled community in Ukraine. Thank you, Ioana. It’s always a balancing act. I found this right throughout my internet radio career with various projects that I’ve run where you want to be inclusive, but you also have to make sure that we have a listenable product and I’m sure that we will. There’s a lot of really good musicianship and general performing artistry in our community. I’m sure it will be listenable. It will do the blind community proud. As you say, most important of all, we’re going to raise a boatload of money to help people who need it desperately. Thank you so much for your kind offer. We’ll definitely take you up on that.
If you are in New Zealand and you are a Braille user you have the opportunity to participate in a very important vote that is going on at the moment. This is about something that we talk about quite a bit on this program. The capitalization of Braille when we are talking about the code Braille. Now, when I was growing up, this was not an issue. We always spelled Braille with an upper case B whether we were referring to the code or the individual, the genius who gave us this code and sacrificed so much. I have always spelled Braille with an uppercase B.
I’ve talked about this on the podcast and I have blogged about this and I will provide a link to that blog post in the show notes for anyone who’s interested in reading that article who hasn’t but particularly for New Zealanders at this particular time. People have said we don’t need to capitalize the B in Braille when we refer to the code because we don’t capitalize P for print. We don’t capitalize A for audio.
What I would say is that there has never been a mister or a miss print and there has never been a mister or miss audio. What there was though was a man who gave us the most priceless gift any human being can give another. Literacy, the power to read and write, the power that unlocks so much opportunity, so much entertainment, so much information. Louis Braille gave all that to us. To make an analogy with print or audio is in my view thoroughly disrespectful, disingenuous and it dishonors Louis Braille.
The interesting thing about this debate is that the Nemeth Code, a mathematics code used in some parts of the world is spelled with a capital N even though Abraham Nemeth invented the code. Many blind people are radio hams and they will know that Morse is spelled with a capital M. We also know that in many non-English speaking countries, this isn’t even an issue. Many people outside the English market shrug their shoulders and say, “Why are you even having this discussion?” We always spell Braille with a capital B. What’s the big deal with this already. Braille belongs to blind people.
It’s clear to me overwhelmingly that rank and file Braille readers do not want Braille when referring to the code to be spelled with a lower case B. In fact, my understanding is that the National Federation of the Blind has in its style guide that Braille should be spelled with an upper case B at all times. I would urge a member of the National Federation of the blind to think about that when it comes to resolutions for this year’s convention and do what we are trying to do here in New Zealand and take Braille back. At the 2020 annual general meeting of the Braille Authority of Aotearoa New Zealand, I raised the matter of the spelling of Braille with a lower case B when referring to the code and made some of the points that I’ve just made here.
It’s taken a while. We’ve had a pandemic and various other challenges but now the Braille Authority of Aotearoa New Zealand is holding a survey. Now, it’s non-binding so it’s a poll really rather than a referendum but it gives New Zealand as a chance to vote on this issue. Should Braille when referring to the code be spelled with a capital B or not? Now, obviously, I strongly believe that it should. I hope that you do too and that you will vote in favor of always capitalizing the B in Braille to give back the honor and respect that is due to a man who demonstrated way back in the 1800s, that nothing about us without us is real that we as blind people are in the best position to solve our own problems, and that sometimes we face stiff opposition but sometimes, with tenacity, we prevail.
There is so much solace that we can take from the story of Louis Braille as well the gift that he gave us of literacy. Many people may not realize that there was a period where Braille’s books were burned at the school for the blind in Paris because there was a cited director of the school who felt that Braille was too different that blind people should be made to read cumbersome raised print letters so they could be more like everyone else. That is also why I have always stood up strongly against this concept of blind ghetto technology because what that cited man was saying back in the 1800s was exactly this, “Oh, Braille, his blind ghetto technology.
Yet without Braille, I wouldn’t have been able to do many of the jobs that I’ve done in my life including the current one. I know that many of us feel the same way.” Braille is about so much more than just an abstract series of dots. Braille the man and Braille the code are inseparable from one another. There is a powerful story being told every time we run our fingers across those precious priceless dots, and Braille the code deserves an uppercase B. I will put a link to the survey in the show notes and I hope that you will vote in favor of capitalizing Braille when referring to the code.
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Jonathan: Time now for me to give you an update on something that we’ve been talking about at length on the podcast in recent weeks and that is accessibility regressions in both Uber apps. That’s the Uber ride-sharing app and Uber eats. I do have some very positive progress to report. For that, I want to thank Scott Ballard Ridley who has been in touch with me and connected me with somebody at Uber beyond the first level of tech support.
Based on comments that I’ve had on Twitter and contributions to this podcast, what’s been frustrating people is that they’ve been submitting quite detailed bug reports to first-level Uber tech support, and it doesn’t feel like they’re being understood and/or escalated. Some of them may have been but it sometimes feels like they haven’t been. This is why some people are saying they’re going to cancel their Uber Pass and do various other things, use alternative products.
I completely understand that because if the accessibility problems are significant and you’ve got alternatives where those problems don’t exist, well, what you gonna do? You’re going to go and get on with your life. This is a very powerful example of how the Mosen At Large community can make a difference for all of us. Thanks to that connection that was sent my way. A couple of days ago, I got in a virtual room and had a meeting with people who can make a difference, people from the engineering team, from the product design team, from various other parts of Uber, all in the one place. I was able to demonstrate to them the problems that some of us are having. I actually fired up my voiceover. They were able to see my screen. I was able to show them exactly what the problems were that some of us have been complaining about.
First of all, let me solve a mystery for some of you. After it was explained to me by the Uber engineers, I realized that actually I knew this all along and had just forgotten that this was a thing. Many of us have been wondering why is it that for some people the Uber experience seems to be perfectly fine and people are shrugging their shoulders at listeners who have been contributing to these comments on Uber saying, “What’s the matter? It’s working perfectly fine for me.” Even though we’ve got the same version of iOS, the same build number of the Uber app, what is up with that, as my kids might say. Well, what is up with that is actually something I had read in the tech press before. The Uber engineers tell me that what they can do is roll out a new experience, even potentially a new feature or two to a subset of users, and then see what’s going on.
If you are seeing accessibility problems, then you have won the lottery [chuckles] and you are getting some of the new experiences that Uber are working on where clearly there has been some accessibility regression. I have several encouraging takeaways from this meeting. The first is that Uber’s actively working on ramping up their commitment to accessibility. I did point out that one of the big bug bears for us and that seems like an appropriate term to use in this contest is that it seems to be hard to get through to somebody who understands the impact of these sorts of accessibility regressions and who can talk to us in a sensible way about their resolution. You’ve really got to go beyond frontline tech support for issues like this and offer a channel where accessibility issues are understood and hopefully prioritized. They did seem to take that onboard. They also tell me that new positions are being created specifically pertaining to accessibility and we should expect some improvement in there soon. You may well be saying by this point well, it’s easy to placate people. It’s easy to say the right things, talk is cheap, and all that stuff. I understand your cynicism but I can tell you that less than 24 hours after I was in that virtual room with those engineers, I do have some positive progress to report. That is that for me the issues with the ride-sharing app are now resolved.
Here is what I had to do to get this working after Uber pushed a fix. This is possible even without an app update if you are affected by this issue. First, launch the Uber app and then force close Uber. When I say force close I mean go into the app switcher and swipe up to close the Uber app and double-tap and make sure that the Uber app is not in your app switcher. Then, launch Uber once more and wait around about 10 seconds or more just to be safe, then force close the app.
What is happening there obviously is that there is a little push internally of some code that’s being updated. When you’ve done that, launch Uber again and try searching for a destination that you want to go to or choosing from your safe places. For me, the issue is now resolved and the experience is– I don’t know whether it’s exactly a duplicate of what I used to get, but it is accessible. Given the speed with which this is all happening, I think we might be able to call this one a developing story.
I should say that I am producing this on the Friday before it is published. It’s possible that the Uber Eats situation may also have been rectified by the time you hear this but as I record it, it has not been. They’re also interested in being a bit more visible if you will. For example, engaging with the Mosen At Large community on this podcast, and I’ve said to the team at Uber whoever is appropriate to come on the show and talk, that they would be very welcome to do that.
I’ll ask the questions that I think people want answers to but if they have new features, if they have improvements to tell us about, that applies to any app or any company who serves our blind community. If they have something to say and they’re willing to be questioned about it in a respectful but detailed way, be my guest, come on the podcast, have a chat about what you’re doing. We’ve got a very large audience in the context of the blind community for the show and they’re quite an engaged audience which is why we don’t have trouble filling a couple of hours every week with contributions from our community.
People are very welcome. If you work for a company that provides services to our community and you have something to tell me about, tell me about it. This is a very positive start and thank you, Scott, for making the connection. Thanks to all the people from Uber who got together in one place, who went through the bug demonstration that I put together and who are on this. Relief will be appreciated for the Uber Eats app. Carolyn Pete is in touch and she, like me, is in New Zealand.
She says, “Hi, Jonathan. The Uber Eats app is still a mess and it is near impossible to use the help section. I had an issue where my order was delivered but not to me. The only way I could get help was to use messenger to contact them because of how inaccessible the app is. The delivery person wasn’t answering their phone. When she eventually did, well, words fail me on how useless she was. Thanks, Carolyn one workaround that I very fortunately have is that because I’m a diamond Uber member. I’ve got a phone number that I can call when things like this happen and the app is being a problem.
I don’t know maybe one workaround for now would be that all voiceover users have access to that number for diamond rewards members until this is resolved. One thing the people at Uber said to me on this meeting was that you can also use Uber Eats on the web and they wanted to know what kind of experience I was having with Uber Eats on the web. I must confess I’d forgotten about that because I just associate Uber with my smartphone so much that I never thought of giving this a try.
At the time of recording, and it’s the middle of the night actually as I’m recording this. There’s nothing open for me to check this but I haven’t checked whether it is accessible but you might like to try that for yourself and see what the experience is like while we await some fixes to those of us who are getting this new Uber Eats experience that isn’t accessible.
Graham: Hi, Jonathan. Graham Innes from Australia here. I’ve just listened to your program and the comments from one of your listeners on the Brailliant device. I have a Brailliant 20 and there is a bug in the recently introduced software. I’ve only just updated but I think the software came out a couple of months ago which does freeze documents in the editor. Humanware will know about it. One of the ways to reduce the occurrence is to turn off cursor blinking.
I had turned on cursor blinking recently and the freezing occurs much more regularly. If you turn off cursor blinking in the settings, that is one of the things that helps. The only other thing that you can do is save your material frequently because usually the saved file, you don’t lose that. You only lose the work that you’ve done since you’ve last saved. The space and S command saves documents. There aren’t yet too many other workarounds. They do say they’re fixing it and it will be fixed in the next update but there’s no date as to when that might occur. I hope this helps. Love your program as always.
Jane: Hi, Jonathan and Mosen At Large listeners. This is Jane Corona from Silver Spring, Maryland. I’ve never used this line before but someone on issue 170 wrote in from India with a problem with the editor freezing on the BI 40X and I had to comment on that because it is not just his machine. We’re all having problems with it. There is a listserv Brailliant BI users. I think it’s a groups.io list and we’re all complaining about it. It has nothing to do with what Braille code you use, I don’t think. It might have a little bit to do with whether you’re using a blinking cursor or not. I’m not. it’s not helping me.
It has nothing to do with the size of the file. You’ll be typing along and your machine will go beep and it says, editor stopped, and you’ve lost everything you’ve done. I’ve gotten into the habit of saving every three seconds or so. I like Humanware. I think it’s a really good company but this is a serious problem and they know about it. When they have another update, whenever that is, they will hopefully fix it. We’ve only had one update since the machine came out, and they’re not talking about speakers and audio anymore.
I don’t know. They keep promising us a new update at some point but like the person from India, I’m beginning to think that it was a marketing tool and they have dropped the ball on any improvements. Of course, they’re still saying that the BI 20 and 40 are not note-takers. They’re intelligent Braille displays but it seems to me if a machine has a word processor and you can take notes on it, it’s a note-taker. I see no reason why they can’t correct these problems with the editor freezing. I’ve lost quite a bit of data when the machine crashes. I’m very leery about using it now without saving every two or three seconds. That’s my rant for the day and now, I’m going to go back into listening mode. Thank you so much again for all of the podcast. I will go back to listening.
Jonathan Moses: Jane, you can rant all you want as far as I’m concerned because if I had a device and I was using it to write was with and I’d written something important and then the thing locked up on a regular basis, I would be ranting as well. I’m glad you and Graeme before you send in a contribution on this topic because I did give Humanware the benefit of the doubt but clearly there is a bug and a lot of people are being affected by it. I’d be interested to know how long this bug has been present.
To me, that is a show stopper. That is a thing where a responsible company drops everything and fixes that bug as quickly as possible, gets out a maintenance release so that people aren’t losing their data. We pay a lot of money for these devices and we have enough difficulty as it is finding a job, maintaining a job without having our technology let us down in this fundamental way. When things like this happen with a company where there are people I know will respond and who will care, I do reach out ahead of the podcast.
When these contributions came in, I did contact someone senior at Humanware, the right person at Humanware, and acquainted them with the fact that we would be running these contributions confirming that there is this very serious bug in the software, inviting them to comment either in the form of a statement or I would be happy to do an interview here on the podcast so that we can get some reassurances hopefully about when users will get some respite from this serious issue.
To date, at the time of recording, I have not had a response to that email. If we do, I’ll certainly keep you posted but if we don’t, then this is something I think is worthy of the chief executive’s attention. We should not, as blind people, have a bug that is in the wild for any length of time that is this serious.
[music] John Gasman is in touch. He says, I just got back from CSUN. Three of the highlights for me were, one, seeing lots of old friends and spending time with them. Two, good maps and their mapping of the Anaheim Marriott. Just imagine you are outside and using GPS to walk the streets, then transfer that feedback inside the Anaheim Marriott to rooms, restaurants, and restrooms. Oh, there we go. Can’t say toilet, because this is America. Can’t say toilet.
Goodmaps was the hit of the convention. I’m very happy to beta-testing it now. I can see this app and the very friendly people at Goodmaps revolutionizing the blind community much like Aira did a few years ago. I’m sure NFB’s convention will have their hotel mapped. We’ll hope that ACB will also. Finally, employees at the Humanware booth confirmed that Victor Reader Stream 3 is going to be a reality at some point in our future. They didn’t have any details with regard to what would be included in the new version.
Thanks, John. I don’t know in terms of new product announcements whether these conferences are what they used to be because now, we are all so connected that there’s no need to wait for these big shows to make announcements. People just make announcements when they’re ready and they proliferate, don’t they? I get the feeling that the magic has gone from some of these conferences. That said, one product that I have seen a lot of reference to is this new Orbit Speak from Orbit Research. This is clearly a modern version of the Braille ‘n Speak. No Braille display on this thing. Very similar to their Orbit Writer keyboard, but a bit thicker.
It’s got WiFi and note-taking functions and a few basic things like that. It’s small enough to fit in a pocket or purse or whatever. It is trying to revive that whole Braille ‘n Speak class of device. I’ll be interested to see how this goes in a smartphone era. I suspect there will be quite a market for a product like this because I do hear from a lot of people who say, “Look, I really miss my Braille ‘n Speak. It was simple, it did what it did well, it was portable. It went forever on battery. We missed that thing. Once it’s in the hands of users, I’ll be really interested to hear what people think of that.
If you did go to CSUN and you want to share some experiences, then do feel free, 86460, Mosen, is my phone number in the United States. 864-606-6736. I should find a word number that says 864 toilet or something just to [laughs]– The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com. You can attach an audio clip to that email, or you can write it down. As we wait with bated breath, bated breath, I tell you, for the first ARM beta of JAWS, Christopher Wright writes. I’m glad JAWS is finally getting ARM support. It’s better late than never.
NVDA has been working on ARM support for Windows for some time. My understanding is narrator should work since it’s a built-in Windows component. Hopefully, once this exclusive deal with Qualcomm is over, Windows on ARM will be able to be licensed and installed on any ARM device. We’ll have to find out whether it’ll run natively on Macs. I read somewhere Apple stated Windows could run, but it was up to Microsoft to make it happen. Presumably, Microsoft would be in charge of writing all the necessary drivers to make it work since I don’t expect Apple would do it. They prefer everyone would use macOS.
The only way I’m currently aware of to run Windows on M1 Macs is using UTM or Parallels virtual machine though I prefer UTM. Parallels isn’t natively accessible and requires using VOCR. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not financially support people who don’t take the time to make their applications natively accessible. I don’t have an M1 Mac and most likely won’t get one due to macOS lock-in and voiceover neglect. I’ve talked to other blind people who have used Windows 10 and 11 with their Macs.
NVDA and most applications seem to work just fine. The other downside is that you must use the insider version of Windows on ARM as that’s, unfortunately, the only way to obtain it. Perhaps this has to do with the exclusive Qualcomm deal. The big appeal of ARM seems to be significantly better battery life which is always a plus. I also imagine ARM desktops would use significantly less power. I’m interested to find out what happens down the road. I’ve read speculation that Microsoft might completely transition to ARM like Apple at some point, but this probably won’t happen for a while.
Joe: Hello, Jonathan. This is Joe Norton in Dalton, Georgia. I just wanted to dash off a quick message to you on the listener line, because when you mentioned the experience that you had with your computer, I suddenly realized that I was not alone. I started to say that I’m glad that you had this experience, but I’m really not glad that you had the experience. Again, I’m just glad that I wasn’t the only one that had this experience because I wasn’t reading much about anyone having an experience like this. I had just done a fresh install of Windows 11. My computer is experimented with a lot and remains in a state of flux almost.
As I was putting Windows 11 on and going to grab the updates, at some point during the update process, the system rebooted. At first, I was using Narrator. Narrator wouldn’t do a thing. I said, “Oh, they broke a Narrator.” Then, I was using NVDA and NVDA wouldn’t work. Everything came to the login screen. As soon as I logged in, nothing happened. I didn’t wait five to eight minutes. I thought I did, but nothing happened. Everything ground to a screeching halt. I did the same thing that you did. I checked on my apps. Well, I’m used to seeing see an AI, and nothing appeared to be on the screen.
I do think one time, the time might have been showing on there, but as I say, nothing was speaking. Nothing I did spoke. I didn’t even get to try JAWS because I wanted everything updated before I put JAWS on there. Anyway, I can just tell you that I am another user that had a weird experience earlier this week. I was scared that maybe my ME storage was messing up or something like that. I’ve had this computer not quite two years, but I experiment with it so much.
I thought, oh no, the storage is messed up on it because it’s totally flash of course. I said, “Oh no, I’ve got to buy a new computer or get it repaired and I don’t know if that’s going to be worth more than getting a new system or what.” It was the thing I was a bit afraid of, but apparently, these problems hopefully have gone away. I will wait and see what happens with other people. I should be reading something here in a few days about it if other people have it, but who can say?
Jonathan: It was only just recently that you, Joe, were waxing lyrical about your surface book or whatever the surface thing is that you have. You might have jinxed it by calling in to Mosen At Large. Anyway, I’m glad that you got yours sorted out too. It is pretty scary. Over the week, I have heard from a number of people on social media who experienced the same thing. I wonder what the culprit is.
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Jonathan: More feedback on the subject of accessible thermostat technology, and Rebecca Skipper writes in and says, I have a Nest Thermostat that works with the Google Home and the Google Home speaker. I can change the temperature using the app and give commands to the Google speaker. This thermostat required an AC technician to install it. The thermostat also requires two AAA batteries. The thermostat app is in the Google Home app and works consistently, but if the AAA batteries run low, I can’t get the Google Home speaker to control the thermostat. I can set schedules and check the indoor temperature using the iOS app.
I was able to set my temperature range and keep the thermostat on the heat cool mode. I can adjust the temperature as needed using the Google app or give the Google Home commands such as make it warmer, turn off the thermostat, cool it down, or increase the temperature to 72 degrees. David Green is emailing in from Canada and he says on episode 170, one of your contributors was talking about the Sony LinkBuds. That was Kevin Chao. I was hoping that he would talk about the fit in the ear such as, do they go in the air canal or sit outside like the Apple AirPods.
I recently bought the Beats Fit Pro and returned them after using them for four or five days. They penetrated my ear canal and the little tail that is supposed to help them fit better hurt my ear, so back they went for an exchange for the Apple 3rd generation AirPods. I presume that’s AirPods, not EarPods because the EarPods are the wired things that come with an iPhone. Anyway, the Apple 3rd generation are the best fitting yet, but I am interested in the Sony LinkBuds. Here in Ottawa, Canada, the three EarPods mentioned are all around $250 plus tax. Even though the store has a return policy, I feel they get suspicious when I keep returning the product after a few days. I am like the rest of your listeners, enjoying your podcast. Thank you very much for writing in, David. In the meantime, maybe somebody who owns the LinkBuds, maybe Kevin Chao is still listening. Can answer your question, but you may be able to get a good product description or a series of reviews by googling the product name and adding review at the end. Sony LinkBuds, review should give you the information that you need.
Richard: Hi, Jonathan, this is Richard, New Orleans in Washington, DC. First of all, I want to say that I think what you do for the blind community is absolutely terrific. Thanks for that. You asked about songs that have ableist language in them. There’s a blues classic, and in fact, it’s a great song called I’d Rather go Blind. It’s by Etta James and there’s been covers by Rod Stewart, Beyonce, and even Dua Lipa.
Anyway, lyrics, “I’d rather go blind and see you walk away.” The insinuation is pretty obvious that the only thing more horrible than going blind is having your heartbroken. Of course, I’m being sarcastic. Anyway, whenever I hear it, I stop in my tracks and I have to say a blind person could not listen to it without feeling self-conscious.
Jonathan: Thanks for calling in, Richard. I know that one, actually, the blues is full of blind references, not just in songs, but in the names of the artists too. Blind something or rather, I can’t remember any specific ones now, but I tell you, the blues is full of them. Here’s blind Dan Teveld writing in, he says, “Hi, Jonathan, I like your discussion topics. Here is my contribution, the song which I absolutely hate [laughs] is MacArthur Park by Richard Harris.” Oh, I know this song just really pushes some people’s buttons.
Dan says, “There are so many bad things about it that I don’t know where to start. The words don’t make sense and are extremely maudlin. Maybe he wrote it while drunk. Then there is his horrible singing voice. I wouldn’t call it singing as he sounds like a bleating sheep.” [laughs] That’s Richard Harris who sang that song. Of course, he went on to play Dumbledore in the early Harry Potter movies. Then sadly, he died. It is an extraordinary song.
Why would you leave a massive cake full of sweet green icing in the rain? Why would you take that cake outside and leave it in the rain? If you were conscious of the fact that it took so long to bake the cake, wouldn’t you just be really careful about who took that cake, and why would they take it and leave it out in the rain anyway? Why wouldn’t you just bake it again if you had to? Surely, you’ve got the recipe somewhere, or you could commit it to memory or something. It is an extraordinary song, but then there’s a part of me that says that song is a magnum opus.
The orchestration is amazing. The big buildup with the choir singing at the end there. Also what I liked about MacArthur Park when I worked full time on the radio, was that it lasted forever. How long is it? About six and a bit minutes, maybe. In the old days, when we didn’t have automation systems like we have now on the radio, you could go to the little machine because apparently, you can’t say toilet in America. You can go to the little machine, the little room, and come back and know that your song would still be playing unless it got stuck because maybe we didn’t have cards even on the cheaper radio station.
Anyway, I haven’t finished with Dan’s email yet. I’m glad we didn’t leave the email out in the rain. I’m glad I didn’t leave my Mantis out in the rain. Now that would be worth singing about. “Another song,” says Dan, “I absolutely hate is Jack and Diane.” Oh my, what? How can you hate that? “Jack and Diane by John Cougar Mellencamp? No doubt one of the reasons I hate it was the constant airplay when the song was popular.”
Now let’s get positive from Dan because he says, “About songs I like, there was a song Jean sung by Oliver.” Oh yes. “Jean, Jean, roses are green, or something, which was used in the movie, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brody based on a novel of the same name by Muriel Spark. The text was written by rod McEwen who also sang a version of it. There is yet another recording of it by Bobby Goldsborough, which I don’t like.” Is anybody going to bring up Honey by Bobby Goldsborough if we’re talking about songs that people like and dislike? That’s a tough one. The old honey. I used to laugh at it and, to be honest, I don’t anymore because– Anyway, I don’t anymore.
“The orchestration is too heavy-handed.” Says Dan. “I love your podcast, and listening to it is the highlight of my weekend.” That’s very kind, Dan. Thank you. “Keep the interesting topics coming.” Well, if you want to talk about songs you really love and songs you can’t stand, be my guest. Put our podcast to the test. 8646, O Mosen is my number. That is in the United States. 846-066-736, firstname.lastname@example.org on the email. You can record something and attach it to the email or write it down.
Michelle Stevens is writing in with some sad news. She says, “Not sure if you heard, a friend of mine told me that Andrea Sherry from Australia passed away about a week ago.” That was at the time of writing in mid-March. “Andrea was a blind lady who was brilliant with adaptive technology. Some people may remember her from the GW micro list, and she was a big fan of NVDA as well. Andrea was very passionate about adaptive technology for blind people and the low vision community. She taught me that you can be the boss of your computer if you put the time and energy into knowing your technology.
We met 30 years ago and shared a house for about 21 years. I know many people here may remember her. Andrea loved her talking books and spent a lot of time improving the quality of the sound production through various audio editing programs. It was a mystery for me because I could never hear them that well. She absolutely loved old-time serials, particularly sci-fi old-time serials, and a lot of the programs from the BBC. The first time I met Andrea and my introductions to a screen reader in the old Arctic program, I found it all so very mystifying.
I acknowledge what I know and can do with computers was a direct influence from the friendship and mentoring that Andrea gave to me. Thank you for everything, Andrea. We’ll miss you so much.” Andrea will have a Memorial service on the 31st of March. If you would like to know more and for information about that, you can contact Michelle Stevens. I do have her email. Thank you for letting us know that, Michelle. I do remember Andrea, her name is very familiar to me. I remember her on the email lists way, way back and I’m sorry to hear that news. She definitely made a contribution and demystified this world of assistive technology for many people. She will be missed.
To Hungary, we go, and this email comes from Ginji. I hope I have got that pronunciation. The email says, “Hi, Jonathan, I’m a bit on the shy side when it comes to contacting radio programs or podcasts. I thought maybe you’d like to know the story of Patient Zero [laughs] who experienced the Dell audio problem, or at least Patient Zero for freedom scientific. I have to say I’m very grateful to the developers of Waves Maxx. Although their product is of course awful for screen reader users. It caused me many unpleasant hours. I started experiencing the problem in June 2020. I first thought the fault was with my unit and sent it back to the shop where it came from just still under warranty.
They did the servicing. Funnily enough, the technician said the SSD had a factory error. He replaced it, the error persisted. I sent it back again. To cut a long story short, I had the pleasure of getting to know a very unskilled technician who didn’t even notice the problem although he tested the device with Jaws. It soon became clear to me that it was a screen reader thing. I first contacted our localizer folks who couldn’t help. Then I found a partial workaround. I used an Asus sound card with Jaws and that helped quite a bit though the problem still occurred occasionally.
Finally, in February 2021, I contacted Glen Gordon via FSCast, better late than never as I was a regular listener to his musical web on the Shroom. Do we want the musical web back? Yes, we do. Anyway, back in February, we weren’t able to track down the ram-eating culprit. We did that in August, I think, shortly after a couple of other people started reporting it. However, that February email was followed by more emails and soon calls, one that had and have nothing to do with Waves Maxx. Glen and I have a lot of interests and trays in common and can talk for hours on end.
It’s partially his fault that I’ve started learning to code. I always wanted to though, but those are problems I’m happy to live with. Joke aside, Waves Maxx helps generate a very close friendship. Thank you, Dell, for adopting this awful piece of software, but probably it’s now time to move on and find something better. Thanks, Glen, for not letting our communication cease when the tech bit was over. I’d have never believed that from something as atrocious as Waves Maxx, we could gain something as pleasant and rewarding as we did.”
Well, there you go. You see if there’s ever an example of every cloud, having a silver lining, it is that, and yes, one of the many things that we, I hope he’s not listening. I hope he’s not listening. One of the many things that we have to thank Glen Gordon for in the blind community is that Glen is tenacious. I’ve also had the privilege to work with Glen on several issues over the years. Some of them quite recent, in fact, and the thing about this is that when there is something going on and you know that the screen reader has something to do with it, it may not even be Jaws necessarily, but it’s something about audio or interaction or something, and it’s not immediately apparent, Glen is incredibly tenacious.
I’m glad he was able to track it down for you and that you got so much more out of it than an explanation as to what was going on with your Dell.
Sally: Hi, Jonathan, it’s Sally here. I wanted to talk to you today about the webinar I attended last week, which was the day after the new release of Apple products. It was talking about new accessibility features. I want to put a rider on this that I’m a beta or public beta user, so I’ve seen some of these functions before, and I honestly cannot remember what’s in the beta and what’s in the public release anymore. I’m going to go over some of the features that were discussed. I’m also going to skip over the ones that we have already discussed here on the podcast or you’ve discussed on the podcast.
I’ll start by talking about the beginning. Apple did its usual politically correct spiel and described everybody that was on the screen, including clothing and so forth. I still don’t know actually how I feel about that and I don’t find it as useful. I was actually thinking it was a little bit of a waste of time because I was busy at work at the time I watched this. Anyway, into the real stuff, they talked about things like voice recognition and improvements to that. I know we’ve talked about voice recognition here before, so I’m not going to go into the great details.
Similarly, live text, and for those people who haven’t played with live text, it’s the ability to be able to pick text out of photos and actually select it. I use this quite a bit with my credit card, take a picture of my credit card and pull the text out of it to paste it into the box, so that’s quite useful. I actually use that one quite a bit. One of the things that they talked about also was sound recognition. I haven’t played with this, but they talked about the fact that your phone can recognize things like a siren, a doorbell, or a baby crying, and then link to other shortcuts, such as flicking the lights and things like that, that is happening if you can’t hear.
The one thing they did say that is useful was that you have to be careful because when you turn sound recognition on, it automatically turns off the ability to say hurry, and you need to go back in and turn it on. That’s a known bug that they talked about there. They talked about linking things into shortcuts. None of that’s really new. I don’t think as I’m a power user of shortcuts anyway, and I don’t actually think there are any changes to that.
The one thing that interests me a lot, and I think Jonathan mentioned it before, was the headphone accommodations. With the AirPods pro, well, I think it’s all the AirPods actually, but AirPods pro and the beats with the H1 chip, they give you the opportunity or functionality to actually match your audiogram if you have an audiogram. I thought that was quite cool and it’s something I am actually going to go and play with when I can actually get a decent, updated picture of my audiogram. The one I have is a bit old.
I’m particularly interested in this because I’m actually looking at simulating visual fields from taking a photograph of the visual field test. Using OCR to pull out the data that I need, and then taking that and altering it to my own needs. They also talked about conversation boosts for the AirPods pro that’s been around a while for hearing aid users so I’m not going to go into that in much detail, but it can actually provide a conversation boost. I think it also blocks out, does noise canceling at the same time. I do have some AirPods pro and I do like the fact in noisy environments I can noise cancel, but in other environments, it’s not the best idea.
They talked about background sounds and sound ducking and the focus modes that Jonathan has gone into in some detail to actually minimize distractions. I’m not going to go over the focus. The thing they spent a lot of time on was the heat pointer and using facial expressions to actually be able to interact. I actually thought that was very cool. They went into quite a lot of detail about head tracking, switch control, and facial expressions. Using head angles to actually do things like pan, and I haven’t actually looked at this functionality for quite some time. I found that in the demo, it was a lot smoother and a lot more refined than it has ever been before.
They did talk about direct touch, and Jonathan’s talked about that, so I will skip that. They talked about sound actions with the switch, and that was quite useful in that you could begin to form words like, A, and Ba and LA, and it would actually pick up on those to control things like the lights in your home and things like that. I thought that would be quite useful for those who have difficulty forming words and only get the first little bit out, so that was quite useful. It actually used recognition to recognize how you say it, rather than just normal voice recognition without all of the individualization.
They did talk about assistive touch in Dwell for a while and I quite liked the dwell because you’re able to hold for one second and lock and wake your iPad by looking at it, which I thought was quite cool. Dwell is where you, in the rudimentary sense, when you look at something and fixate on it, it will actually do a command as well. They did talk about privacy features like the different alphanumeric, a face ID, auto-lock, and that kind of thing. I’m going to just skip those because Jonathan’s previous podcast about the different password managers, and things like that, has been quite useful.
I think I’ve mentioned the apple watch and assistive touch in another message I’ve sent to Jonathan. I actually tried this a while ago when I saw it on tick and that was using accessibility features on the beta to actually click using pinch gestures, clenched gestures, and moving your arm to hover the pointer. As somebody who doesn’t have a physical motor disability, I found that too sensitive for me actually to be quite honest. I kept actually triggering the apple watch and the functions without it. It was very sensitive but the application of it could be amazing for a lot of people.
They talked about privacy and account recovery and this I thought was quite interesting because I’ve been in the situation of having to do this. They talked about digital legacy and the changes to digital legacy. For example, how somebody can actually set the next of kin type thing and then that person if they’re [unintelligible 00:58:20] it in advance can actually access and delete their account and things like that by just producing a death certificate instead of jumping through hoops. I’ve done that in the past and tried to change accounts when my husband passed away and found that incredibly difficult to actually do. They’ve implemented that.
They talked about the different data that’s collected in the health app. The thing that I thought that was the most useful in the health arena was actually that they have apparently, and I don’t know how long this has been in because they don’t use it, but they use sign language for fitness workouts. You can actually turn on a sign language interpreter, or they do adaptive workouts as well, that are individualized to needs, so they have wheelchair workouts.
The hard fall capacity can automatically call emergency services now. I think Jonathan’s talked about these already, but the walking steadiness and things like that are now mobility metrics and I’ve played with that one in the past, in the beta. It’s quite useful just for looking at getting your walking speed but also looking at your gait. When I had a bit of a sore knee from enduring it all doing something I shouldn’t, I actually looked at my gait and I could tell that it was unsteady. I’d like more information on that, for example, how it’s unsteady and I might go back in and have another look and see if they’ve implemented that.
The one that I find quite useful that they talked about and I’ve been using for a while now is single app-accessibility settings. I can use a little bit of large print until I get too tired, but what I’ve done is for some apps where large print breaks the screen layout, which is actually more than you would think. There’s quite a few apps where large print actually just makes them impossible to use. I’ve set those apps back to normal size, and lift the apps that do work in large print and you can see that individually through the control panel.
They’re just some of the features. Again, to be quite honest, there’s nothing groundbreakingly new there, I don’t think, except perhaps the hearing aid and audiogram part of it, and some of the mouse pointer and facial recognition and facial expression. As Apple normally does, it’s more of pushing out of information rather than discussing accessibility. I did ask my question that I had last week about whether I could make just a shortcut, a gesture to move my mail, and nobody could answer that.
They didn’t really even know where I could find that information. In the meantime, I found out a little bit about that, and that I’m restricted by the fact that mail doesn’t offer that shortcut. Not the gestures, I can do everything I want with the gestures set up and I can do everything I want with a shortcut set up but the Mail app doesn’t have the ability to actually move mail as a shortcut action. That’s where I’m stuck.
Jonathan: 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.
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