Podcast Transcript: Mosen at large episode 174, We’re with U is almost here, make ringtones right from your iPhone, and Michael Lauf talks about his new site, Laufware
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. The We’re With U concert is almost here. Pneuma solutions want to make remote access easier and more powerful, make ringtones on your iPhone, and it’s a wide-ranging interview with Michael Lauf, who started a site called Laufware.
Interlude: Mosen At Large Podcasts
Jonathan: Thank you for being here for another edition of Mosen At Large, and if you’re listening to this very early, the moment the podcast was published, you may notice that we’re publishing a day earlier than we normally do. That’s because I am clearing the deck and getting things done to make room for the We’re With U event, and it means by publishing early that I have one more chance to remind you of this event. We’re With U is our global benefit concert to help blind people who are still in Ukraine, and the many blind people who have because of the atrocities going on in Ukraine become refugees.
In the last episode, I estimated that we might have about a six-hour event. Well, I was very wrong about that. It looks like we’ve got around about 10 hours of material because well over 100 performers will be performing for We’re With U this weekend. Most of them are blind. A few of them are our allies. I do need to signal in advance that we haven’t been able to accept every contribution that we’ve received for technical quality reasons. I’ve done my best to spruce some of them up with it’s been necessary, but there have been some that we just can’t use because they don’t meet the standard for broadcast quality.
We’ve tried to set a fine balance here because obviously, we don’t want to make this event exclusive to those who have expensive recording equipment, but if there’s something where somebody’s a long way away from a cellphone, mic or something like that, it’s just not very broadcastable. Most of them are though, a good 90 odd percent of what we’ve received, we are going to run. As well as the music. You will also hear some accounts from people who are assisting refugees from blind people themselves who have a Ukrainian background, it will really bring to light for you, the reason why this event is so necessary.
The first-hand accounts are quite riveting and at times they really make you think. They are quite upsetting. You will hear plenty of happy songs feel-good songs, great music, inspiring music, music from a wide range of genres from classical to jazz to rap, and pop and rock classics. You will also hear some songs that make you think and that are specific to the occasion. Let’s go through the key points again for We’re With U.
When is it on? It is on Easter Saturday the 16th of April at 2:00 PM US Eastern time, that’s 11:00 AM US Pacific Time, 7:00 PM In the United Kingdom, and 8:00 PM in Central European Time, which is where countries like Poland and Ukraine are. In my part of the world, It’ll be on Sunday morning at 6:00 AM bright and early for me here in New Zealand even earlier in Australia 4:00 AM Eastern Australian Time, and as I say we expect the event to last around about 10 hours.
If you’re not sure when it’s on in your timezone you can check out the Mushroom FM schedule because that page does attempt to detect where you’re coming in from and will display the schedule in your timezone. You will find that at mushroomfm.com/shedule. Mushroom FM is only one of many, I think we’re up to about 17 or 18, Internet radio stations that are carrying this event. Last week, I did go through some of the stations that are carrying it. If you missed that, please feel free to go back and check into Episode 173, for all of the details. We’ve got to give you some great music I hope that you have some food and some beverages in stock and that you have your best speakers cranked up for this event.
We are asking you to give what you can for this important cause, every cent raised goes to the World Blind Unions Unity Fund for Ukraine. The World Blind Union is in a very good position to disperse the funds to organizations who need them most. During the event, the NFB will be handling processing for us and there will be a number of ways that you can donate online. You can actually visit that page now if you want nfb.org/blindwithu and that is the letter U for Ukraine at the end, nfb.org/blindwithu. I’ve stressed tested this, I can tell you that the form is highly accessible if you know how to complete forms you should be fine making a donation. Donations are in US dollars and when you donate with a credit card all of that is handled automatically by your credit card company.
If you need to get current exchange rates, you can ask any of the personal assistants to do a conversion for you be that Siri or the soup drinker or Google, you can just say convert whatever US dollars to your currency, or the other way round, and it will do that for you, so you know exactly what you’re giving in your currency. We also will have a phone number because, in this era of smart devices that are internet aware, there will be some people who will be able to hear the concert but may not necessarily have a web browser.
There will also be people who just don’t feel confident completing a form like this online. For you, we do appreciate your donation as well, and there will be a phone number that will be given throughout the event, and when you call that number, what will happen is that you’ll be able to leave a message on that line. It’ll be a voicemail box, and sometime in the next week, we’ll have someone call you back and take your credit card details, and how much you wish to donate. We will be giving that phone number during the We’re With U event. Right throughout the 10 hours or we will be using a Twitter hashtag, we can’t all get together.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all just fly somewhere and then a big stadium, we could be serenaded by all these incredible blind performing artists and enjoy it, but that’s not going to happen? I think it’s pretty historic what we are doing already, and to bring everybody together if you would like to participate in the Twitter hashtag that is Blind With U all joined together, so blindwith and then the letter U for Ukraine.
Artists have donated their talent and their time to this event. We hope all the social media comments are positive and kind and uplifting, that will really reflect the spirit with which this event has been put together so far, we want this to be a positive, supportive effort that shows the blind community at its best. You can tweet with that hashtag. If you would like to tweet how much you have donated, of course, that’s totally optional, but if you do that, we’ll be glad to acknowledge your pledge and say hi to you during the events.
That’s blindwithu Twitter hashtag, and you can use your Twitter client to track that hashtag. How that works is that you do whatever you have to do on your Twitter client or on the Twitter website to conduct a search, and when you’re prompted for what it is you want to search for, sometimes when clients have a people or tweets option, you have to make sure the tweets option is selected and just type the hashtag in number sign blindwithu, all joined together.
When you do that, and you activate the search, you may even be able to save that search, so it’s easy for you to check in on what people are saying on that hashtag, and you can join in the social conversation around this event. There may well be some of our partners who are doing other things on platforms like Clubhouse as well, so do check in with your favorite blindness internet station or service that is carrying this event and find out what they might have planned. No matter how small, every donation makes a difference. After all, if 1,000 of us gave $1, that’s $1,000, right? Every little bit helps. I know that a lot of people in our community don’t have work.
It’s difficult financially for many people, but if you are able to give what you can, the need is just so dire and I hope that we will be able to convey the extent of that need during the We’re With U event. It’s getting very close. We’re With U coming up on Saturday, the Saturday the 16th of April 2:00 PM Eastern, 7:00 PM at UK 8:00 PM in Ukraine. That’s 1800 UTC and 6:00 AM on Sunday morning here in New Zealand.
Interlude: Mosen At Large Podcasts
Jonathan: Here’s an email from Mike Calvo which says, “Hello, Jonathan. I wanted to share a little secret with you and the podcast family.” That’s okay, Mike. I won’t tell anyone. The headline for this announcement is, RIM, makes real-time one-on-one PC access accessible. Microsoft Remote Desktop, TeamViewer, and other peer-to-peer PC connection software options expand the universe of virtual educational and remote service capability for everyone. Unless of course, a person happens to be blind. With the release of version 3.0 Remote Incident Manager, RIM continues to open these capabilities to everyone including the blind.
One of the biggest challenges facing blind IT trainers and tech support professionals is the ability to successfully assist clients regardless of the assistive technology being used on the remote computer. For many years, there were no accessible remote training and support options for the blind technical professional. In 2007, Remote Incident Manager was the first technology to break down this barrier. Later, other assistive technology options attempted to follow suit by introducing US-based high latency, single server proprietary remote access capabilities. With each of these options, the same assistive technology on the technician’s PC had to be installed and running on the remote computer.
The RIM difference. With Remote Incident Manager, blind IT professionals can support remote computers, regardless of which if any assistive technology is installed on the remote computer. This means that the blind technician can easily support their sighted colleagues, friends, and family, as well as providing support and training to other blind and visually impaired users of assistive technology. With features like real-time, CD qualities, stereo, audio conferencing, audio and video recording of sessions, and the ability to transfer files from one computer to another.
A technician can support the end-user just as if they were in the same room without costly and time-consuming travel across the street or across the world. RIM has you covered with multiple points of presence in the United States, Canada, Latin America, the UK, Europe, India, Asia, and Australia. This means that your data stays in your region and you get the lowest latency possible. How does it work? There are three components to the Remote Incident Manager. The client component is installed on a technician’s computer. The RIM host is installed on the remote computer and can easily be downloaded by the end-user when a technician emails a link to download it.
Alternatively, the technician can install the host on an end user’s computer if given initial physical access to the computer. The RIM host need only be installed once. When it is installed, it runs quietly in the background until it is needed. The third component of the RIM is Pneuma solutions RIM cloud service, which manages the connections between the clients and host computers. To establish a connection, the technician and remote user agree on a keyword to use for the session.
This keyword doesn’t have to mimic a strong password. Since the only thing that matters is the client and host enter the same keyword one time. In fact, the keyword can be as simple as a single letter or number which works well for an end-user with minimal keyboarding skills. The technician opens a remote incident in the RIM client enters the desired keyword and then prompts the user to enter that same keyword. If the keywords match on both ends, the computers are connected.
Once connected, the technician is provided audio and video from the remote user’s computer, including output from the user’s screen reader, if one is running. Since the connection is a shared session, a technician may perform a task on the end user’s computer and the end user can observe in real-time how the task is performed. Similarly, a trainer can ask the end-user to perform a task and then observe to see if the task is performed correctly.
The technician or trainer can also flip the session to let the end-user watch as the technician or trainer performs a task on their own computer. If the end user’s computer needs to reboot, RIM will re-establish the connection when the computer is back up and running. In cases where there was no screen reader present on the remote computer, the included version of the NVDA screen reader will read the screen for the blind technician.
However, the screen reader will not begin speaking on the end user’s computer. This means that if the end-user has no need for screen-reading technology, they will not be inconvenienced by listening to the computer talk as the technician performs tasks. In this way, blind technicians are able to provide full support to their clients and the clients need not even know that the technician is blind. For many organizations, there are both blind and sighted technicians.
The Remote Incident Manager is a tool that can be used successfully in either case, a site technician can turn off text to speech and can rely solely on the visual representation of the remote computer. This means that there is no need to purchase one tool for the sighted technicians and another accessible tool for the blind technicians in an organization. Remote Incident Manager gives any person sighted or blind the tools to teach remotely, sharing the student’s PC and helping the student navigate the intricacies of learning screen readers and other applications.
The same tool lets blind technicians provide real-time help to frustrated computer users, sighted or blind, tech support, one-on-one guided distance learning. It’s all easy and inexpensive with RIM. Well, we don’t have a price though, Mike, that is pretty cool. I’m also told that it’s an estimate that they’ll begin beta testing in May for this. If you’re not a kicker of tires and you just want to wait until it’s really ready, apparently that’s only going to be June. Not too far away until we get RIM 3.0, and if you are a computer professional and you want to try this, you can contact Pneuma solutions for more information. I must say that does sound really, really slick.
I’m looking forward to having a play with that in the near future. Congratulations to Mike and Matt on this, it sounds really innovative and I think it will be a really appreciated product when it gets out there. Thanks for giving us the heads up, as the Americans like to say.
Andy Rebscher: Hey Jonathan, this is Andy Rebscher talking to you. You guys were talking about songs, good songs, bad songs. The bad song category first for me, as somebody mentioned was pretty much anything by Gary Puckett. All right, then onto a good song. It’s hard to define my favorite song in the whole world, but the criterion for a really good song is something that if you heard it now, or every time you heard it before it made you feel good made you want to crank it up, made you want to stop what you’re doing and get involved in it.
One of those for me was a song by The O’Jays, Love Train. It had that Philadelphia sound to it with the really nice guitar chops and the strings and the groove going with the bass drums and especially even on an old AM, mono radio, always that electric roads piano sound poked through to me.
In the verse, you got this. Real nice backbeat happening. Then you get to them groovy chords, then the chorus part. I don’t want to play anything too well here because the robots will come shut you down. But there’s my love-hate music stuff anyway. A song that my mother used to sing to my sister every night before she went to sleep was Summertime.
There’s more significance to it. We know now than what I might have suspected back in the day, but it was relaxing and soothing and it felt good to hear my mother sing that to my sister.
I don’t remember any songs that were sung to me, probably because I was at boarding school, most of the time. Maybe that never happened much. I don’t know.
Interlude: Mosen At Large Podcasts
Jonathan: “Hi, Jonathan from Dawn,” begins this email, which gives me a sneaking suspicion that this email might be coming from Dawn. “I was wondering if you could maybe talk a little bit about Handoff. I’ve been trying to use Handoff between my Apple Watch and my iPhone, so far, I have been unsuccessful. Thought you might be able to explain how this works and how to accomplish it. Other listeners might be interested as well. Thanks in advance.”
Well, thank you, Dawn. I’ll give it a shot. One of the big advantages of Apple is that they control everything in their ecosystem. They control the hardware and they control the software. That means that they can do some pretty cool tricks. One of those tricks is Handoff. The idea is that if you’ve got a lot of Apple stuff, you can take a task that you are doing and you can transfer from one Apple thing to another Apple thing and keep going.
For example, let’s say that you are browsing the email on your Apple Watch and that’s all very good for browsing, but if you want to write a serious reply, chances are good that you’ll want to transfer that to another Apple device like your phone or your iPad, or even your Mac, where there’s a better keyboard. Only on the newer watches do you even have a keyboard. That’s pretty tough to use that small keyboard, even on the Apple Watch that has one and so you can transfer the item over.
Another common scenario is that you may have left your phone on a table charging, or you just discarded it for a while and your phone rings. When that happens, if you’re logged into the same account, what will happen is that everything rings, your phone rings, your iPad rings, your Mac rings, and your Apple Watch rings. You may have the Apple Watch right there on your wrist. You actually have a couple of choices. When the phone is ringing, you can turn the digital crown to reveal a button that says, “Answer on iPhone.” When you double-tap that button, it will put the call on hold, and you’ll be able to pick it up on your iPhone when you get to your iPhone. Let’s say you answer the call on your Apple Watch you talk for a while and then you think, “Yes, I really want to transfer this back to my phone.” The reverse can also be true, of course, you may be talking on your iPhone, you want to keep it charging, but you need to get around the house and do a few things.
Maybe you want to send that phone call to your Apple Watch so you can walk around with it and keep talking, the phone calls just on your wrist. Effectively, it’s a pretty good speakerphone, particularly the newer Apple watches and you can just keep doing your thing talking to the person while the watch is on your wrist. Before I talk about how we make this happen. Let’s talk about the apps that Handoff works with. Since Dawn asked specifically about the Apple Watch, let me focus on that. Handoff works with activity, alarm, calendar, home, mail, maps, messages, music, news, phone, podcasts, reminders, settings, Siri, stocks, stopwatch, timers, wallet, weather, and World Clock.
Before you try any of this at home, you should make sure that Handoff is enabled on both of your devices or all of the devices where you want to make it work. On the iPhone, you go into settings and general and you turn Handoff on and you do the same on your Apple Watch as well, go into settings and general and turn Handoff on. Let’s talk about the Handoff that people are most likely to use, and that is this phone call or FaceTime audio call Handoff. Let’s first talk about the most common scenario, which is that you want to transfer a phone call or FaceTime audio call from one device to another.
If the call started on your iPhone, which is the most common scenario, I think, and you want to transfer it to your Apple Watch, then open up your Apple Watch and go into the phone app. You’ll find towards the top of the screen, that there’s a little status message telling you who you’re talking with and how long you’ve been talking. If you double-tap that there’s a button that says something like audio route, you double-tap that it will say, “Do you want to transfer this call to your Apple Watch?” You double-tap Okay, and within a second or two on my setup, the call is transferred, you’ll hear the caller coming out of the speaker on your Apple Watch.
The reverse is equally easy. If you want to transfer a call that’s in progress on your watch to your phone, then you can power up your phone, on the top left of the screen, you’ll find a phone icon, you can double-tap it. If your phone is unlocked, it will say, “Call in progress,” at the very left of the status bar. If you just double-tap there, then it will transfer from your watch to your phone. It’s really quick for me and that’s using my boring obsolete technology. The previous generation of both the iPhone and the Apple Watch the transfer is almost instant.
In terms of the other apps, I have seen this work sometimes and I’ve seen it fail to work at other times. I haven’t been able to work out what the variable is. Maybe it’s just a case of restarting both devices if it doesn’t work for you initially. What you should be able to do is open a thread of messages in the Messages app on your watch or an email in the email app on your watch.
Then go to the app switcher of your iPhone and in there you will find something that says something like, “From watch messages,” or “From watch mails,” something like that. When you double-tap, you will be able to pick up from exactly where you left off on your watch. As I say this bit is a bit hit-and-miss for me, but it does work some of the time. I hope that helps to some degree, Dawn.
Hello to John who writes, “I have a Dell computer when using the Bluetooth speakers it cuts off words or music. I know you have talked about this before but I wish you would mention it again. I have JAWS and fixed that problem and it works just okay. I am not a computer person, but is there a driver that I can install? I am not in the market for a new computer at this time.”
Thanks, John. The only thing I can suggest is that you do double-check that the avoid speech cut-off setting is enabled in your default JAWS settings. Go into settings enter in JAWS and then press Ctrl Shift D for delta and make sure that avoid speech cut-off is enabled because that sends silence to the audio device that JAWS is using and should keep it awake. If you have a situation where maybe you’re using JAWS on a local computer and you want that speech cut-off feature to apply to another device, then you might want to download Silenzio if you Google for it, hopefully, it’ll come up, S-I-L-E-N-Z-I-O.
Silenzio will let you specify the device that it should keep alive and that will also send silence to an audio device, and that will keep the Bluetooth device awake. There is a trade-off here, and that is that the reason why particularly Bluetooth devices like to do this is that kind of waiting for something to happen. They’re in hibernation mode, and therefore, they’re saving a little bit of battery. You will see some performance trade-offs there in terms of how long the battery lasts if you enable a feature like this. It may be minimal, though, depending on the speaker. Best of luck.
Maurice is writing in and says, “Here’s the situation. I’m actually a deaf-blind podcaster, who wrote you last year and started a podcast.” Congratulations. “Then when the schoolwork became too much. I stopped podcasting, but after a bit of time away, now I am considering getting back into podcasting because I’m going to have some interesting experiences coming up. That’s right, traveling. I’m about to start the training in a city nearly 400 miles away from where I live. Here’s the question because I want to do podcasting and the audio production with the software that I used to use on my MacBook.”
“These days, I use a Windows laptop, its job is to allow me to dictate instead of write because I have other disabilities on top of deafblindness. What that means is that I cannot spell to save my life. Since the main reason for this laptop is dictation producing a podcast on this machine is going to be challenging. Here are my potential solutions to this. One, carry both the Mac and the windows machine and continue doing all the production on the MacBook as I have in the past. Or I could leave the Mac where I live, take the Windows machine, and use an appropriate audio production software package that won’t cause problems with the screen reader, the middleware, or the dictation software itself.”
“Three, just take the professional-grade recorder, record everything and produce the podcast when I’m at home. That would allow me to just carry the machine and the recorder, but not have to worry about putting it together while sitting in a hotel room. That leads me to this question. What are people using to do the production in Windows? I thought I remembered how to use Goldwave for Windows but the learning curve seems to be a bit daunting. This is because I’ve been an Apple computer user for more than a decade. I’ve been using Windows only in a virtual machine.”
“Now that there is a full-blown Windows machine sitting in front of me, there were just some things that I think I have to remember to do differently. I’m asking you and others for advice on this conundrum.”
Thank you for writing in Maurice, the first thing I would say is that I would be surprised if there was any sort of conflicts between the dictation software that you are using and your need to do a podcast. I, for example, have had Dragon NaturallySpeaking on a Windows machine where I’ve also used REAPER and Studio Recorder and other things. I’ve had no issue with that whatsoever, so I don’t think a software conflict is going to happen.
Of all the options you mentioned, I think the most hideous for me anyway, would be taking two laptops with you because that’s a lot to carry. If you’ve got chargers to think about unless you’re able to use the same charger for both. That may be possible if they’re both using USB-C, but it’s just quite a bit of a hassle to take two laptops with you. I think your best option would be to install something appropriate on Windows or to just do as you suggest and take a recorder along and do the basic recording. Then go ahead and do the production on the machine that you’re most comfortable with for that purpose, which at this stage sounds like it’s the Mac.
You are going to have a learning curve there if you go with a Windows option. It doesn’t sound like you are using REAPER but if you were, of course, REAPER works on the Mac, and it works on Windows, and there’s a knack there in that you’ve got to hold down the Command key on the Mac where you would hold down the control key on Windows. Using OSARA and REAPER on both machines. It’s remarkably similar. When we purchased our in-one-Mac to play about with, I installed REAPER and was up and running, doing a bit of editing and other production on that very quickly, so it may be worth adopting REAPER and then you can run it on your Windows machine or your Mac.
If you want to reduce the learning curve, I think I would go with option three, do all the recording, the narration, or that kind of work on a recorder that you’re familiar with. When you’re in the hotel room, all you need to take then is the recorder and a decent microphone, and then take it home and do all your editing with the software you’re familiar with. It sounds like you have been fluctuating a little bit, vacillating a little bit when it comes to podcasting. If you’re in that place anyway, if you put too many roadblocks in your way, chances are you’ll give it up again. I think this is probably the best way forward. Good luck with whatever you decide. Let us know what it is you decided, and whether it’s working out for you.
Speaker: What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down, firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60 Mosen. That’s 864-60-667-36.
Jonathan: Peter in Hungary writes, “I have changed my old Nokia N96 Symbian phone.” Goodness, gracious. That must be a museum piece that’s worth a lot of money these days. Anyway, he says, “I’ve changed that to a BlindShell Classic, first-generation. It’s perfectly responsive, perfectly well designed, absolutely intuitive, easy to use, even with one hand while traveling on a bus and holding onto a handrail with the other hand. Without operating the Wi-Fi connection, the battery is good for a week with one charge. I use my other Android smartphone for things connected to Wi-Fi. I’m absolutely happy with the BlindShell and recommend it to anyone who wants to have a cheap but intelligent designed device for managing calls, SMSs, voice recorder, calculator, and some other simple functions. With Wi-Fi, emailing and web browsing, listening to internet radio, watching YouTube are possible comfortably as well. I wouldn’t say it’s a solution on its own for everything, but if one is not bothered by carrying two devices, BlindShell can be a really efficient partner in everyday life.”
Thanks, Peter. I’m glad that that is working out for you. I’m definitely not someone who wants to carry two devices with me. That’s why I don’t have a Victor Reader Stream because my iPhone does everything and I’d rather just carry one device and keep track of it and use it and have everything on one device. For those who go for that sort of thing, then maybe they’ll be interested in checking that out. Of course, the phone has advanced, I understand, considerably since the first generation.
Hello to Iain Lackey, who has emailed in to say, “Hello, Jonathan. A few shows ago, mentioned was made of the fact that gapless playback seemed to be broken on Apple music. I myself contributed on the subject. I thought I would throw another coin in the pot on the subject, as I am finding something very strange. When I play Apple Music on an Apple device, air playing Apple music, playing Apple music from Sonos, or using wired headphones, gapless playback works fine. However, when I Bluetooth either to headphones or to speakers, the gaps between tracks are very audible, even updating to 15.4.1 hasn’t solved this problem. One problem this recent update may have solved is what I might call the sticky Braille with an upper case B problem where the Braille display doesn’t change within an element unless speech is toggled. Curiouser and curiouser, as they say.”
Thank you, Iain will look forward to others’ comments on the Apple music issues. This email is from John Malia, who says, “Jonathan, I don’t know if you use Microsoft Edge but when going to other websites, it will say that the site has coupons. How do you get to them? I am using the latest version of JAWS.” John, I do use Microsoft Edge and I like it a lot especially now that I have Leasey silencing all those horrible intrusive messages that they send in the direction of screen reader users that I have this feature turned off.
You can go into settings and privacy and turn off the, I think it’s called something like save money with Microsoft Edge shopping or something like that. I don’t want that on, so I have it off. I understand that what happens is that you get the alert, which your screen reader will speak when coupons are available and they are automatically applied at checkout. Doing a quick bit of binging, I should say that, since we are talking about a Microsoft thing told me that that’s what happens. If somebody uses coupons on Microsoft Edge, well, first of all, tell me how you like them.
Are you saving a lot of money by leaving that thing on? Second, are they automatically applied or do you have to do something with them? I’m not really inclined to turn them back on to find out, but if anyone has some experience with Microsoft Edge coupons that they’d like to share, please feel free. 864-60 Mosen is my number in the United States and email@example.com on the email.
Tristan Claire: Hello, Jonathan and Mosen at Largers. I am going to demonstrate a nifty little app that will enable you to be able to create ringtones without using a PC. Yes, you can do it straight from your iPhone so you can create ringtones when you’re on the go and when you don’t feel like firing up your PC. Now, the freaky thing is I don’t remember installing this app on my phone. [chuckles]
I have absolutely no recollection of doing so, but I must have because it is definitely not part of the standard iPhone kit. Frankly, I think it should be because it is a pretty cool app and it’s accessible. It’s fairly easy to use. The uploading process is a couple of steps, but it is fully accessible. That’s pretty cool. Now there are two versions. There is a free version, which is the one I installed without remembering I did so.
I didn’t actually part with money during this transaction. There’s also a paid one. I have now opted for the paid one because it’s about $5.99 Australian. Probably even cheaper in the US and the free one is chalkers with ads and the trouble with the ads is not only do they pop up every time you do something, they are also very inaccessible ads. You can only close them if you turn on the screen recognition. If you decide to go for the free one first buyer beware because closing the ads is a pain in the neck. If you have an older phone such as an iPhone 10, that doesn’t offer things like screen recognition, it’s going to really be a pain because I don’t even think these ads close when you close the app.
They’re quite pernicious and very annoying. I have opted for the paid one, which is a completely ad-free experience. If you can stand the ads, the free one does have all the functionality of the paid one. It’s just much slower when you keep hitting an ad every time you want to do something. I’m going to demonstrate, creating my own ringtone, open music to ringtone.
Phone Speaker: Music to ringtone, settings button.
Tristan: When you open the app, you hit the settings button. I haven’t had a lot to do with the settings because I found this app worked pretty much out of the box. I didn’t have to configure it, but there may be some more advanced settings in there. For people who feel like playing with that, you’re most welcome to- I’m not going to go through all that today. I’m just going to demonstrate the ringtone.
Now, I have preloaded an audio file into the phone. I’m going to demonstrate how to load one, but it takes a little while to import sometimes, especially if it’s like a full-sized three or four-minute track that you’re going to trim down. The load button is way over on the right-hand side.
Phone Speaker: Play button, say load button.
Tristan: When you have a couple of options you can–
Phone Speaker: [unintelligible 00:37:57]
Tristan: Pick from your own iTunes music library, digitally rights managed content won’t work. If it’s something you purchased from the iTunes store, it’s not going to work, but your own music that you might have imported into iTunes, it certainly will.
Phone Speaker: iTunes playlists.
Tristan: iTunes playlists. I’m not sure I’ve not used that function. It may be an Apple Music thing. I don’t know.
Phone Speaker: Files
Tristan: Files. This is where I got mine from. When you double-tap on that, it will show you the contents of anything you’ve saved to your files folder.
Phone Speaker: Videos from photo album.
Tristan: I don’t know why you would want that. I guess, any video that has audio soundtrack, you could use the audio from that as a ringtone.
Phone Speaker: Close button.
Tristan: You can also upload content through the share sheet. If you do a recording of yourself on voice memos, you can go into the Apple share sheet. One of the options will be shared with music to ringtone. You can record your own voice onto a ringtone, but we’re not going to do that today. I have a classical piece from rachmaninoff which I’m going to trim down into a ringtone
Phone Speaker: Setting, change duration 30 to 00 seconds adjustable.
Tristan: The default duration for a ringtone is 30 seconds. It can’t go any longer than that, but I can make it shorter if I want to.
Phone Speaker: 20 to 00 seconds.
Tristan: I’ll make it 20 seconds just for the hell of it. It doesn’t really matter to me.
Phone Speaker: Play button.
Tristan: Now I can play this track. It’s important to be able to do that because I’m going to demonstrate the other function, which is changing the starting point of the ringtone. I don’t have to have these ringtones start at the beginning of the track. If I want it to start in the middle, I can. It’s important for me to be able to play the tune so that I can hear what I want to start.
Phone Speaker: Check play button.
[music] Change start with zero. Change start position zero. Just 000000 nano zero seconds.
Tristan: [unintelligible 00:40:12] I wanted to start there.
Phone Speaker: Pause button. Play button.
Tristan: My ringtone now won’t start with that opening chord.
Phone Speaker: Change with the play button.
Tristan: I actually like it, that opening [unintelligible 00:40:25] so I’m going to go back and start it from there.
Phone Speaker: Change start position 00000000 just zero second. Change pulls button play button.
Tristan: Just a pretty cool, nice loud thing to start off your ringtone. I’m going to start it from the start. Yes, if I had a song, and I like really like the chorus, I can start it from there, and then have 20 seconds of that song as my ringtone. Now, this is the important part, is actually turning this audio track into a ringtone. It’s a little bit of a process, but it’s not too bad.
Phone Speaker: Save mode. Save button.
Tristan: Double-tap on the Save button.
Phone Speaker: Play button. Save button.
Tristan: Which is just one to the right of the play button. Very easy to find.
Phone Speaker: Save alert, share as.
Tristan: It gives you a couple of options for sharing it, and this gives you a little hint as to what you really should do.
Phone Speaker: Just [unintelligible 00:41:19] band file and share to GarageBand now to set as a ringtone in its own.
Tristan: This is the one that you should do because then that way, the file will eventually appear in your ringtones list and it will work as a ringtone.
Phone Speaker: GarageBand file button.
Tristan: I’m going to hit GarageBand File.
Phone Speaker: Settings button.
Tristan: Now it’s bringing up the standard Apple share sheet and I have to select GarageBand on that.
Phone Speaker: Copy messages, GarageBand button.
Tristan: I’ll select GarageBand, double-tap again.
Phone Speaker: GarageBand landscape. GarageBand. GarageBand reasons heading.
Tristan: Now I’m in GarageBand and it’s letting me know that this app is in landscape because that’s the default setting for GarageBand in order to accommodate the instruments, the guitar or keyboard, or whatever. It will affect the way that I’m swiping because I have to swipe left to right across the screen to use the rotor actions instead of up and down, which is what you do if you’re used to portrait mode. I’ll just touch the screen to see where I’m at?
Phone Speaker: [unintelligible 00:42:24] 30/no 3 [unintelligible 00:42:28] file 2:37 PM, 3.7 megabytes.
Tristan: This is the file that I’m going to turn into a ringtone. I will swipe left across the screen.
Phone Speaker: Play button. Delete. Share.
Tristan: I’ll hit Share.
Phone Speaker: Cancel button.
Tristan: Now, this is bringing up a mini share sheet that is unique to GarageBand.
Phone Speaker: [unintelligible 00:42:53] heading.
Tristan: I’ll swipe up because I’m still in landscape. This is horrible GarageBand.
Phone Speaker: Chose a format for [unintelligible 00:43:00] 30 no. Song button.
Tristan: Now, I could either have shared it as a song, a standard audio track, or as a ringtone.
Phone Speaker: Alert, your ringtone needs to be adjusted.
Tristan: Now, it’s throwing up an error message, but don’t worry about that. It’s saying that I’m sharing a full-length track and it needs to adjust it. You just go to [crosstalk] continue. It’s just allowing them to do that.
Phone Speaker: Name of the ringtone, heading, cancel button cancel. Export ringtone. Heading, export button.
Tristan: You hit export. I’m swiping up again to move it.
Phone Speaker: Alert, one or more [unintelligible 00:43:38] Okay button.
Tristan: Again, just hit the Okay button. It’s just letting you know once again, that it’s not the full song.
Phone Speaker: Exporting as ringtone.
Tristan: It’s exporting this song as a ringtone.
Phone Speaker: Alert, ringtone export successful. Use sound as. Okay button.
Tristan: This is an interesting option.
Phone Speaker: Use sound as button.
Tristan: It’s called Use sound as and if I double-tap on that.
Phone Speaker: New ring alert. New ringtone. [unintelligible 00:44:07] free standard ringtone button.
Tristan: I can set that straight away from here as my default ringtone.
Phone Speaker: Standard text tone button.
Tristan: My default text tone.
Phone Speaker: Assign a contact button.
Tristan: Or I can assign it to contact.
Phone Speaker: Done button.
Tristan: I don’t want to do any of that.
Phone Speaker: [unintelligible 00:44:24] 30/no.
Tristan: Now, this was done so I can get out of GarageBand. I’m going to go back to the other app by swiping across this free.
Phone Speaker: Portrait field close button. Close field close button.
Tristan: I’ve just closed the share sheet on the music to ringtone. You don’t have to do that though. It just means that the next time you go in there, the share sheet will still be open. Now, I’m going to go to settings and locate my ringtone. [beep] Launch settings, sounds, and haptics.
Phone Speaker: Settings General [unintelligible 00:45:07] button.
Tristan: It didn’t put me in sounds and haptics That’s a bit annoying, but never mind.
Phone Speaker: [inaudible 00:45:14] settings back button settings.
Tristan: It’s put me in general, I don’t know why.
Phone Speaker: Focus general controls accessibility focus, sounds, and haptics.
Tristan: I’m now in sounds and haptics I’m going to find ringtone.
Phone Speaker: [unintelligible 00:45:28]
Tristan: That’s my standard ringtone. I’m not going to play that because it’s copyrighted music.
Phone Speaker: [unintelligible 00:45:42] Computer classical music ringtone capable of [unintelligible 00:45:45] Reflection default two more years. [unintelligible 00:45:48] 30, no, 3, finale [unintelligible 00:45:53]
Tristan: This is the ringtone. Now I’ll double-tap on that.
Phone Speaker: Selected. [unintelligible 00:45:57] 30, no, 3.
Tristan: There you are. That is the ringtone, I’ve just created a ringtone without having to turn on another device and fire up another program. I hope you enjoyed that. If you’re into creative ringtones, you may enjoy this app. Have a good day, everyone.
Jonathan: Thank you, Tristan, for putting that together. That’s Tristan Claire in Australia with her demonstration of music to ringtone. Just a clarifying point regarding what music will work with this app. If you’ve actually bought tunes from Apple’s iTunes Store, it should work as I understand it, because that music is completely unencrypted. You can play it on any device, and it belongs to you.
If you’ve downloaded music from Apple Music, which you’ve got access to because you pay a monthly subscription to Apple Music, that stuff is not playable outside of your Apple devices when you are logged into your Apple account, and you won’t be able to use that material for a ringtone.
Interlude: Jonathan Mosen, Mosen At Large Podcasts
Tyler: Hi, Jonathan. This is Tyler [unintelligible 00:47:21] I’m a sophomore student in Eagle Idaho. Something really fishy is going on with the BrailleSense 6. Particularly because they have not pushed an update over the air since December of last year And they haven’t made any contact on their website, or on the rest of the internet or on YouTube. I couldn’t get an answer via email, and I think this is because they’re trying to hide something.
Jonathan: Whoo. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. Good to hear from you, Tyler. I don’t know much about the HIMS product. I don’t own one, and so I’m not really in communication with HIMS. The timeframe that you outlined doesn’t seem to me to be a cause for pushing the panic button, but perhaps there are people who are subscribed to appropriate lists or Facebook pages or following on Twitter who can give us an update.
Maybe somebody from HIMS is listening, and they’d be very welcome to come on the show and have a chat to us about what is happening with the BrailleSense product. If anyone can put Tyler’s mind at rest, or if you agree with Tyler, then please be in touch, 864-60-Mosen is my number for the listener line in the United States and firstname.lastname@example.org. Wouldn’t it be great if we had one repository that we could go to for all things accessible Windows when it comes to software applications?
It’s a pretty bold endeavor, but that is what is being aimed for with this new project. That’s one of the things that we’ll talk about when I’m joined by Michael Lauf. You’re in Indiana still, aren’t you? Aren’t you in Evansville, Indiana?
Michael Lauf: There about, yes.
Jonathan: See, I’ve got a good memory. You go way back because I think the first time I heard of you was when you were doing a disability-related talk show called Handi–Talk and you were dabbling in all sorts of things like real audio, all kinds of stuff like that back in 1999?
Michael: Yes. I got the bug. I think when I got my Windows 95 computer in ’97. I heard real audio. I’d had dreams up to that point of listening to radio in that time during the power line. Anyway, yes, we did Handi–Talk. We did work for a company called Tech Talk broadcasting and we broadcast in real audio over a dial-up modem. We were pushing the envelope just as you were and playing with every voice chat technology out there and having meetings and recording them and oh, my God, just so many different phone programs.
Jonathan: That was the era of all sorts of phone programs like Buddy Phone. I remember Buddy Phone and people used to call it buggy phone because sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. There was this thing called Internet phone from a company called Vocal tech. There was an open-source one. What was that thing called, that open source one? Have an X in it?
Michael: I don’t know. I remember Vox chat, Vox phone, FireTalk. Of course Microsoft Net meeting, I think was the very first one I played for one-to-one–
Jonathan: Netmeeting! God.
Michael: Wow. There’s so many out there.
Jonathan: That was a fun time because it was the .com bubble, so there were all these startups thinking that they were going to make billions and some of them did but lost it pretty quickly again as well. There were so many of these free solutions springing up. Did you get involved, I think, in what eventually became broadcast.com or something like that? I think that was a Mark Cuban’s project.
Michael: My involvement there, Jonathan was actually, I got threatened by Mark Cuban who bring out the legal beagles if I didn’t remove my website, it had direct links to radio stations that were streaming online because I made a mistake of sharing it with someone that was an employee of, I think it started as AudioNet, audio.net, and then became broadcast.com.
Just friendly if you can overlook the legal beagles thing, but I wish maybe then I could have didn’t know what the man was going to become. Maybe I should have formed a better partnership with him, but that was my beginning into collecting streaming radio stations. It was before they were quite as generic as they are today. They certainly still had formats and stuff, but at least then each market was still unique. We had a lot of fun doing that.
Jonathan: I remember now, I knew there was some connection with you and broadcast.com and I couldn’t remember what it was, but I actually remember. I was running an email list then called the PC audio list, and it’s where all the blind people who were really interested in this stuff used to hang out. We used to talk about things like Winamp and the latest version of RealAudio Player, or Real media player and Windows Media and how to stream. It was fun. When that happened, when he got really aggressive with you, he actually subscribed to the PC audio list. I don’t know if you remember this, he subscribed to it to justify himself.
Michael: I didn’t know that, but yes, I know a lot of people went after him. I understood it and I just removed those links, AudioNet, I just linked to the actual webpage for each format, and just- because I contacted my ISP at that point, I didn’t have a dedicated website and I realized they weren’t going to stand behind me. I had one of those /tildermikelauf collections of webpages and so forth, but a lot of people got irate with him, and they stood up. It was a very interesting and a few others reached out and communicated with him, but an interesting time.
Jonathan: The fact that he was willing to front foot it and actually defend himself was interesting. It was a good time because we were pushing the boundaries. The few of us who were doing this at the time, we were really pushing the envelope and trying new things. Do you have a radio background?
Michael: Yes, I have an associate two-year degree in radio-television broadcasting, although they didn’t let me touch the cameras. I worked for nine years including two years as music director and another two years as program director, which at that point I did both at what was then WRTB FM 106.5, about 40 miles from where I currently live and we are 50 kilowatt FM.
That was top 40. Although we added more oldies, I think, then top 40 stations did. That was in the era of ’84 to ’93. That’s right when radio went into automation when someone showed me a computer, same size as the one sitting on my desktop could run a radio station. I did that a little while. They had software called digital DJ was the first one that I worked with.
It wasn’t quite accessible, but you learned- you had three-digit values to perform different functions. I remember I got a copy of ASAP and I installed it on there. Then I did a break and it was so advanced that it was making the audio start and stop, but it was very accessible. I know people who did work in radio and they were always blamed. If anything went wrong, their speech, their screen reader was blamed even if it wasn’t the problem.
Jonathan: It’s still the case today, I think to some degree, but man, some of those early automation systems were horrible. Even before computers came along, there were some very elaborate automation systems. We’ve actually talked a little bit about that on the show over the years and some of them, when they went wild, they really went wild man.
Michael: That’s why we have a great appreciation for Station Playlist studio and all that it can do. Someone reached out to me the other day and said, “Hey, we can make virtual DJ work,” but it was a real hack. You had to install two other pieces of software and you couldn’t use anything newer than 8.1. That’s the kind of stuff I’m dealing now with my new website is taking software as a hobby and what do I share with the public and what defines accessible when we can talk about all that in a little bit but [inaudible 00:54:46] crazy stuff
Jonathan: I know that you did a stint on ACB radio interactive, like half the world. That was really interesting, and people went into various projects and that kind of thing. What have you been doing in the intervening years?
Michael: Oh my, that was 20 years ago on this.
Michael: I did it. That was my first music show. Before that I did Handi–Talk, it was an actual talk show about disability issues and I wish then had the kahunas to just say, “I want to specifically talk about blindness, but I thought we were just getting this out.” I thought it was going to be a big broadcast network, but a few people ran off with the money that they raised for the project. Let’s see, over the last 20 years, I worked quite a bit for the better business bureau. A lot of consumer and business advocacy, did some podcasts.
I started the SeroTalk podcast, ran that from 2008 to 2011 and I began building websites with WordPress in 2012. I’ve been doing that for the last 10 years and now I’m semi-retired and that is my bread and butter to do websites. I have a lot of, or at least a few affiliates for both ACB and NFB states and some radio stations, and a few other unique projects.
Jonathan: I think it is really important that we talk about and record some of this history because the things that we were all doing back then. You and me and a few other people, it was pioneering because we really were pushing the envelope pretty hard there with dial-up modems and streaming through various servers and that kind of thing. It was fun. It was exciting. You were trying things to see what worked and some of it was pretty inventive to make it all go.
Michael: I remember, I think one of my first talk shows, I didn’t receive my new equipment in time and I literally had a microphone pointing down at a speakerphone, let in a little Panasonic speakerphone. We had a service called Webley. It was a toll number and up to 99 people could join in on the call, but it was Java access. I had to trust someone else. There was only one episode where I had an interruption and we were broadcasting on satellite radio and it was very interesting to make all that stuff happen simultaneously using literally two phone lines, one to talk to people and one to stream at 33K. It’s just amazing to think about what we accomplished.
Jonathan: Much slower computers as well. I do remember you plugging Webley, you must have had a contra deal with them because you used to plug them pretty regularly.
Michael: Our tech talk broadcasting did. I don’t know what happened to them, but that was a pretty cool service. Now you have all kinds of conference options, but back then and have a toll-free number.
Jonathan: We used a thing called spider phone for blind line for a while, and that was a similar conferencing option, but I did a big bit of research to find out what was the most accessible of the options. I struck gold with spider phone because it was just standard HTML, and you could bring up the list of links, or search on the page for what you were looking for. You could find each phone number displayed there as a hyperlink, and just click it to bring them to air as it were. It was designed for audio conferencing for business meetings, but we were able to just use it for this application of a global call and talk show.
Michael: Remember you doing ACB radio? Sunday evening events live with spider phone.
Jonathan: Yes, boy.
Michael: It’s pretty amazing.
Jonathan: Oh it was fun times. Anyway, sounding like a couple of old men reminiscing about their misspent youth, or something, but you are still doing a lot of interesting things. I did want to focus on this very ambitious project. In a way, it does remind me of some of the things you were doing in the ’90s, because just as you did back then that series of pages where you were trying to collate easily accessible links to streams, what you’re now doing is trying to put together, or you have put together a repository for people who want to access windows related software. Can you tell me about that and what it does and how you got the idea to do this?
Michael: They actually started in 2012. I was really wanting to expand my ability to do websites, but they weren’t looking too pretty. I was writing pages by hand and I said, “Let’s use a content management system.” We took WordPress and I got the domain name, laufware.com. Really what I’ve got now has been there for 12 years in a very crude form initially because I just linked to software that I use and just basically wrote whatever Winamp or a Notepad++ and that’s it, no descriptions, nothing just did it to teach myself the basics.
Forgot about it. It was getting 100 hits a day for a while. People from Microsoft were coming by and seeing what I documented as being accessible. A lot of it still worked, but I have to give credit to you, Jonathan. You said something and I don’t know why it just struck a nerve. This is something I thought about doing for a few years. It just laid in the back of my brain cells, but you said something about if each of us just contributed a little bit of our talent and skills, how much better we could make the world. I started thinking about how people, they’re members of ACB or NFB or some organization, and they rely on that organization to give them direction of where to put their efforts and that’s okay. I thought how much we could do individually and what one thing I could do since I was already there, I collect software, I’d been doing that for quite a while, so I said, “Let me just take this laufware.com,” and Lauf or also can be pronounced Lauf, L-A-U-F, is a German word which means to run, so I thought, “Software to run your computer.”
I just took all the software and broke it down into categories and tried to provide some basic description as to what this software does. We have software for editors, and there’s some very interesting text and HTML editors that I’ve found. The process of doing this and sharing it with the public, I’ve done more research and found new tools.
One of my things is portable applications. It’s a software that you don’t have to first install, and I put about 50 of them up there and it’s amazing. These are things you can take if you want to work on someone else’s computer or, and I made a top 40 software cat of guard that some of my favorites are what I think some of the best software for doing different things, whether it’s the importance of backing up your computer or screen readers or text editors.
We just build it out. Right now, we have 28 categories. My plan is to expand it to about 40 categories and a few of the highlights that I haven’t mentioned yet I think would include, I built a keyboard shortcuts page. Right now it links to about 52 different programs that a lot of people– That was an idea I got the first day that I launched which has only been about a week and a lady called me up from Houston and we were talking about it and I’d already had a few and I thought, “This is awesome.”
In the process, I found a website called shortcutworld.com and that’s a wealth you should add that to your resources for useful keyboard shortcuts, for anything that I haven’t included. I just thought it was important to put together all known accessible Windows software. Again, accessible, that comes under a weird definition, what is accessible? Who knows?
People call me out enough, I might change it to usable software, but we just went forward with it. I’m just throwing stuff out. The response has been overwhelming. I am very impressed. What I really hope is that people will take the time and use the form to submit and get me additional information because that helps me know where to go with it. People suggest other software. I’m just one person. I know many people are using things that I just haven’t heard of, or maybe I have heard of and just haven’t thought to include just yet. If you don’t like what you see today, it is constantly growing.
Another thing that folks have really got wild about is something I made a radios page, but what this does, there’s something called SDR software-defined radio where it uses– you basically buy a box that basically receives the digital signals, all the RF, and then your computer does all the conversion. We found something called Kiwi SDR. I’m not sure why it’s called Kiwi, I don’t know if it came from your area or what but– [crosstalk]
Jonathan: It might. Might have come from here. Yes.
Michael: Kiwi SDR and these are radios that you can actually listen to, but also tune the dial. Right now they’re not covering FM and most of us would like to be able to play around more with FM, but I know the capabilities there, I just don’t see people doing it. Hopefully, I can get involved and make that change, make it happen.
Jonathan: This is really interesting because a couple of years ago, two or three years ago, Bonnie and I were talking because she loves to talk [laughs] and she was saying, “I wonder what’s on the short waveband now?” We ended up buying one of these Tecsun portable radios, one of these world band receivers that mimics the radios of the days of yore, when you could punch in a frequency and store them on the radio.
I looked on the web for receivers that you could still buy in this area and I found this stuff and you can actually go to different websites and say, choose a location in Europe. Then you just type in the frequency that you want. You’re right, they tend to be from say 150 kilohertz up to 30 megahertz or so. You type in that frequency and just tune around the band and some of them have super-duper large antennas bringing in all sorts of signals.
Michael: You are correct. That’s why I have that right now at laufware.com/radio. I put a few direct radios, US-based and I even program them so that they automatically tune to a specific frequency. I have a feeling people are starting to use that to listen to baseball since it started in the states.
Jonathan: [laughs] Are you going to get pinged for that again?
Michael: I think it’s perfectly legal. From my understanding of all laws, radio and television, it is okay to rebroadcast your physical– you just can’t technically allow them recorded, although these radios can be recorded. Our motto I think is to ask for forgiveness rather than permission because you’ll never get that, but as far as I know, it’s perfectly legal.
You can tune these radios and it’s neat. I listen in the UK like late afternoon here and it’s the evening and you can hear stations throughout Europe for the proximity. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of people are up there playing around with it. I put a paragraph to try to explain how to use it, but you go to these pages and it lands you in the frequency box, you type in, and then you can hit the letter A to go into AM mode or narrow mode, and you could do sideband, upper lower. You can even do CW, whatever your passion.
If you have a ham license, you can even start playing around with transmitters and talking to people around the world. It’s an amazing technology. I bought a little USB dongle for about $29. It goes, I think from 100K up to 2 gigahertz, it’s not the best reception.
The problem I’m having Jonathan is this stuff is really not friendly in Windows as far as the software to program it, to stream because most of it’s Linux and it works with an Icecast server and then you get it all configured, and then people can tune your radio dial, or if all of your slots are filled, they can actually listen to what someone else is listening to.
It’s a pretty cool technology and I look forward to playing around with a raspberry pie or taking one of my laptops and converting it over to Linux and building it out because I really would love, it would be so cool to just tune in to a little box in your house and listen to FM radio in Wellington, I don’t know how exciting that is, but–
Jonathan: Yes. [laughs]
Michael: I hear you. I hear you, but different parts of the– I think what I’m interested now are some of the low power stations that are on in the US and there’s some AM stations that are– they get the translators on FM. There are a few– I live in an area now where there’s some small-town morning radio shows that are actually live and you never know what you’re going to hear when people call in. There’s still a little bit of interesting radio out there to play around with, or you could even do TV, HDTV audio, or something. A lot of folks like it, I see the numbers going up quite a bit for that particular page,
Jonathan: As well as the USB dongle that you would have to get, I presume then there is a socket on that USB dongle that you connect antennas to both AM and FM. How does that work because obviously, right by the computer, you’re going to get all sorts of RF there?
Michael: Yes. I think the defaults on them is 50 ohms. Some of them have multiple antennas. Like I said, this was a dumb little card for $29. Some of the more powerful ones are about 200 to 300. This actual Kiwi SDR is something that plugs directly into your router.
Jonathan: Oh wow.
Michael: It itself will not go above 30 megahertz so FM is never going to happen on that device, but you plug into your router, hook up your antenna and you can control it through your PC, but it doesn’t connect directly to your PC. That’s why some of the radios, like you said, sound like crap because it’s sitting right next to the router and it’s just full of noise but some people have pretty elaborate dipoles set up outside and you can get amazing stations in all directions.
Jonathan: Yes. If you do it properly, it’s sensational. If you don’t, it’s going to be pretty disappointing. I did, as I say, find them as a user a couple of years ago, but didn’t get interested enough to look further at how people were doing this. You’re essentially collecting websites where these are available. Is that right?
Michael: The QESCR, there’s really only two websites, but there is a few hundred radios between each. One, you may have to scroll through a table and it’s verbose, but you just scroll down that column and see all the different stations and where they are broadcasting from. I put a few just to get people started in larger markets like Chicago and New York and program the five or six top talk and news stations.
I like the news-only stations.The bit of AM is still worth listening to. We’ve done that and of course, St. Louis, because I grew up in that market so I like to know what’s going on there, but so we’ll build that out. Again, people take time to send me emails or use the contact form and let me know what they’re interested in, like someone requested weather radios. There’s some folks that love to just tune and listen to NOAA weather feeds. I find that interesting, but–
Jonathan: When you buy one of these radios from whatever brand that you choose, is it a little bit like SHOUTcast or Icecast at least used to be where if you set up a stream, you could optionally choose to list it on a directory. Is it how these things work that you can optionally publish your radio on a directory for the company that you’ve bought into?
Michael: Yes. Kiwi SDR has that capability where you can elect to anytime you come online, it is shared and it will show up on these two pages that I link to laufware.com/radio, and then you could see those radios. There’s another technology, I think it’s just called WebSDR, but it is definitely Linux-based. You have to write the guy and ask for the software. I think I’ll do that when I get Linux but it’s not just publicly available.
He wants to make sure that people who want the software are going to actually do something with it, so I’m just going to say, “Well, I’ll try if I can. If I can make it work and it’s accessible with Orca or whatever we need to use on Linux to make it do its thing then I’ll be interested in seeing if we can make that work and actually putting up FM or just all kinds of frequencies, letting people tune the whole band.”
Now, visually people can see this big oscilloscope of all the frequencies and they can literally see which stations are strong, which to me that would use a lot of bandwidth. I’d rather have more individual tuners and people being able to just listen to what they want but that’s part of the functionality and the allure of it. What these radios can do, Jonathan, is some of them they can cover like the one unit I was looking at that set you back about $300.
It can cover, they call it slices but you could cover 10 megahertz of the band. In other words, you could have 50 different FM frequencies, you could program and anyone could tune in and monitor all of those stations or you could have 50 different people just tune randomly, whatever they want to listen to on the device.
Jonathan: Yes, that was my next question actually, was that if somebody’s listening to WLS or something in Chicago, I used to love the PAMS Jingles that they had for WLS. Oh my God, I listened to those old PAMS Jingles it was amazing. If someone’s listening to that using one of these radios, and then somebody else comes on, can they change the channel on you? How many concurrent frequencies and streams can go on at once on these things?
Michael: Some of them I think could go up to about 40. I’m told that most of these radios are only doing three or four but I think some of them can go as high as 40 from what I’ve read. It just depends on how you program. Like I said, if you specify which frequencies the radio could tune then you might have more people or you could hone in. You’re right, back in ’98, I played with them, and right, someone would come along and change the channel on you.
This doesn’t work that way. You have control of the radio and they’re pretty liberal. It’ll let you say on there for at least four hours. It’s a lot better than used to be, it’s worth– people want to play with it again. I was trying to find just different perspectives on the events going on in the Ukraine, of course, I found radios in Poland and everything, but of course, I don’t speak the language so it doesn’t help me in that regard.
It is interesting to hear things from Canada in Australia and just different news and just where they talk about current events. United Arab Emirates, it’s an interesting place for radio actually.
Jonathan: I don’t know whether it’s just our location here in New Zealand or whether it’s just that we’ve got too much RF going on but with the portable radio that we bought and I got a little antenna rigged up as well with it, there’s really not much of anything going on shortwave anymore. I did actually pick up the shortwave service of radio in New Zealand which is serving an important function because it’s broadcasting to some South Pacific countries. If they have a major weather event, then radio New Zealand may be all they’ve got to get news and information pertinent to that weather event. Is it different in your part of the world? In North America, is shortwave anymore active?
Michael: Well, it depends on the atmospheric conditions but yes, at times it is. A lot of the stations have gone off the air but they have tools now that you can use, like I said, and I’d like to find a way that the blind community could see these visual representations of the frequency spectrum and see which frequencies are active that way. These radios, you can tune by 9 or 10 kilohertz and just go through and find what’s going on.
It really just depends on the time of day. There’s not as many but yet in certain ways there are, you just have to– there are tools now, and I don’t spend a lot of time with it but there are tools to help when different entities are broadcasting and display all that in a grid that–
A lot of these radios have presets on the top of the webpage, so they automatically program to certain channels that they think people might want to listen to so you can just press space bar on those buttons. Essentially, you go to one of these radios you’re in edit box, you can type in a frequency, you have to down arrow about 12 times, and there’s a button that says “mute” because a lot of times they come on muted by default and you unmute that.
Then there’s hotkeys built in. Sometimes you can alt lift arrow or alt right arrow and move the thing by 5 kilohertz or alt up arrow down arrow. Someone told me V and shift V to lower the volume. I didn’t know about that one, so I like sharing it with people and they help find little things that I haven’t discovered.
I just think people would play with it and maybe Bonnie would really like that because you can get the radios all over the globe. Like I said, I tuned into New Zealand, I think it was Auckland and I tuned a dial and it was one– all these different stations playing the same oldies network, so it was kind of generic.
Michael: I was hoping for better from NZ.
Jonathan: Well, what happened here was that the radio market got incredibly deregulated. You used to have to go through quite a protracted process. I think a bit like the FCC where you would have to apply for a license, but then what happened was that anybody could buy a frequency and that meant that it was difficult to keep radio stations afloat because there were so many of them we actually have in Auckland I believe it is, more radio stations per head of population than any other country in the world. Because of that, a lot of them have gone automated and pretty dodgy really.
I’m not surprised at that reaction but another thing I was thinking about is that if there could be some third party app for the blind community that was written, maybe there’s an API for all of these things that some clever developer could leverage so that they could make accessible this info that you’re talking about where there is a carrier on a frequency transmitting something talk or music and you could browse to it.
Michael: Yes. I think there’s more activity there on the Android side, but I know even iOS on the iPhone, I could actually tune the radios but you can’t quite swipe. You have to– things are in a couple of rows but you’re right to actually be able to know what the physical frequency spectrum or– I’m going to spend some time and write some of these folks and because I don’t see why there’s no technical reason, they couldn’t make a feature that would just jump to these specific places with strong signals.
Maybe that’s one way that people could quickly hone in like the next AM frequency or the next lower sideband or whatever that’s showing a strong signal or above a certain level. They’re very configurable and maybe that capability’s there and I’m just not aware of it yet, so I would welcome folks to go play with it and figure out, experiment.
Jonathan: As we talk, I realize that we haven’t given the URL for this website yet so, and we’ll do it several times but where do people go?
Michael: Well, like I said, my jumping-off point, my website is laufware.com, L-A-U-F, as I say, loud and usually funny W-A-R-E.com, laufware.com. They can go there because I can’t tell you they’re, it’s a long URL. Something like VE3 SDR. I can’t recall of the top of my head but you can get the links from my website, laufware.com/radio, and go and have a play with it. I think some folks will really enjoy it.
Jonathan: Yes. I’m sure. A lot of people listening to this show will enjoy it. I like the way that you’ve turned your last name into an acronym. I need to think about that. That’s really cool. Loud and usually funny. What else have you got on that website because I know we had a list of things that you’ve made available on this website?
Michael: Well, one we have a podcast page I put about 36 podcasts are either created by or for, pretty much by blind and low vision community. I say for because there’s one particular one, it’s called iOS Today and that’s– they mentioned accessibility and use of voiceover and so forth, so we included it. That podcast page and of course right now Mosen At Large is listed number one. I don’t know when I start my podcast because I just set up an account at Pinecast. I might have to move you down a notch.
Jonathan: Oh, well fair enough and who can blame you?
Michael: Oh, well maybe I’ll just not put a number on myself. I’ll be 0, 0, 0 or something. Anyway, we have that podcast page, people can go there and listen. Like I mentioned, the keyboard shortcuts, I got pretty excited putting that together. It’s something so simple that I hadn’t thought about and I just added Google and Microsoft pages because there’s so many Google services and you can hone in on that and of course Microsoft, I didn’t know, they changed the name from Office 365 to Microsoft 365 or maybe I did and just didn’t pay attention.
I honed in on that and of course one of the things I’m starting to add a news category, so I have about six posts there but eventually I plan to go through and take each piece of software and create a blog post specifically for that because one thing I’ll share with the public those of you who do websites and webpages, you take that first 50 words and really think about what you want to say. That’s what Google will index actually 55 words or the first 400 characters and if you take the time, you can get great results on Google and people can find out about your website at no cost.
We have categories for editors, that’s a big one I see. There’s some cool stuff. I found a piece of software in Italy called BIBLOS, it’s spelled B-I-B-L-O-S but it’s pronounced bibos and it is a text editor with Braille translation and OCR. There’s a free option for folks who want to do– it’s a second piece of software you install but it works very well. We have browsers I link to the six accessible browsers, Brave and Chrome and Edge and Firefox, so I encourage folks to use at least one of the five, what we call in the chromium family. I myself, I’m a big fan of Brave just for the privacy and security but use one of those, Brave, Chromium, Edge, Opera even is accessible and then probably have Firefox on the side because it’s a different technology that they’re using. That way you can get to any page on the web. Wow, where do I go? There’s so many categories on there. There’s audio players right now showing VLC and Winamp. We’ve got a couple pieces of radio software, not 100% accessible, but they’re doable and they’re usable.
Jonathan: That begs the question, what do you do in terms of setting a criterion for whether you include this software package or not. Some people will tolerate something being a little bit difficult to use but manageable if you know what you’re doing if you’re a good screen reader user and other people will find that difficult because they don’t find screen readers terribly intuitive. What kind of bar do you have to set there?
Michael: Well, first of all, I have to be able to use it, but you raise a good point. It is something that I’m dealing with in going from my own collection as a hobby to what I share with the public, but I say latest versions and that’s important because like I said, someone approached me about a way to make Virtual DJ work with a screen reader, but it requires two add-ons and it’s a version of Virtual DJ it’s not even supported anymore. I told a guy, “No, I can’t promote this because the latest version is not accessible and your links aren’t quite working right.” I did a blog post about it. I showed people where the website is if they want to play with it because some folks could argue that station playlists with JAWS without the Hartgen scripts leaves a little bit to be desired.
I basically test everything that I put up there. I have to be able to use it, but you are right because there’s things I’ll give you a great example was screen sharing software that people can use to record their screen. Maybe they want to make a YouTube video or they want to train someone on how to use a piece of software. Well, a lot of those are hidden and so you could launch the program and not see anything, but you have to go down to your system tray and right-click, and then you have your options for it and you can set what the hotkey is or what part of the screen it’s going to record.
Is that accessible? Most would probably say not because it’s not intuitive the most how to make that happen or is it accessible if Michael Lauf takes the time and writes the paragraph or two to tell you what you need to do to make that happen. You are right. That is the one thing that since I’m only in my second week of making this public, I have to contend with what is accessible. I suppose, like I said, if people really call me out on it and say, “You’re calling this accessible and I just don’t agree with you,” then we might change the verbiage to usable.
Right now I think most people get the gist of it, that it basically is going to work with a screen reader. It either has menus that people can pull down to get to the functions or we know the hotkeys, or it’s at least a piece of software that you can tab through and with combo boxes and make it work.
Right now, if I can’t use it, I’m not going to post it and I’ll just have to make other decisions based on what happens if software breaks in the future or someone comes back and really contests my statement of something being accessible, but that hasn’t happened yet, so we’ll see.
Jonathan: It’s your site anyway.
Michael: Exactly, That’s my thought.
Jonathan: The judge’s decision is final.
Michael: You are correct. It’s my call and if you disagree, then you can create your own site and promote what you want to.
Jonathan: What about the issue of tech support? I think one of the dangers you may have is that as this site becomes more widely known and people flock to it and it sounds like they should, for this repository, suddenly people hold you responsible for providing them tech support for everything that’s listed there.
Michael: Yes. That is a concern of mine so my thoughts are, one, to build a resources page that could even be things like Aira and Be My Eyes. You are right, At what point do I say, “Look, that’s not–” Well, a great example was I added one area that I have no knowledge or really interest in and accessible games on the Windows venue. I reached out to someone and she gave me a link to eight websites. I specifically wrote on that page that this is not something that I utilize. Please contact the respective websites.
I’ll cross that bridge when it comes there but I think it’s going to give me ideas, how to do resources. I’m open to doing YouTube videos. I’m going to start the Laufware podcast and what I plan to do there is my plan is to probably do a weekly Zoom Room where people can come in and do Q&A. I can have that section and then review either one specific piece of software or maybe a category like we were talking about screen sharing or backup software.
Just to explain to people and offer that level of support but you’re right. If things get out of hand, I’ll just have to say, “Well, here’s the resource or here’s the website, here’s their email address, here’s the phone number.” You’re right. That may be the next thing is to have a resources page or contact information relating to the software. What I do right now is I link people to the download page. I don’t do direct downloads so I think I have one from Winamp because that’s in flux right now. I hear there’s a new Winamp that may come out with the– actually, is like a music service like Spotify or something. We’ll see if that actually happens.
Jonathan: Yes. They’ve been promising that for a while.
Michael: Yes. We’ll just see where it goes. I don’t know. I want to help people and I learn a lot from talking to people. I’ve already met a few interesting people, musicians and broadcasters so I think that’s what I like about it. I love learning from different people, but I will have to make better decisions or more efficient decisions sometimes about testing some of the software. I spend a lot of time on that Virtual DJ, and another piece of software, but I’m going to have to say, “No, it’s not accessible if that changes, let me know.”
Jonathan: The concept of a podcast for this sounds like a great idea. I look forward to that developing. One of the cultural things that I think is different about Windows from say, iOS or Android, is that there are some apps that haven’t been updated for a decade or more that are still really good apps. Sometimes I hear people dismiss those apps. Winamp is an example of this. Sometimes people go, “What?” when I say to them, I’m still using Winamp. I love Winamp.
There’s not a thing that I need to do that it doesn’t do for the purpose that I put it to. It plays MP3 and M4A and FLAC, and a whole range of formats. I press enter on a file in File Explorer, it plays it. It also streams quite a wide range of streaming media formats still. I use Winamp, even though the version that I have, gosh, it’s very old now because it works. That’s a bit of a different thing, isn’t it? Compared with iOS, where if you see an app that hasn’t been updated in the store for say two or three years, you might think twice about downloading or buying it.
Michael: That is true. I’m still a big fan of Winamp 5.666. I thought it was the most stable version ever made.
Jonathan: That’s what I have too. Yes.
Michael: Yes, but I probably go back and actually link that on my website and take my chances because that’s just hard to find and I’m open to that. Right now, I really try to stay on the latest software that is currently being developed, but you’re right. There are a few exceptions things that I haven’t found that work better. I’m going to continue to link to those until that situation changes or the legal beagles get involved but I agree with you. There’s just certain software that has not been expanded upon. There’s certain things I can’t wait. I hope someone will bring to my attention. I just haven’t seen yet.
Now, one thing I use, I don’t know if you use this, it’s called Search Everything and it is an amazing tool for finding files on your computer. It’s real simple. There’s just, you open it up and there’s an edit box. You type what you’re looking for, you tab once and it displays all the files. It’s great for finding music on your machine or just any files because it’s based on the names of the files and it is amazing. I found songs I didn’t realize I had as you collect music or forget about it over time.
That is an awesome tool for DJs, but I’d like to find one that will search within documents so that I can find anything. If anyone knows of that, I would love to utilize that and add it to the website as a tool that would just index all the texts within documents.
Jonathan: It sounds like that first thing you were talking about is what I know as Everything. It’s just called Everything.
Michael: Yes, Everything.
Jonathan: Yes, and that is an amazing utility and you can also use various descriptors. Actually, I’m pretty sure that Brian Hartgen over at Hartgen consultancy has produced a tutorial to help you unlock the power of this one. It’s really good. What I did because I use this thing all the time, I’ve actually assigned its little shortcut, which brings up the edit box to Windows shift E, you see? I push Windows E for File Explorer and then Windows shift E to get into Everything and just type for what I’m looking for. It is such a wonderful app because it’s so quick.
I did have what a long time ago, you remember the days of Windows 98, where they had a find menu in the start menu you’d go to– I think you would press Windows+F and it would behave differently from how find behaves now. That would integrate and you could find text strings within files. That was just so useful when you think, “Well, what was the document where I typed a reference to this?” I had that now I can’t for the life of me, remember what that thing was called or whether it would even still work now. Can you not do that in some way with the find feature in Explorer?
Michael: Well, that’s a good question. If you can folks or let me know because it seems to search web content more than anything and maybe Jeff Bishop or someone in Microsoft land has some tricks I’m not aware of. If so I will document it. Going back to what you asked about the website about training, I think that’s one thing I’m going to really start building out.
I originally wrote it as resources and it’s hidden right now, but I want to build that out. Maybe I’ll call it training or howtos or whatever, and just start compiling that or different articles. David Goldfield posts so much great content on his email list and start integrating that content onto the website and get a better search mechanism for WordPress than I’m using right now and really build that out.
Jonathan: When I had a chat with you about what we might talk about when we got together, you mentioned that you were helping the blind community understand sleep apnea equipment and treatment options. Is that because it’s something that you’ve experienced yourself?
Michael: Yes. It’s something I want to help the community better understand as I learn it myself. What happened to me is, and again I thank you for your great podcast, helping me with Keto and better diet and that’s helped improve my energy levels, but I was also suffering from severe sleep apnea, stopping as many as 98 times per hour.
Michael: What had happened was you have to go do sleep studies in the lab and they measure you, but you get a machine and you’ve got three months to start using it 70% of the night, or you have to give it back or buy it outright, but you don’t really know the right equipment to use, the right face mask for you. It might be what they call nasal pillows. It just kind of point and blow air into your nose. That’s the ideal ways to breathe in and out through your nose, but a lot of people are mouth breathers.
Anyway, you get this device, and then they don’t really want to help you because they think you might not use it after three months. You have to be aggressive in that first 30 days and say, “Hey, this piece of mouth wear is not working for me,” and get honed in on that. What I found out just yesterday was that my condition is far worse and I need a machine that’s ASV, is what they call it.
They said, “Well, we couldn’t, even though we saw you probably need that. We couldn’t recommend it. Your insurance wouldn’t cover that until we could verify that you had tried this first.” I was hope we not die in the process. They said you recover well, but right if you stop sleeping 98 times an hour, it only takes once, right?
I want to educate people about that Adaptive Servo-Ventilation is what it stands for. Just bring people up to speed because I was finding so many other blind people had gotten CPAP machines and just quit using them. I don’t know if the issue is higher per capita in the blind community as is 24/7. I just want to really document my experience on this and share it with the community. If I can save people some time as I try to understand the system, but I’m going through it myself. I have to live and experience it and just network with people. Maybe that’s something I can come back to on a podcast or something so those are interested could come back and learn or share their personal experiences.
Jonathan: That would be interesting. In the meantime, while you’re doing that work, if people want to comment here on sleep apnea and how they’ve dealt with that and what experiences they’ve had, I’m sure that would benefit many people. You must wake up pretty tired then, right? If you are stopping breathing that often.
Michael: Yes. At times, there’s times. The machine was making it worse, it was lowering the number of times, but it was making it worse because I was not sleeping deeply and I would literally be startled awake and there’s mornings I would wake up very disoriented and even more irritable, but as I’ve used the machine I’ve acclimated and I think it does help me a little bit, even though it’s not the perfect design for what I need.
I was emotionally becoming depressed, Jonathan, because here I thought, “Oh great, I’m getting this machine. It’s going to help me. I’m going to feel better.” I wasn’t. People were just saying, “Well, you just got to use it more. You’re just not using it right or you don’t have the right equipment.”
I knew it wasn’t meeting my need. I felt vindicated yesterday. I knew it wasn’t my imagination that this tool that was supposed to change everything be the end all be all, was not.
I really do hope the new device will make the difference for me, but it really bothers me because a lot of people probably just gave up, sent their equipment back, maybe didn’t get the proper evaluation or just the right tool to use to breathe, inhale, exhale through the night. I just really worry about that. I want to promote employment. That’s one big motivators for laufware.com because when I was actually looking for work, I thought about going back into the sector of employment rather than being self-employed. I found that each position usually at five or six pieces of software that were required and the odds of all of those being accessible, just aren’t very likely.
Part of the reason I’m doing this is to find software that can specifically help with employment. One of the things I happen to stumble on was a company called Epic, up in Wisconsin that makes software to assist people work in hospitals and call centers for medical facilities. They’ve made it accessible and there’s initiatives right now to try to match jobs, healthcare-related jobs for blind folks that are interested. I know The Chicago Lighthouse is leading that project. I’ve got my hand in that and in small ways just trying to do anything I can do to help make that happen.
Jonathan: I relate in some way to what you’re saying about people telling you, you’ve just got to use the machine more. You aren’t using the machine right, or whatever, because I see this sometimes with hearing aids where you get a new set of hearing aids and you just know, especially given how long I’ve been using them, that what is on offer here is just not working and they’ve either got to tweak the programming or try something else. So often you hear people say, “Oh no, you’ve just got to give the brain time to adapt,” and all this malarkey.
People know what’s working for their own bodies and what is not. It’s interesting you talked about nose breathing because I read a book a couple of years ago now called Breathe by James Nestor. I’m pretty sure that’s spelled N-E-S-T-O-R and I just stumbled across it because I happened to be listening to a radio interview with him on our public broadcaster here in New Zealand.
I thought, “This is up my alley. This is the geeky health improvement thing I’m talking about.” I looked at this and his whole thesis is that there’s essentially a pandemic going on because people don’t breathe through their nose enough. One of the things that he suggested was that you tape your mouth shut at night. There’s actually, you can use any tape, but there are these things called sleep strips that companies like Amazon sell. They’re specifically designed to tape your mouth close. For some people, it just really scares them. The idea of taping your mouth closed so you have to breathe through your nose when you’re asleep, you’ve got no choice because your mouth is taped shut. For me, it doesn’t bother me at all. It has improved the quality of my sleep so much. I wake up feeling so much more refreshed now because I’ve done that.
Michael: Really, you bought them just like on Amazon because I’ve seen 30 strips for $10 or whatever. They didn’t seem like they were that expensive. I actually got something in my sleep equipment. It’s more of a rubber piece that will, if you adjust it right, like a headband that’ll hold your mouth shut. I still felt like I would wake up and still trying to breathe through my mouth until my muscles would engage and properly inhale.
I’ve thought about that. I’m going to try that and maybe that’ll be something a little lighter and without feeling like it’s pushing my jaw together as this band does, and see if that works. My son had mentioned that book as well. James Nestor.
Jonathan: It’s a really good book. It changed my life. Even though I think just because of intuition or necessity or whatever, I still tend to do quite a bit of mouth breathing when I’m doing things like this. When I’m not, when I’m just living my life, I’m breathing through my nose all the time now. It’s made a really positive difference to my health.
To answer your question, they are called sleep strips usually. They’re called different things and like a lot of things on Amazon lately, I’ve had a supply problem with them. Some of them just vanished off the face of the planet. I hope they come back, but I still have enough in my cupboard to get me by for now. It’s the last thing I do at night when I know I’m about to drift off, I just put the mouth strip on and it is amazing the difference that it has made. I would say that in a situation like yours, where you’ve got quite significant sleep apnea there you probably want to take some medical advice before using them.
Michael: Well, yes. As long as I think I use my machine and it’s forcing air and I’m breathing in and out through my nose, it’s forcing me to do it at night and I’ve really thought about it. Maybe I should do it at day when I’m sitting here at my desk and I don’t need to talk. I could just have one of those strips on and– but best at night. I think it would help me.
I don’t know why I’ve been reluctant to pull the trigger on it, I guess, because I’ve used a heavier piece of gear to do it and it’s made me uncomfortable. I feel like my jaws are pressed together or something and you’re right. Just wearing masks during the pandemic, some people are just more sensitive to that. You just have to acclimate and tough it out for a little bit.
Jonathan: On another note, there’s something interesting that you were mentioning to me when we were setting this up about what’s happening in Indiana relating to blind people voting accessibly via what? Electronic means in some way.
Michael: Oh, it’s a hot mess, Jonathan.
Michael: What happened was the ACB Indiana and a few other folks like in December 2020, right? They waited after the election because they didn’t want to cause problems there, but they initiated a lawsuit. On March 9th of this year, the court here in Indiana said that they have to offer some provisions because Indiana was really one of the worst in the country. Basically, what this will do and there’s one event that’s just for this May 3rd primary coming up that will allow you to have a third party of your choosing to assist you with doing your ballot from home or whatever an absentee ballot. Whereas technically before by law you had to use certified official.
Of course, they have two people who come out from the election board would come to your home and a few counties, you actually have voting machine otherwise you’re trusting these two people to do it for you. When I made initial calls during the pandemic, that was suspended. That wasn’t even an option in 2020 and they could not even guarantee that they would be of Republican and Democrat. They were basically, “You might get two people from the same party. What could possibly go wrong there?”
Anyway, this is set up to allow people to vote by email but that form is not going to be online until April 18th and some of the documents I’ve already seen have not been accessible. You’ll have to contact your county clerk and they’re recommending that you at least print out a blank document so that if for any reason it doesn’t work, you can take that into the clerk and have it voided so that you can still vote.
I tend to go to the polls even if I have to wait 15 minutes to find someone who knows how to get the machine set up. I feel like I need to do that to assist with that endeavor. I think folks can also fax but it brings up a bigger issue of the lack of accessible documents. I think one of the contributions I’m going to make in this project, I’m going to reach out to the governor’s office has appointed a director of diversity, equity, inclusion much longer title but that’s essentially what she’s doing.
I’m going to reach out and see if we can’t rattle some cages and see if we can just do something to ensure that all documents created by the state of Indiana for the residents of Indiana are made to be accessible. That’s what I’m hoping for. I don’t know what will get done in time of this election but right now I’m very concerned but there’s some brilliant people involved.
I really hope this works for folks and I encourage listeners of this in Indiana if you’re okay with doing it, using one of those methods to try to make it available for others, I must be honest. Once I had in 2010 when they did the SeroTalk Podcast Scott Rakowski came on and did a demo of voting over the phone or online. I know you have something like that in New Zealand as well. Once you see that, it’s so primitive the way that it’s done here in the states. We have millions of transactions every day and people paying their utilities and there’s just no technical reason why this can’t be done and be accessible. This is the world we live in here in the US.
Jonathan: It’s funny you say that because as part of the Were With U projects, we were talking about fundraising and how this works. People started talking about checks and where to send checks into. I had completely forgotten about checks because in New Zealand, we’ve abolished them and everything’s done electronically or over the phone, you just give your bank account number, and woosh the money goes from one place to another place. That was interesting to me but can I come back on the email thing? Email is any computer geek will know so you will know this. It’s an inherently insecure method so how are they assuring authenticity there?
Michael: I don’t know all the details but what I understand is you have to download a PDF. You’re going to have to A, hope that this document is accessible and B you’re going to have to use something that could edit PDF files. Then you’re also going to have to download and sign a form. I just don’t know how this is going to work. It’s so new and I just see so many potential problems that I’m very concerned about it. I’m not quite as politically active as you are but I do want to assist with this. I just don’t know till I see this form on April 18th, I’m just very concerned but believe you me, if it’s not usable, I’ll be one of the first ones making noise.
Jonathan: That’s very interesting. We were going to have a trial here with local government elections of online voting and really what blew that up was the 2016 election in the United States. [laughs] Suddenly people got really nervous about this and said, “No, we’re not going to do this. We’re not ready for it but the bastion of this stuff as I understand it is actually Estonia the former Soviet Republic and they have got this incredible E-democracy initiative and a lot of things go online there including voting.
Michael: I wasn’t aware what the status of New Zealand was. As far as I know, nothing’s changed in Australia. I’d have to reach out to Scott Rakowski again to see if things have changed in that regard. I would assume you’d have to have something on a country level right? Most countries are doing things on a state-by-state or province-by-province circulation.
Jonathan: I actually read a couple of weeks ago, I think in a tweet from Blind Citizens Australia that one state I think it might be New South Wales is turning off their voice-based voting system. Those technologies were only ever available just for blind people. We’ve got that here too for our general elections so that will be the equivalent of your federal elections. What happens there though is it’s very much humanly done. You have to register as a blind or low vision or otherwise print disabled voter.
What happens then is that they send you in some form it could be text or email or they’ll call and I think a code that you then have to keep a record of. When you call in when it’s time to cast your vote, they don’t know who you are because you just give this code and then there’s an authentication phrase or question that you have to answer. Then somebody an actual human will take you through the voting choices and mark your physical ballot for you.
Then they will transfer you to another person who has been handed the ballot and reads the ballot back to you. These are the candidates and the parties that you voted for. Then they actually put the ballot in the ballot box. It’s all done by humans but it does mean that blind people can vote fully accessibly without involving a friend or family member. Sometimes the low-tech way might be the best way.
Michael: Oh, that is true and there are certain states that are advancing and doing things. We have a company that offers forms online that form itself is accessible but again still you have to have the means to print it out and you have to be able to sign. That’s been a big issue here Jonathan is the signatures. If they don’t think your signature as a blind person is good enough, then you will be disqualified based on that. That is a challenge for all of us. I just recently had someone help me improve my signature greatly and I assume if it was compared to something signed a couple of years ago, they’d say, “This is not valid.” That’s been a big point of contention.
Jonathan: All sorts of interesting stuff going on and I can’t believe how quickly time has flown talking to you about all sorts of things. It’s really good because you were always interested in stuff. You’re a naturally curious person so it’s great to know that you’re still actively doing all these things. As we wrap, give us a final reminder of where people can go to avail themselves of this new windows resource and perhaps a little bit beyond windows that you’ve put together.
Michael: If you could visit laufware.com that’s L-A-U-F-W-A-R-E.com please use the form to submit software that you’d like to let us know about because I really want this to be a community effort. That’s really what I’m hoping for is that people will reach out. I would love to eventually cover other operating systems. I would love to have other people who might like to be writers or reviewers. What I really love to see if we could get the means would be to have annual accessibility awards.
We could actually reach out to software developers and thank them and at least acknowledge. Some of them made it accessible without even knowing it and others definitely made specific efforts after someone reached out for them to do so. Please visit laufware.com, L-A-U-F-W-A-R-E.com, and give me your input. I listen to every comment and most of it is deployed but everything is listened to.
Jonathan: That is fantastic. It’s such a buzz catching up with you after all this time. Thank you for all the contributions that you have made to our community over the years which are considerable, and we’ll look forward to keeping in touch. Thanks for coming on the podcast.
Michael: Thank you for all that you do for uniting the blind community. You’ve done so much and believe me, we need that. We need that unity more than ever and this With U project is awesome. I can’t wait to hear all the great talent that has come together. I thank you personally for everything that you do for the community.
Jonathan: I love to hear from you so if you have any comments you want to contribute to the show drop me an email or 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 number in the United States 864-606-6736.
Mosen At Large Podcast.
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