Podcast Transcript: Mosen at large episode 181, Braille HID expectations and complexity, a demo of Sonos Voice Control, and a joyous personal announcement
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen, this is Mosen At Large. The show that’s got the blind community talking. This week, setting expectations around the complexity of Braille HID. A demonstration of the new Sonos voice control feature. On a personal note, I have a super exciting announcement.
Welcome to this episode 181, episode 182 is not too far away, actually. It’s possible that you might be listening to episode 181, after, you listen to 182. That’s because episode 182 is a special devoted to the WWDC keynote from Apple. This is where we finally learn what’s coming up in the next versions of Apple’s operating systems including iOS, tvOS, macOS, and watchOS.
Right after the keynote has concluded, we will be getting together, recording our podcast episode, and publishing it for you on the 6th of June US time. I expect we’ll be in a position to publish that at around about 5:00 PM Eastern, 2:00 PM Pacific on that day. That’ll be 9:00 AM-ish in New Zealand time on Tuesday, the 7th of June. We’ll get the transcript to you as soon as possible after that, for those who use the transcript.
I want to start on a sad note this week and pay a tribute to someone whose death I learned of this week and that is the legendary Neville Kerr in Australia. Now Neville is a name you may have heard certainly in Australia, you will have heard it. You may have heard it elsewhere around the world as well. Neville for many years hosted the Horizons program for Blind Citizens Australia or as it used to be called the National Federation of Blind Citizens of Australia. I first became aware of Neville when the internet started bringing us together in terms of the programming of a blindness nature that we could hear from around the world.
In early 2000, ACB Radio began carrying the Horizons program that he produced. He produced a phenomenal number of episodes of Horizons over the years. Because of ACB Radio, and I think also because of my role as president of the consumer organization here, I was interviewed by Neville a couple of times. I’m pretty sure one of those was in person. I know I didn’t meet Neville. I think we were geeking out over some of the gear that he was using. Because Neville produced very good quality radio in every respect, Neville loved the medium. You could tell that he loved the medium. He understood the power of what the medium could produce.
When I listened to the special extended episode of New Horizons, which is available in podcast form from Blind Citizens Australia. I was stunned by some of the audio describing that Neville was doing getting on and off trams going to buildings and taking us on what we would later in podcasting circles call a sound seeing tour. Neville was strutting his stuff and doing these things long before podcasting, and I would think the gear that he would have to use to achieve what he achieved and it was extremely high quality must have been quite large and bulky.
I’ve got this mental image in my mind of Neville with this massive backpack on him or something like that, with all of the recording equipment and high-quality microphones that he would use to do these recordings. The thing is Neville was a volunteer. He was a switchboard operator by day and he just donated a lot of his time to sharing information with fellow blind people. Neville was also an instrumental figure in the establishment of the early radio for the Print Handicapped stations as they were called then in Australia, and kept his hand in for many years. He also did his share of product demonstrations.
On the few occasions I had the privilege of meeting him and talking with him. He was always so pleasant and encouraging of the work that we were doing at ACB Radio. One of the things that I’ve always admired very much about Blind Citizens Australia is how they do honor those people who have contributed. Neville was so honored in 2003 with the receipt of the David Blyth award, which is the most prestigious award, and also this most recent episode of New Horizons is a wonderful fitting loving tribute to Neville Kerr and all that he has contributed.
Neville has left a legacy and it’s up to those of us who provide access to information in this kind of format for the blind community wherever we are in the world to build on that legacy. That is the best way that we can honor him. Thanks to Neville Kerr, for always being so willing to share to devote so much of his time so that blind people could know more things.
Over the last couple of episodes, I’ve been chronicling the debacle that was my Google tech support experience. Trying to establish for sure whether Braille HID, would be supported in the new version of TalkBack that will have Braille built-in and is compatible with Android 13. Finally, last week, we were able to confirm that no, there will not be Braille HID support in TalkBack for Android 13, as APH said there wouldn’t.
When I began covering this issue on the podcast, I mentioned that my first approach was to use some back channels. Sometimes those back channels deliver and sometimes they don’t. I absolutely respect that. Sometimes there are just situations that are so complex or risky to talk about, that people who might normally go off the record, don’t. Some of the biggest corporate entities in the world are these big mainstream technology companies and are also assistive technology companies. There is this fundamental cultural clash there. Because the way that the blind community has become used to engaging with assistive technology companies is just not the way that these large corporate entities like to engage.
For example, I have been very close to having some interviews on this podcast with some pretty significant players in some major mainstream technology companies. Where we get stuck is that their legal people, their PR people often want me to provide a list of questions. They will review those questions. They will essentially veto which ones I can ask. I will not play that game. I go back and I say to them, “I’m happy to tell you in broad terms what I want to discuss, and I’m happy to give you a commitment that I will keep to the subject matter.
What I’m not prepared to do is give you a list of questions so that you can then script a set of answers because, for one thing, it sounds stilted. People can hear when those interviews are contrived, for another, they’re not informative. What I want to do is have a conversation with people who come on this podcast. Of course, I make a list of things that I want to ask people, I think about where I’d like the interview to go. If I stick to that list, I’m not doing you, the listener any favor, what I need to be doing is listening to the answers. If somebody says something interesting, it’s my job to pick them up on that answer. Perhaps take the interview in a direction that I wasn’t expecting.
That’s the difference between a stilted scripted interview and an actual conversation. I like to think that what our listeners want is a conversation, a genuine dialogue, you can’t have that if you agree to terms that say, “We can only stick to a script.” I think that those sorts of interviews are actually nothing more than clickbait. If I tell you that I’m going to have a really significant person from the technology industry on this podcast. Sure, it might make my listener count for that episode even higher than the high numbers we normally get, but I think it would be disingenuous of me because I wouldn’t be giving you the kind of product that you have come to expect from Mosen At Large.
Sometimes you do get some of these fan-type podcasts that have interviews with people. You really don’t get much that you didn’t already know, because it becomes a bit of positive PR, there’s nothing challenging. That’s not to say that I want to bring people on this podcast to tear them apart unfairly. It’s just that we need to have a respectful frank discussion. Otherwise, I’m wasting your time. What has happened, is that because of the constraints that many people feel that they are under, people do talk to me. Some of the information that I impart to you has come from extraordinary sources, knowing that I will disclose information to you in a way that doesn’t identify where the information has come from.
It takes a long time to build that sort of trust with people. I’m very pleased to say that I do have that sort of trust with quite a few people at this point. Sometimes when I say things, it may be a bit more than speculation on my part. I say this because I want to come back to this question of Braille HID support and talk about some things that may be true. There may be quite a bit of concern in some parts of Google at the moment about the disconnect that appears to have occurred over the Braille HID issue. People have been saying and I have been repeating that Google was around the table in 2018 when the Braille HID standard was developed.
Now, if that’s the case, and I have no reason to doubt that it’s the case, then there seems to have been a disconnect between those people who made those commitments, and the people who plan what’s going in to talk back and when. You’ve got to remember that these companies are massive. They are huge organizations. It’s not surprising that sometimes you get silos in corporate entities like this. It may be true that there is some concern in Google that the Braille HID issue has somewhat overshadowed some excellent progress that is being made with Braille. Initially, the objectives for the TalkBack Braille support were fairly minimal.
The idea was let’s get things up to parity with Braille back so that at least Braille users didn’t have to have anything else to install. Once you had TalkBack up and running, you had your Braille support, it would be much easier. In Android 13, Braille support is going to be a lot better than what you can get in Braille back today so they have exceeded those initial aims and expectations.
Is a prolific Braille user who wants all the bells and whistles going to be happy? Well, no, obviously there’s the Braille HID issue, but also there are going to be no flash messages in the initial version, for example, but there are going to be a lot more commands and as we saw from the video that launched TalkBack Braille support, the commands are more conventional. They are adhering to the conventions like 1, 2, 3 cord to go to the top of a screen or a file. That is welcome.
What I can also tell you is that there is no Braille HID support in Android 13, period. I mentioned that it may work over USB. It will not. It will work in USB through Braille TTY but it will not work with TalkBack at all. Given the complexity of what is involved in making TalkBack work with Braille HID, you might be lucky to see this in Android 15. We are talking some way down the track.
Of course, with a company the size of Google, if there is sufficient pressure, you never know what might happen. This is Google. The resources at their disposal are considerable. You’d have to say, “Look, if the pressure is really on over this thing, then maybe significant resources will be thrown at the problem and we could even get it for Android 13 or Android 14. At the moment, though, with resourcing at current levels and the significance of what’s involved and making it happen, it is important to set those expectations about how long this might take.
Most of us, whether we are Braille users or not, have experienced this thing where you call up your screen reader tech support, and they will tell you it’s a problem with the application you’re trying to use or vice versa. You go to Microsoft, say, for something to do with Word, and they might say, “Well, this is a JAWS issue. You need to contact Vispero.” On and on it goes, we are getting into this situation with Braille HID because most manufacturers have gone with a foot in both camps.
QBraille supports HID, I am told, and I’m also told that Orbit supports HID with their Braille displays, but those manufacturers have also introduced backward compatibility, which means that they will work with screen readers that don’t support HID. That means that users of those devices will be able to use TalkBack Braille support in Android 13. HumanWare is the odd one out in this regard it seems and that they’ve gone all-in on HID. At the moment, if you use a Brailliant Braille display or a Mantis or a Chameleon, or one of the e-readers that have been manufactured for the national library service by HumanWare, then there’s no other option. You have to have HID or it won’t work.
Those who understand the frustration and the disconnect that appears to have occurred at Google regarding a commitment that has been made to support HID and actually getting it to people who can implement that support and make it happen are concerned that maybe they’re being hung out to dry really. Look, this is going to take some time. Surely HumanWare has the code from older devices that it could include in newer devices so that HumanWare users get backward compatibility for the period that it’s going to take for everybody to jump on the HID bandwagon.
I have reached out to HumanWare for some comment on that whether it is something that they would entertain. Of course, I will keep you informed if I get any kind of response back. While I cannot interview anybody about this issue, I have done my best to represent in the interest of fairness, what I believe to be a prevailing view internally at Google about this issue.
Automated Voice: What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down. Jonathan@mushroomfm.com. That’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroom fm.com or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.
Jonathan: Negaslov is writing in and says, “Hello, Jonathan, warm greetings from Bulgaria. I am a longtime listener, but this is my first comment on the show.” Well, welcome. That’s wonderful. “First, I will use the opportunity to thank you for being so open about different topics and so balanced on controversial subjects now on the topic. I always appreciate the new and innovative ways Apple is implementing accessibility in their products. I have been an iPhone user since 2012. My first Apple device was an iPhone 4S. It was very hard to save the money to buy it and with a few exceptions, I never regretted my switch to Apple.
I still use a working iPhone 6 and my original SE first edition. When I read the apple preview of the innovative accessibility features for iOS 16, I was thrilled to see that finally, support for my native language is coming. This is a long-awaited feature that could open the door for more new Apple users in my country. My second thought was, wait, they are using the Nuance Vocalizer voices. The only Bulgarian vocalizer voice is named Daria and it is not good quality at all. It has bad pronunciation and no way it can be called a finished product. On the contrary, it is in its infancy.
We’ve had an old voice since 2005, which works on Windows XP and Android 3 and beyond. All blind people use this voice. It is good quality and without exaggeration, it can compare to the best speech synthesizers. It is just world-class and it still serves us well. The vocalizer voice is newer and it is expected to be a better quality, but it is not. No one I know here takes this voice seriously or uses it for work. We are now at the final testing phase of two new good quality, natural-sounding Bulgarian voices created with cutting-edge technology. The project is financed by a government fund and started more than two years ago.
The development team is from the institutes of information and communication technologies at Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Some of the team members are the same people who created the synthesizer we have used for 17 years now. The Bulgarian language is not easy to learn, and creating good quality synthetic speech is not an easy job. Nuance, Microsoft, and Google offer Bulgarian voices in their portfolios but the overall quality is unsatisfactory. They are usable only as a backup, just in case. We have no UI support except for macOS or voice for Bulgarian on Apple devices until now. Now all Bulgarian users who want to use iOS should know at least one other supported language.
There are not as many multilingual blind people here. I would like to express my concerns, ask some questions and make suggestions, but I believe such a conversation could be fruitful only with the people from a higher level in the company. Even though I had reasonable experience with Apple’s accessibility support, it is a public secret that contacting the official firstname.lastname@example.org address doesn’t help solve many serious problems, at least not so fast.
I am sure, Jonathan, you still remember your serious adventures in the last years. My goal is to prevent a very serious problem before it strikes us in full force. This is what I want and I don’t want it for myself. I still can use the Russian voice to read Bulgarian. I’m doing well without Bulgarian support in Apple devices and I’m okay if there is no Bulgarian voice, but it’s not just me and I am not okay especially if the only offered Bulgarian voice is this crappy unfinished Nuance junk called Daria.
For a top-level company like Apple, who are leaders in mobile accessibility, it would be a shame, a step in the wrong direction if they break it as badly, especially if we cannot choose the voice. We prefer to read text in our own language. In iOS 15, there are about 9 or 10 US voices and the total number for all English dialects is about 20. Do you know how many voices there are for Bulgarian? None. If Apple now really offers us such crap without any other alternative, what can I say? We expect much more from such an expensive product. An older iPhone model costs much more than a minimal monthly salary through a mobile operator.
If you want to save money to buy one, it may take a year or two. When you think you are ready to buy, the new price has increased and is beyond your savings. Not to mention current inflation levels. The other option is a secondhand device, and it’s not the best choice. People are suggesting that I organize a campaign. I will try, but unfortunately, it isn’t so easy to organize as many people as I wish for a massive campaign, because we are a small market, and all blind people here, many don’t know English.
We have a phone support for Bulgaria, but again, guess what language it is in. You guessed it English, of course. I don’t believe that using the usual contact with the accessibility team will escalate the problem to a higher level. This is a policy problem, not a usual support question. Many people do want to try iOS, but the language barrier is a big obstacle. Even if they buy an iOS device, would a crappy voice present a good user experience, no way. This is not a complaint. This is a valid concern. I’m not more special than any other customer but I hope I can be a voice that brings the necessary change. It is not about me. It is for blind Bulgarians who want a good quality product.
Now, we can offer two great voices but Apple doesn’t open iOS for external speech synthesizers. Last year, there were rumors and we expected the current version to contain such an API. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. The new synthesizer is almost ready for distribution. The copyright holder is the Bulgarian Union of the Blind and the organization is the official distributor. The software is ready for Windows and Android, but the developers promised it could easily be reported to other operating systems such as iOS and Linux.
As a member of the technological council at the Bulgarian Union of the Blind, I can make the necessary connection with all responsible people here. Therefore, I’m asking for some help to connect the higher level of Apple accessibility management. Since you already know the way I know Apple is a closed type of company, but I would to try.” Well, thank you for writing in, Negaslov.
The first thing I would suggest is just hanging on another couple of weeks because very shortly, iOS 16 developer beta 1 is going to drop. I would expect that to happen this coming Monday, and we can see what there is. I think you’re right. I think it is most likely that it is a Nuance voice that they are using, but we don’t know that for certain yet. It may be also that this is the year that we get an API for external text to speech engines and that it might be possible to compile any voice for iOS and have it in the app store in some way.
That it will be available universally because you’re right, this is something that’s been talked about for quite some time. It’s something the blind community really wants and actually other impairment types really wanted as well. There is quite a high demand out there for this to be done. Maybe this is the year that Apple creates the API for it to happen. If that’s in fact what happens, then the problem resolves itself because you’ve got something in iOS 16 that you can work with.
If none of that happens, then I think you really have got a big issue to deal with because it would mean that Apple has some exclusive agreement with Nuance and they want to stick with Nuance when it comes to iOS voices, other than Apple’s own that they’ve had for years, it may be a very long time if ever before, they extend those relationships to other providers of text to speech. We don’t even have eloquence on iOS. I would love to have eloquence on iOS and it’s owned by Nuance, but Apple doesn’t put that in there either.
I think it would be a very difficult thing. I wish I could just point you to someone to have this sorted out, but this is one of the challenges that we’ve been talking about in various forms on this podcast for some time. There are many of us, and I have seen your name around the place over the years, who make a difference, who get in there and provide constructive feedback who want to be a part of the solution. The way that mainstream technology companies are choosing not to engage with that active community who has made such a difference in many other respects is very disappointing. It’s a fundamental culture clash, and it’s not doing the blind community any good at all.
Now that said, there are people at Apple who do listen to this podcast or read the transcript. Sometimes they grumble a lot, but they do take notice. It may be that somebody will reach out to you about this Bulgarian voice. I really hope so because what you’re highlighting, there is something that many of us should just keep in mind for many people, getting an iPhone is a huge sacrifice financially. It’s a big outlay and they do it because, in their opinion, it is a superior solution, but it is a considerable financial sacrifice. Let’s kick the tires on the iOS 16 beta and see what’s there.
Marissa is back in touch with a question about learning remotely. She says, “Do you feel there are situations where learning remotely, certainly right now with COVID certain blindness skills and life skills is warranted? In normal circumstances, are there other times when you don’t feel this is the proper way to learn things? How can concepts such as O&M, Braille, technology, daily living, and money management be adequately taught and explained learning remotely?
With respect to assistive technology training, the key is, of course, to find someone who understands the terminology. They have to further be able to explain it in simple terms that the students can understand. The students then have to practice and demonstrate that they can do what they want to accomplish with their technology independently. The independence comes with the student’s understanding of how the technology should work. How can they make it work for them? By the time they finish the instruction, they will feel confident in their ability.
After all, I can show you how to use a CCTV, VoiceOver, JAWS, or ZoomText. However, remember at the end of the day, I may not always be here to help. I was an assistive technology instructor for a few years. I use a variety of technology on a daily basis. I’m not an expert nor do I claim to be. I just want to help people in similar situations. However, back to the question of learning remotely or not, what are your thoughts? I personally prefer one-on-one personalized instruction. I have retinopathy of prematurity, which thus far has been stable.
However, I have other disabilities, including a cognitive impairment. This is why I say what works for me is in person’s hand over hand, one-on-one instruction. Everyone’s circumstances are different. What may work for one person may not with another.” Well, thank you for writing in again, Marissa, you’ve got quite an extensive list there. For example, assistive technology is quite different, I think from O&M and cooking skills. Assistive technology, I think is really easily taught remotely when you’ve got the technology right, now, of course, that’s a big caveat. Somebody has to be tech-savvy enough to be able to jump on a Zoom call.
It may be that initial instruction has to take place one-on-one. If somebody’s never used a computer before, or they’ve never used it in a blindness context, probably nothing’s going to substitute for that initial one-on-one contact. But I think the objective could be to get someone to the point where they feel able to participate in remote sessions, as soon as possible. Now, some people will get to the point where they can benefit from group training sessions.
There are a lot of really good ones out there, but the next step in my view would be graduating from the need to meet someone face to face for those initial instructions to feeling the confidence to jump on a Zoom call and do one-on-one training. That can benefit people who may have O&M challenges getting somewhere unfamiliar or for whom it’s just stressful doing that. In my own situation, for example, as a hearing-impaired person, if I’m going to somewhere that’s not that familiar, I can be pretty exhausted and not in a learning frame of mind if I have to do those things whereas I’m going to be much more focused when I’m learning remotely from the comfort of my home.
There’s a factor to consider as well, but you also mentioned in your list, things like O&M skills, orientation and the mobility, and also potentially household skills like cooking and other household management tasks. I personally can’t really imagine how, at least initially, you could do those things remotely, whether you’re doing route training and going from one specific destination to another, or you’re doing what they call the discovery method and getting a bunch of techniques that will stand you in good stead, you’ve got to be out and about, right? I suppose you could be out and about with an iPhone and somebody watching you, but I don’t know.
I think that for those sorts of things, it’s hard for me to believe that remote learning would work in that sort of context. But if anyone has any thoughts on what they prefer to do, the kinds of tasks that they prefer to learn remotely, and that they prefer to learn one-on-one, by all means, be in touch. You may think that these two questions are not related to each other and they may not be except to say that one is about Sonos and the other is about meditation and you can do meditation apps, certain types of meditation apps on Sonos Here we go with this email from Mara Kelland, who says, “Hey, Jonathan, hope you are doing okay down there in Wellington.” I am, thank you, Mara. Hope you’re doing okay up there in Auckland. “I was wondering about two things,” she says. “One, I am attempting to get my parents into using Sonos to play their music, but when I try to explain the app to my dad, it falls flat. It looks different. The tab bar is not at the bottom, for example. How do I explain the Sonos app to a sighted person?”
You’ve got me curious now, Mara. I wonder whether it does look and feel differently when voiceover is running. I don’t have any sighted person to hand at the moment to check this with, because there was a period when the Sonos app did not have the tab bar at the bottom of the app, it was in a different place. Assuming that you’ve made sure your dad is running the latest version of the app, probably the best thing I would suggest is that Sonos support does have a lot of good information and they have YouTube clips, that kind of thing. I’d look at the Sonos YouTube channel and see if that can provide the info that you need.
The other thing too, is that if you’ve got newer Sonos devices, you may not need to do too much with the Sonos app, depending on the use case, you can, for example, use Google Home or the Amazon device, or for that matter, Siri, if you’ve got an AirPlay capable Sonos, and all of the new ones are to send things to Sonos that way. Even in New Zealand, they do have a toll-free number that you can call for support. That might be another option as well. “Two,” says Mara, “meditation. I have attempted very badly to do this for many years. How do you do it as a blind person? Keep the mind free of distracting thoughts in theory.”
Well, I have two Mosen At Large episodes. You might want to check out, Mara. One is episode 28. When I spoke with Liam McClintock of an app called FitMind. It is a highly accessible app and it’s just one of many now accessible meditation apps. The other one is episode 113, where I talked about my own meditation journey, how I developed a practice of meditating, and also a gratitude journal. It really has changed my life significantly for the better. That’s all in episode 113, and there are resources that I mentioned that you can obtain and that’s all referenced in that episode.
To answer your question specifically, there is a myth out there that to meditate, it involves emptying your mind of everything and that it’s a really bad thing if you can’t and you’re some sort of failure at it, people are very hard on themselves. The mind will wander. That’s what the mind does. Some days, it’ll wander more than others, depending on what’s going on in your life and what’s on your mind. The trick to it is just noting when that happens. Don’t castigate yourself. If you suddenly notice that you’re not focusing anymore on a mantra you’re saying, or your breath, if you choose to focus on your breath, note that and come back to it.
It’s all okay. It’s all normal. You’re not expected to sit there with an empty mind for 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes, or however long you choose to meditate. I hope those episodes will help and there are many good meditation apps out there. Probably some of the most popular ones are the FitMind one that I mentioned. The Calm app is great. A lot of people use Headspace as well. There is another one called Ten Percent Happier, and that comes with a podcast called the Ten Percent Happier podcast. It’s great that we live in this era where we have so many accessible meditation resources.
Maria Christic: Hey, Jonathan, this is Maria Christic in Albany, New York. Now with my double chocolate pack, my prior guide dog, Lacey, she decided she was ready to live the retired life. She had turned 12 in December and with slowing down and becoming a bit more distracted of things and anxious a bit on the bus so forth. She was letting me know she was ready to hang up her harness, but I was able to keep her, and she has a dog walker who comes in the afternoon to take her out for a bit while I’m at work. She’s loving their retired life.
I say double chocolate pack because she is a chocolate Lab. I had said to Leader Dog where both of my pups are from when I went to get a new pup in February. I had said, “I wanted a Lab and a smaller dog,” and that’s all I said. It’s unbelievable that I got another chocolate Lab, her name’s Osaka and she is just about the same weight as Lacey. They’re within like a pound to each other, but thankfully, I can tactile tell them apart because Osaka is thinner and longer and has a thinner coat relative to Lacey.
Speaking of dogs, I wanted to mention on that topic of dogs, learning to talk, there is a book out, I haven’t read it yet. It seems a pretty short read, but it is on my list and it is called How Stella Learned to Talk. It’s by Christina Hunger, she’s a speech-language pathologist, and she was inspired by some of the ways that her students communicated to teach her dog to be able to press these pads that had different words associated with them. I guess this book is about her journey of teaching her dog, Stella, to talk, and it’s available in audio formats and electronic formats. It’s available everywhere.
On the topic of the ACB and NFB and I’ll say this prefacing that I’m an ACB member, so I’m more familiar with them on a more day to day basis, as far as I know, there’s not officially any statement about it. I haven’t heard anything to this effect, but if someone is a member of both, I wouldn’t say that’s officially frowned upon from ACB circle, but I don’t see them ever coming together and reuniting as a single organization because in addition to, yes, there are some of these philosophical differences such as the degree to which the built environment should accommodate, those of us who are blind or visually impaired.
Just from an organizational structure perspective, they have evolved in different ways, things like the degrees of affiliate or autonomy and whether the approach is a more top-down versus grassroots, things like that. I don’t see them coming as a single organization, but that being said first, I have been happy to see the recent efforts to work together, where there is some common ground on initiatives. I know from a legislative standpoint, for example, both are supporting this act whose name I am blanking on, but the gist is the accessibility of fitness and exercise equipment and just dialoguing and such.
I think recently, Dan Spoone, the president of ACB had put together these Fireside chats as he called them for the last couple of years during the DC leadership meetings of ACB.
These were just not ACB and NFB only, but various organizations in the blindness space dialoguing. I think efforts like that are wonderful and certainly to be applauded. I’m all for the organizations working together where possible. I think having the two organizations, I actually don’t view that as being a bad thing. In terms of choice, we, as a blindness community are not like a monolith in terms of views and approaches and things. I think having choice is a good thing in terms of the scope of issues.
I can think of even like certain religious-based groups that I would say the scope is narrower in terms of the areas to be addressed. There are multiple organizations with different approaches and that they take on or emphasize different issues. I actually think with something like blindness that is touching so many areas of our lives, it’s good to have multiple groups that are perhaps emphasizing or taking up different issues of the cause. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.
Finally, I wanted to share that I have recently purchased and been quite impressed with a device called the LyriQ, L-Y-R-I-Q, as it’s spelled here, a text-to-speech reader, or I’ve heard it called the LyriQ Assistive Reader as well. The credit goes to Mystic Access the company for their presentation on this and their demonstrations and such, but I never thought I would be interested. It’s kind of think like a self-contained base with a camera arm that comes up. It is a self-contained scanning, reading OCR-type device. It’s quite portable. It’s like 3 pounds or so. I think it’s like 12 by 12 by 2 or 3.
I never thought I’d be interested, but what really convinced me is that it is so fast and it’s accurate. When you take the document away, it stops reading it. You can manually resume it, but between those functions of the speed and just the hands-free, it will automatically read. It’ll stop when you take the document away, I’ve just found that it’s saved me so much of time, with going through mail, or identifying packages in my fridge or my freezer, boxes of things, or even I’ve scanned like some business cards and IDs and such with it, and it’s worked well.
Yes, sometimes say if some instructions are there on the side, one of the small, narrower sides of a package, it could be a little trickier because of the height of the camera, the size of the reading surface. You have to place it in the correct place, and that might be a little trickier. Just the hands-free aspect and not having to worry about camera position and things. It’s a time thing, and so I’ve just been quite impressed with that lately. I’ve had it for a few days and have enjoyed making some use of that.
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Jonathan: Kelby Carlson is in touch and says, “Hi, Jonathan, after a long stint with a guide dog, I have moved back to using a cane for navigation. Unfortunately, the quality of canes from Ambutech, which I have used for some time, seem to have degraded noticeably. In the past six months, I’ve had three different canes become unusable, from the elastic on the inside fraying and eventually tearing. I can’t reasonably expect to replace and pay for dysfunctional canes. I’m curious if you or any of the listeners have seen this issue recently, or have suggestions for other cane manufacturers, that would be worth looking at.”
Thanks, Kelby. That must be frustrating. I haven’t purchased a cane in some time, so I’m not qualified to comment on whether there may have been a change in the manufacturing process. There are other manufacturers out there. Revolution Canes, I think they were pretty popular. I’m not sure if they still exist, but if anyone has any comments on white canes, what brand you like and why? Where you get your canes from? Do be in touch 864-60Mosen is my number, that is in the United States. You can record an audio clip or write down an email and send it into Jonathan@mushroomfm.com.
Christopher: Hello, to all listeners of Mosen At Large. This is Christopher from Melbourne, Australia. Reason for the post today is asking about screen readers and Zendesk. Specifically, how is Zendesk with a screen reader? I am possibly going to be changing jobs and the new role uses Zendesk as the CRM. I’ve had a look on the Zendesk website. It appears to conform to a lot of accessibility conventions, but I’m interested in actual, real-world information. As, how do others find using Zendesk with JAWS or any other screen reader. When replying, it would help if you actually mentioned what screen reader you are actually using.
Nancy: Hey, Jonathan, my name is Nancy, I’m from the US. Apologies. I have allergies here in South Carolina. Ironically, I think it’s funny that the zip code, or not the zip code, the area code that you use for your line here in the US, is the same area code that I happen to be in. I thought that was pretty cool. You were talking about the iPod touch and I got my very first iPod touch while I was in college. I think it was in between my junior and senior year. I went to the Apple store in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was really excited because I had heard about VoiceOver, I think on one of the ACB radio podcasts. I’m not sure which one. Maybe it was Main Menu. I don’t really remember.
Anyway, so I go to the Apple store and I knew nothing about VoiceOver. I just knew that the iPod was supposed to talk, and that was all I knew. I lucked out. There happened to be an employee in the Apple store who knew that VoiceOver was a thing, and I think the only gestures I learned, I know the drag your finger around and then double-tap. Then maybe there was a flick, but I don’t really recall. This was really early days. This was the original iPod touch, similar to the 3GS iPhone basically.
I got all the way home, unfortunately, to discover that I bought an 8 gig iPod touch. At the time, the 8 gig iPod touch did not talk, but the 16 Gigabyte iPod touch did. The problem for me was as a broke college student, that was $100 more than I didn’t have in my pocket. My parents were awesome, and they found out what happened because they originally took me the first time to the Apple store. When they happened to be in town for a visit, we went up to the Apple store. They took me, and unfortunately, that one I bought didn’t have VoiceOver as an option, and so I got my roommate to take me back, maybe a week later or the next day or something.
I was like, “Hey, I was told this was going to work, but it didn’t work.” That employee that I referenced before, he was, “Oh, no, I’m so sorry. Yes, you need a 16 Gig iPod. Someone should have told you that.” That kind of thing. He was the one that not only turned VoiceOver on for me because I didn’t know how to do that. He also taught me some gestures in the Apple store, so that when I went home, I got my roommate to help me load music on there from the huge CD book that I had. We were able to listen to music, and that is pretty much history.
One thing I will say that I will never forget about the iPod is, I went to show it off to some other blind friends, and everybody’s reaction was, “Oh, no, I’ll never have one of those. I like to have button.” Then here we are, 2022 and every single one of them has an iPhone. Go figure, but I’m low vision and I definitely, in some ways, miss the older layout.
Jonathan: This next contribution comes from Carolyn, and I had to make that clear because her name is cut off at the beginning. Listen to this.
Carolyn: In here, just responding, read the iPod and the iPod touch. I’ve never had an iPod touch. The reason being, I couldn’t afford to have one, as well as have a phone, et cetera. I wouldn’t have actually minded having an iPod touch. I thoroughly enjoyed having the little iPod, forget what you call it. The one without the screen, and it was only a 1 or 2 gig device. The little wee square one. That was quite fun because I would have one, maybe two books on there, or some music. I could just sneakily listen to it, if I was in a boring meeting or whatever.
Quite enjoyed those. I actually quite enjoyed the feel of it. I quite enjoyed shuffling the music and bits and pieces. If I was sitting on a bus going somewhere, I’d play it. I like to have some music and some books and stuff on my phone, but I also like to have some stuff kept separate, on a separate device. I don’t have a Victor Stream either, unfortunately. It’s something I might have to rectify at some point, but the iPod touch would’ve been great for doing that. Anyway, needless to say, it’s going and I can understand why. I do think it’s sad because it still is, one of the most accessible music book reader players, that you can actually buy off the shelf.
Yes, you can get accessible devices from elsewhere, but I’m just talking about being able to walk into a shop like Harvey Norman’s, or Noel Leeming’s, or JB Hi-Fi. Any of those places, and just buy it off the shelf, take it out of the box, and it works. I think that was also one of the joys to do with the iPod range right from the little wee mini one right up to the iPod touch.
Jonathan: Thanks for that, Carolyn, and the wee device that you were thinking of is the iPod Shuffle that was the one without the screen and with a little bit of storage on it. Here’s David from Auckland in New Zealand and he says, “A few days ago, I got an email from Spark, Spark is one of our telco providers here and the dominant cellular carrier in New Zealand, informing me the ultimate sports pack will be withdrawn on the 19th of June. As a sports fan, especially cricket, I am not happy with this. I’ve sent off a message to see if they can put me in touch with someone from the retention team as mentioned a few months ago giving you a plan not available to the public.
I remember if the plan you are on is to be withdrawn, you were allowed to remain on that plan. I would like to be able to keep my Spark/Sky Sport Now in exchange for Netflix since I don’t watch it much.” Well, good luck with that, David. I wonder how you got on. I suspect that they will come back and say it’s not possible and the reason for that is that I suspect the partnerships are changing. If you’re a long-time customer and you’re on an account plan, the retention teams of the telcos can be quite accommodating if your plan is changing in terms of the amount of minutes offered or the amount of data offered.
The reason for that is that that’s completely within their control so they do have a bit of flexibility in that regard. In your case, you are talking about the withdrawal of a plan that involves a third party, a partner of the telco. I suspect that that’s going to be the problem that in this case, there’s been a change in the contractual arrangement between Spark and Sky and they simply can’t do what you want. If you don’t ask, you never know, so good luck.
Christopher Wright says, “Maybe you or one of your listeners may know how to do this. I’m trying to figure out how to get the direct URL for an internet radio station so I can do things like playing it in VLC. Places like TuneIn only provide a page that plays the station directly without exposing the URL. I’ve tried looking at the page source but can’t find the link, is there any easier way to do this?”
Thanks very much, Christopher. I used to be really into this, years ago, when I listened to internet radio on my PC, now I just simply don’t. I never listened to internet radio on my PC or that is done either on my smartphone or on Sonos so I’m a bit rusty. I used to use a tool in Replay AV, which is a tool I talked about in another context not so long ago. I don’t know whether that product still exists but certainly, the company Applion technologies still exist. With Replay AV, you used to be able to press a button and it would look on the stream and get the URL for you and copy it to the clipboard, and then you could do what you wanted with it.
I don’t know whether they still have such at all and you may not want to pay for replay AV to get at all like that. I would’ve suggested what it appears you’ve already tried and to see if you can inspect the page source to find the URL from there. They used to be quite a few directories of radio stations maintained by individuals. There was a site called Mikes Radio World and that one was excellent. When I google Mikes Radio World, I see a number of matches but I don’t think it is the original Mikes Radio World that one may well have disappeared.
However, there is an up-and-coming radio directory that has I believe been set up in response to the increasing commercial nature of sites like TuneIn. With TuneIn is inserting ads into streams and doing all sorts of mean and nasty things and it’s actually caused them to be significantly curtailed in the United Kingdom. There’s a website called radio-browser.info and that is radio-browser.info, it is an open-source directory of a lot of radio stations. I found out about it actually because of a new app that was produced for the Apple Watch which allows you to listen to internet radio streams even over the Apple Watch’s speaker which is pretty cool.
That was the first time that I had heard of radio-browser.info, and before I heard about it, Mushroom FM and Mushroom Escape weren’t listed on there. They are now I did that as soon as I heard about the Apple Watch app. When you go and do search for a radio station on radio-browser.info you get the URLs to the streams in a bunch of formats. For example, you can download a PLS file for the stream and do exactly what you want to do, work with it in VLC, or whatever you want to do. There’s no guarantee, of course, that every radio station you want is going to be there but they do seem to be gaining traction and there is an increasing number of stations on there.
That is one solution, check out radio-browser.info. If anybody is aware of some cool little open source tool that you can use to scrape the stream URL reliably, then by all means, share that and any other tips that you might have.
Here’s someone living on the edge, it’s Loreal and she says, ” Jonathan and Mosen At Large listeners, I’ve been listening to the podcast for some time now. Prior to that, was a constant listener to the Freedom Scientific Podcast when Jonathan was the host. We are probably going back to the year 2007 for sure, if not, 2006 even.” Well, Loreal the first episode went out in December of 2006 so you’ve got a good memory and I feel like I should thank you for putting up with me for so long.
Loreal continues, “The reason I am emailing so early this morning here from the United States is I want to give a brief update to a previous question posed by a listener some episodes back. This question is referring to the use of coupons on sites with the browser, Microsoft Edge. It was asked how one who was blind and using assistive technology could access such coupons as they appear when available on a site to the right of the address bar, I have found out how to access them.
Of notes, this does require much tabbing or shift plus tabbing at the writing of this email, so if you are looking for a quick shortcut or shortcut keystroke, sadly, I have not found one at this point. I have, however, used coupons on apple.com, audible.com, amazon.com successfully in this past week alone. I hope this bit of information does help even though I have not given a full step-by-step accounting of how precisely to access these coupons.” Thanks, Loreal. Well, good to know that they are there and that people can tab to them maybe I should see if I have them where I am as well. Sure, if you want to give us a step-by-step by all means, feel free to do that, and thank you for writing in.
Lance Kamaka: Hello Jonathan Mosen and all. My name is Lance Kamaka. I am from Oahu, that’s the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii. My question to you and for those who use Mantis Q40, I really love this note-taker, it’s one of my favorites, the best. I had it for several months and although iOS has been a pain using it which is how I use it, I just have my phone and my device Mantis Q40. Anyway, one of the members on the Mantis list emailed and asked about selecting groups of texts, words, line, et cetera.
You, Jonathan, replied to that message by listing the steps in achieving this which I already knew. I’ve been doing it for a while, that is until I downloaded the latest version of iOS then things started changing. I could switch the router to whatever I want but then after executing it, it won’t work, it will just go out of focus. According to what I was doing, the quick nav was on. When I called Apple accessibility they gave me something different. They told to keep the quick nav off on my Mantis and to use another list of keystrokes to do the same thing.
I’m just wondering if those of you who upgraded to 15.5 have this problem I would appreciate your help. Thank you and I really love this Mosen At Large podcast, I love reading the transcripts, I love anything that has to do with technology, it’s great. Keep up the good work.
Jonathan: Thanks, Lance. The keys you use to select text in iOS from a Bluetooth keyboard like the Mantis Q40 or for that matter the Apple wireless keyboard or any external keyboard is going to vary depending on where you are doing the selection. If you are composing an email or you’re writing a document, anywhere that there is a text edit field, then you will want to have the quick nav off and then you can use standard text selection methods that really do apply across operating systems. You can hold down the shift key and down arrow, for example, and select a line at a time, shift with right arrow, it will select a character at a time. You will find a little bit of difference between how things are done in Windows and how things are done on Apple operating systems when you start selecting words at a time because, in Windows, you would use the control right arrow key with shift, and in Mac OS and iOS, and iPad OS, you would use the command key instead of the control key with the shift key, where there is no cursor presence though.
That could be in a situation where you’ve got something on the screen that you want to select. Like, say a webpage and you want to select text from a webpage or you’re in an app and there is the text that you want to copy. Then, those methods aren’t going to work. It is at that point that you would turn quick nav on and you would use the text selection methods that are built into the rotor for voiceover. The methods that I was talking about when you have an edit field on the screen, they are standard keyboard commands. They don’t have anything to do with voiceover, but voiceover does verbalize them fine.
When we get into the rotor and selecting text on the screen, they are voiceover functions, they are voiceover specific. You’ve got to know the tool to use depending on the context. Hope that helps. Christian Burtling is writing in. He says, “Hey, Jonathan. I just recently purchased Microsoft 365. Do you know if there is a resource similar to personal power for iOS for Microsoft 365 with JAWS? I know that Office 365 together with JAWS is very powerful but I have no idea where to go to get started.” There are plenty of resources relating to using JAWS with Office 365, Christian.
The first place I would start is Freedom Scientific’s own training, much of which is free. You can go to freedomscientific.com/training. There’s also quite a bit of it available in the Help menu of JAWS itself. You’ll find various tutorials about the different Office applications because, of course, Office 365 comprises quite a wide range of applications. Most commonly, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Microsoft Teams is increasingly becoming relevant. Check out the training page. Also, check out the Freedom Scientific Training Podcast, which has a lot of material of very good quality.
In Episode 169 of this podcast, we talked to David Kingsbury and he’s written a book called The Windows Screen Reader Primer. If you do a search for that, it should come right up. It is also free. There’s plenty of information in there about many of the Microsoft 365 applications. It’s a very well-written book. Microsoft’s own website has a lot of great videos and knowledge base articles that teach you how to do certain things with the various Microsoft Office applications. It’s worth checking them out as well. So far, we have talked about all free resources, but there are some very good paid ones.
Hartgen Consultancy does one on Word, another on Outlook, and another on PowerPoints. Of course, they are excellent as all those tutorials are. Another place to try would be the Access Technology Institute, who have textbooks and online training available for purchase in Microsoft Office applications. That’ll certainly keep you going for a while. If anybody else has other recommendations for Microsoft Office 365 learning resources, then feel free to share them. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it when you get up to speed, Christian. Microsoft Office 365 and JAWS is a pretty stellar combination.
Scott Davett: Hey, Jonathan and listeners. This is Scott Davett checking in, as I do from time to time. Of course, as I do from time to time, when I make these recordings, I have several topics to cover. Let’s get right into it. First of all, Jonathan, I really appreciate you making the transcripts available for multiple reasons. First, of course, is that I don’t have to depend on my hearing to listen to or follow the podcast.
I can pull up a transcript and follow it that way but the other reason is that, and I’ll just give an example of it, during the CES interview that you did, I don’t remember what number it was on, but there were a few things that I wasn’t quite sure on the spelling of that were discussed during that topic. I simply went back to the transcript and they were spelled correctly and I could look up more information on them. There’s another example of how providing the transcript really benefits people in multiple ways, which isn’t really surprising.
It’s just all these other things that were done to accommodate a specific disability. They oftentimes have further-reaching benefits that people don’t usually understand, until a while after the technology is implemented. Thank you very much for continuing to do that. Next topic, iOS 16. I remember from iOS 14, in iOS 15, I don’t believe it went back any further than that, but this is our third year with Apple making a GAAD announcement about what’ll be coming in the next iOS release and you’re right, Jonathan, it’s a really neat thing for them to do.
I start to look forward to the Global Accessibility Awareness Day because of those announcements. I was happy to see they continued to follow that new trend and I hope they will absolutely continue doing so. As for the features announced, I think the biggest one for me, of course, is the live captioning function. I do think that Apple will make that accessible to Braille users. The reason I say that is because, on the Apple TV, or even on your iPhone, you can use captioning with a Braille display. In fact, I’ve used it during some of their WWDC events.
I think it will be accessible. I think it’s going to be great. Is it going to be perfect? Absolutely not. There is no artificial intelligence that can replace human transcription. Jonathan, you found that out when you were trying to just look for a technology that could do the transcripts for this show and found out that there was no such thing at this point. Is it going to be perfect? No, I don’t expect it to be perfect. Will it give you the gist of what is going on?
I think in a quiet environment if you have a regional accent set appropriately and all that, yes, I think it will be a great thing that they add. I’m looking forward to making FaceTime calls using this feature in iOS 16. To be honest with you, it’s getting more and more difficult for me to understand the audio and even FaceTime calls, which is significantly clearer than what you get on the phone. If they can give me automated captioning, even though everything won’t be 100% correct, I will generally be able to get the gist of what somebody is saying and that’s the most important thing.
Are you getting the message? I know that the closed captioning isn’t going to give me the emotion behind the voice, but I have enough hearing left so that at least I’m able to hear the voice. I may not be able to understand each and every word, but I can tell the tone in which somebody is speaking. I’m really looking forward to that. Door detection. No, it just doesn’t seem practical to me. Maybe it’s because of the way I use my iPhone, but I keep my phone in my pocket and I use my Braille display.
Part of that is just because there’s no point in me taking my phone out of my pocket. Part of that is also, I don’t really feel like having it stolen or someone trying to take it away from me. If it’s in my pocket, there’s really not– it’s not an easy target. Let’s put it that way. There are a lot of other concerns I have about pulling my phone out and basically trying to scan for open doors, or closed doors, or whatever. However, I am interested in it when it does come to whatever Apple Glasses they end up coming out with, hopefully, they will.
At that point, I’ll be much more interested in it. It’s like taking pictures or any other type of detection that is done within the environment. As mostly only Braille users, it’s very difficult to hold the phone in a very specific way so that it can capture whatever images it can and then to look down at my brail display, to see what it’s come up with and it may not come up with anything great. It’s really, at this point, more of a challenge for me than it’s worth, really.
That said, when the head-worn device comes out, I guess I could even maybe use it on a watch, but I think a head-worn device is going to be the most effective way to do this. Then, I will be very interested. In the meantime, I purchased the iPhone SE 3 and I’m saving my money for those glasses which undoubtedly will cost a significant amount of money but I’m really looking forward to that. The third topic, Android. Obviously, the Braille announcement coming in Android 13 is a big deal, but is it a big deal? I would say that yes, it’s still a big deal even without the HID support, but it’s bad news for the AT companies. The reason is that many consumers don’t care how they get their support or who has to make the changes. They just want it made. In this case, it really is looking like companies, like HumanWare, Orbit Research has already done this, and others who have adopted the HID standard man. Unfortunately, have to go backward with it and do some emulation like Orbit Research has done with the Orbit Reader 40 and the VarioUltra.
Unfortunately, unlike the Orbit 40 and other devices that can emulate, this emulation will probably need to be in place forever. It’s not what the ideal solution would be, I fully understand that. I think at the end of the day, manufacturers of Braille displays may have to make it so that their devices can emulate an older display that meets the standard Google is following. Again, I don’t like that idea at all. I think it’s not fair. It’s a bunch of bad soup. Yes, there we go. It’s a bunch of bull soup that this is the way it goes, but that’s unfortunately where we’re at.
I really would be happy to be part of an advocacy effort to make this not be the case, but I think a lot of it is going to have to come from the manufacturers themselves.
Jonathan: Thank you, Scott. Good to hear from you. I fear that you could be right. We could be stuck in a game of high-tech chicken here. You can understand why HumanWare and similar Braille display manufacturers are frustrated that they have gone with HID in good faith, and there appears to be some issues with its implementation at Google, but in the meantime, blind people are stuck in the middle, aren’t they?
If the software can be updated to emulate some older Braille display, whose Bluetooth support is included in the operating system, then I suppose that could be a workaround for now, perhaps HumanWare considers that there are some downsides in doing this, but it certainly is worth considering, I think at this point.
Alco Canfield: Hi, Jonathan. This is Alco Canfield again. I have not resolved my problem. When I put a password in with my iPhone laboriously doing one letter at a time, I see bullets on my Braille display. However, if I write the password on my Braille display, it does not register on my iPhone bullets or nothing, neither one. The keyboard is visible, and I guess it’s just one of those things, I’ll have to put up with. Perhaps in the new software update 16, there may be a change.
I talk to HumanWare, they blame Apple. I talk to Apple, they blame HumanWare. That’s where we are. Thank you so much. If you have any ideas, I’m always open to learning new things.
Jonathan: As we’ve heard on the podcast recently, Alco, it looks like you’re not alone. There are others experiencing this. I think the only reason why I am not, is that I’ve got Mantis and that has a qwerty keyboard. When I type in my password, since I’m not inputting it in Braille with an uppercase B, of course, I am missing out on the privilege of experiencing this bug. Does changing to uncontracted Braille help when you are in the password field?
That’s the only thing I can think of, but it is disappointing that we are this far into the iOS 15 cycle and rail bugs of that magnitude persist. Here’s an email that says, “Hi, Jonathan and Bonnie. My name is John McDowell. I live in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Regarding Bonnie’s frustrations with Comcast, I empathize with her because Shaw Cable uses the same hardware as Comcast and their technical support representatives also lack the ability to remotely troubleshoot technical problems to customers with disabilities.
In light of this, I’ve suggested to them that troubleshooting via video conferencing platform that allows customers to share the camera and screen of a mobile device may help improve the troubleshooting process because the representative will be able to diagnose the problem visually without having to translate visual descriptions and instructions. It would also be helpful if there were a way to grant service providers permission to have remote access to customers’ hardware so representatives may be able to identify technical problems, and remotely fix them for customers who prefer not having to fix them for themselves.
If it’s possible to grant someone remote desktop access, to help computer users with their technical problems, surely it’s possible to do this with cable and internet hardware. In any case, thanks for the great podcast and keep up the good work. Great to hear from you, John. I suppose the downside of all this is that if your cable provider also provides you with the internet and your internet goes down, then you might not be able to take advantage of any of these remote troubleshooting internet-based methods because you’ve got no internet and that’s what you need the tech support for.
The one way around this, of course, would be if you can use your cell phone as a hotspot and connect that way.
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Jonathan: For those of you who’ve been following my work for a while will know that I am a big Sonos fan. I think we now have 16 Sonos devices at Mosen Towers. We have gone all in. I think that’s a testimony really to the way that this community that we’ve built over the years on various shows works because I was first introduced to Sonos on The Mosen Explosion, and I would have listeners who would email in or tweet in and say, “I’m listening to The Mosen Explosion on my Sonos thing, and it’s wonderful, and you should look at this.”
My first thought was, “Why? I’ve got a good home theater system, we’ve got great audio around the place. Why would I want to invest in this thing?” Bonnie was the same way. In fact, my children will tell you about this famous conference at a Turkish Café that we had, where I was intrigued enough to think, “Should we buy a Sonos PLAY:1?” which was just a wee way to get into the ecosystem in those days. We sat there in this Turkish Café, and Bonnie was saying, “Do we really need this thing? We’ve got all these other things.”
I bought one because I’m a curious soul and I really saw the value of the Sonos ecosystem. To the extent that pretty quickly afterwards we bought the Playbar and we bought the surrounds and the Sub, and we really went all-in with Sonos. I wrote a book about Sonos, no longer available because the ecosystem has moved on significantly since I wrote that book called Sonosthesia, which introduced quite a lot of blind people to the Sonos ecosystem, who went already in it. I used to get these emails from people who say, in fact, sometimes I still get emails from people who say, “Thanks to you, I’ve spent all this money.”
If you know of Sonos, but you don’t really know what the hype is about, let me briefly say that Sonos is a multi-room ecosystem, first and foremost. They have branched out a little bit more in recent years with some portable Bluetooth devices. The big draw card of Sonos is the multi-room audio, that’s in perfect sync, they do take care with the quality of their audio. Now, you will get some people who say there are better qualities sounding wireless solutions out there.
I think we’ve had Gordon Luke on the podcast talking about the Lind system that he has, and how much he likes that, and there are others as well. Sonos is a recognized name. They continue to innovate and they have really good arrangements with many streaming music services. What that means is that in the one app, you have access to many music services and streaming radio services in a consistent accessible environment. It’s a great experience on iOS. Brian Hartgen has done some free JAWS scripts for the Sonos Windows app, which I must say I don’t use very often.
I tend to just grab my phone or talk to Sonos, and I’m pretty sure the Android experience is quite good as well. There are devices on the market available now, which include microphones, and they allow you to talk to Amazon Assistant, which we lovingly call the Soup Drinker on this podcast so we don’t trigger assistants from all around the world when we say it’s named. It also has Google Assistant support. Now, Sonos has its own voice control, which you can run concurrently with your more popular commercial voice assistant of choice.
My understanding is that when Sonos started going down the voice route, their hope was that you would be able to leave the Google Assistant and the Soup Drinker on at the same time. With this one device, you’d be able to talk to either assistant just by using its appropriate code word. That would be indeed very consistent with the way that Sonos likes to work. They try to be platform-agnostic and let you decide which service is best for you in any given situation. For example, if you subscribe to Apple Music, and Spotify, and Amazon Music Unlimited, Deezer, Qobuz, TIDAL, YouTube Music, if you are on all of them, man, you must be pretty out of pocket if you are, but you can be, and just use the service that’s appropriate in any one time. If you search for a song, for example, you will be able to search across all those music services and find the track that you want. I have found, for example, that with some of the more obscure services, like Deezer, for example, you do get mixes and live recordings and things that are not available on some other services.
It is quite a cool thing to be able to have. Sonos tries to get out of the way and let you interact with multiple services in one app. That’s what they wanted to do with voice commands, but there was resistance from the providers of those voice commands. Sonos has now come up with their own voice control solution. They have control here and they don’t mind if you want to use their solution in conjunction with one of the others. You can have Sonos voice control and the Soup Drinker or Sonos voice control and Google Assistant set up at any one time.
Not all Sonos products have a microphone and there are some people who do not want devices that could be potentially listening to them in their home. If you are going to use this feature, you need to make sure that you are buying one of the Sonos products that does offer voice control. All of them do offer a mute capability so you can mute it when you don’t want it to be listening. We have several products in Mosen Towers that support this voice control feature, including our Sonos Arc. We also have some Sonos Ones that do, and we have a Sonos Roam and I’ve got the Sonos Roam in the studio.
Also, in the studio here, we have a full Sonos setup. We’ve got two PLAY:5s and a Sub, but they are older devices and they don’t support the voice control. For those who do have concerns about devices that are listening and what happens to that audio that they are listening for, Sonos has taken a different approach and all of the processing of your voice commands stay on the device. Nothing is sent to the internet. Nothing goes to the cloud.
I think that poses some potential challenges because it means that the system can’t learn about various variations of styles of request or dialect as quickly as some of the cloud-based services would. Sonos say they’re going to get around that because some beta testers have knowingly opted in to allow Sonos to listen to their specific voice commands. Sonos voice control is not attempting to replace your Soup Drinker or Google Assistant. It is attempting to give you access to the music functions of Sonos.
You can do some pretty cool things, including sending by voice, say something that’s playing in your living room to the master bedroom if you have Sonos all over the house. This is great if you are very steep in the Sonos ecosystem like we are. You can group speakers together with voice commands. What’s quite intriguing about this voice command solution is that you can group some commands together. I’ll give you a demo in a moment, but when we get to that demo, if the voice is familiar to you, it’s because it is the voice of Giancarlo Esposito. He’s starred in Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and The Mandalorian.
If it’s a familiar voice, that’s why. When I heard that Sonos voice control was available, I thought I’ll go to the Sonos app and find where to set it up in settings. When I opened the Sonos app, it told me that voice control was available. It was obviously very excited about this fact and took me through the process of setting it up on the devices that I have switched on all the time. For us, that included the Sonos Arc system in our living room and a few other devices. I have not set it up on my portable Sonos Roam speaker yet.
I deliberately haven’t done that so we can see if we can show you the process of doing that. Setup was very straightforward, but it may take a wee while if you have a few Sonos devices that are compatible with Sonos voice control because it did have to install firmware updates on every device on which I wanted to use voice control. You may have a smoother experience with Sonos voice control if you set a default music service. Let’s, first of all, go into the Sonos app and set that up. Open Sonos.
VoiceOber: Sonos alarms, one active button.
Jonathan: I’m now in the Sonos app and I’m going to go to the bottom of the screen by performing a four-finger single tap.
VoiceOber: Play dimed button
Jonathan: I’ll flick left.
VoiceOber: Playing no music selected. Bathroom button, tab bar. Settings, tab five of five.
Jonathan: The Settings tab is where I want to be so I’ll double tap.
VoiceOber: Selected. Settings tab five of five.
Jonathan: Sonos is pushing the voice control thing quite hard because if I go to the top of the screen, I’ll find something special.
VoiceOber: Settings heading.
Jonathan: I’ll flick right.
VoiceOber: Set up heading. Get to know Sonos voice control. Estimated time, five minutes button.
Jonathan: I’ll double tap.
VoiceOber: New card. Sonos voice control. Incredible sound at your request. Start Tour button.
Jonathan: That is the Start Tour button and I’ll double-tap it.
VoiceOber: New card, unheard of privacy.
Jonathan: At this point, I’m going to perform a continuous read.
VoiceOber: Unheard of privacy. Voice requests are processed on your product and never recorded. Saved or sent to the cloud about the voice privacy button. Item, 1 of 16 adjustable. Close buttons.
Jonathan: I am going to close this because there are 16 items here, many of which will discuss what I want to demonstrate. You can take this tour. You can also go to the Sonos website and read the support articles about things you can say, and the limitations of the voice control service at the moment. For example, the services that voice control supports right now are Sonos Radio, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, and Pandora. Of course, Pandora is not available everywhere, it’s a US-specific service these days.
The big one that’s missing, no Spotify. The next big one that’s missing, no YouTube Music, but Spotify is a big one to be missing from a service like this. I’ve closed this and you can have a play with it if you want, but I’m going to go to the top of the screen.
VoiceOber: Settings heading.
Jonathan: Flick right.
VoiceOber: Account system button. Services and voice, music, podcasts, voice assistance button.
Jonathan: That’s what I want to do. I’ll double tap this.
VoiceOber: Voice heading.
Jonathan: Flick right.
VoiceOber: Amazon button. Sonos voice control button.
Jonathan: I want to configure this so I’ll double tap Sonos voice control.
VoiceOber: Sonos products. Sonos voice control is enabled heading. Bathroom button. Dining room button. Lounge, plus sub plus LS plus RS button. Sonos voice control settings heading. Default service set a default service for SVC button.
Jonathan: I want to add my Sonos Roam in a moment and we’ll get to that, but first of all, I do want to set this default music service. It just makes the queries simpler. I’ll double tap.
VoiceOber: Select a default music service to use with Sonos voice control.
Jonathan: I’ll flick right
VoiceOber: Apple Music, Bonnie button, Apple Music, Jonathan button, Sonos Radio button, AccuRadio, not compatible. Jonathan dimed button.
Jonathan: Then we have a bunch of other services that are not compatible yet. I’ll flick left.
VoiceOber: Sonos Radio button, Apple Music, Jonathan button.
Jonathan: And double tap.
VoiceOber: Selected Apple Music, Jonathan.
Jonathan: I’ll go to the top of the screen.
VoiceOber: Sonos voice control back button.
Jonathan: And double tab that.
Jonathan: Now, I navigate to the heading.
VoiceOber: Sonos voice control heading. Sonos, voice control settings. Default service, Apple Music, Jonathan button.
Jonathan: Excellent. That’s all set up now. I’m now going to go to the App Switcher to close the Sonos app.
VoiceOber: App switcher. Close Sonos. Closing Sonos. App–
Jonathan: Very good. I’ll go home again. Now, I’m going to switch on my Sonos Roam, which has not received any update pertaining to Sonos voice control at the moment. I’m just giving that some time to switch on power-up and be detected by the Sonos app. Then, we will rerun the Sonos app. I think enough time is elapsed. We’ll open Sonos again. Open Sonos.
VoiceOber: Connected to Sonos.
Jonathan: I’ll flick right.
VoiceOber: Set up heading. Get to know Sonos voice control. Estimated time, eight minutes.
Jonathan: We’re back to that message that’s popped up again.
VoiceOber: Close button.
Jonathan: I’ll close it.
VoiceOber: Close system button. Services and voice. Music, podcasts, voice assistance button.
Jonathan: I haven’t been prompted to update my Roam at this point. I’ll go in here and add Sonos voice control to the Roam.
VoiceOber: Voice heading. Amazon Alexa. Sonos voice control button. Sonos products. Bathroom button. Dining room. Lounge, add to another product button.
Jonathan: That’s what I want to do so I’ll double tap.
VoiceOber: New card. Getting Sonos voice control lets you easily control your system with simple voice requests. Control music hands free. Move music between rooms. Enjoy total privacy. Get started button.
Jonathan: I was flicking through that. I’ll get started.
VoiceOber: Close button.
Jonathan: And flick left.
VoiceOber: Not now button. Accept and continue button.
Jonathan: I’ll double tap.
VoiceOber: Accept and– New card. Select a room to add Sonos voice control.
Jonathan: I’ll flick right.
VoiceOber: Shadow Sonos Roam.
Jonathan: There we go.
VoiceOber: Porta Mosen.
Jonathan: Porta Mosen. That’s the name of my Roam.
VoiceOber: Select button.
Jonathan: And I’ll double tap to select it.
VoiceOber: Select– New card. Sonos voice control will work along with Amazon Alexa which is already on your Sonos Roam.
Jonathan: That’s a nice touch. It’s just giving me assurance that I don’t have to choose between Sonos voice control and the Soup Drinker.
VoiceOber: Add Sonos voice control button.
Jonathan: I’ll double tap.
VoiceOber: Add Sonos. New card. Your Sonos Roam. Porta Mosen needs an update to use Sonos voice control. This may take a few minutes. Update button.
Jonathan: I’ll double tap
VoiceOber: Update. New card. Unheard of privacy. Voice requests are processed on your product and never recorded. Saved or sent to the cloud. Update tip one of three. Adjustable. Updating your Sonos Roam. This should take several minutes. Please wait.
Jonathan: I don’t have a percentage indicator there, but it is updating so I will pause the recording while it updates the firmware of my Sonos Roam and will come back and detail what happens. Oh–
VoiceOber: New card. [crosstalk] Sonos voice control has been added to–
Jonathan: Because I waffled on so long.
VoiceOber: Porta Mosen. Let’s get started with a quick tour. Continue button. Skip button.
Jonathan: I’m going to skip the tour right now.
VoiceOber: Skip. New card. Sonos voice control is ready to use in Porta Mosen. Just say, “Hey, Sonos. Play music,” to get it started. Done button.
Jonathan: I’ll double tap the done button.
VoiceOber: Done services and voice.
Jonathan: Just a warning. We’re going to go into a demonstration, a brief one, of the voice control feature. I am going to use the wake word for the assistant quite a bit. As you heard, it is H-E-Y and then Sonos. I’m going to try and edit it to the extent that it doesn’t trigger it. It’s hard for me to know how much I have to do because this is so new. If I do trigger your Sonos device, please accept my apologies. I’ll do my best not to. Hey, Sonos, what’s the time?
Sonos: It is 7:23 AM.
Jonathan: Hey Sonos, what can I say?
Sonos: Sonos voice control lets you make music requests, adjust volume, skip songs, group and ungroup products, and more. Voice requests are not stored so what you say at home stays at home.
Jonathan: You will notice that it is really responsive and that’s because everything is happening on the device as it just said. Hey Sonos, play Don’t Shut Me Down by ABBA.
Sonos: Sorry. I don’t understand. Please use the Sonos app.
Jonathan: Hey Sonos, play Don’t Shut Me Down by ABBA.
Sonos: Sorry. I don’t understand. Please use the Sonos app.
Jonathan: Hey Sonos, play the album ABBA Voyage.
Hey Sonos, stop. Hey Sonos, turn it down.
Sonos: By the way, you don’t need to repeat the wake word when making consecutive requests.
Jonathan: Hey Sonos, turn it down. Turn it up. Turn it up. Hey Sonos, turn it up. Hey Sonos, play Get Back by The Beatles.
Oh, it’s playing that version. Okay. Hey Sonos, transfer this to the studio.
It didn’t do that. Hey Sonos, play in the studio.
Sonos: I can’t locate that. Please check your product names in the Sonos app.
Jonathan: Okay. Hey Sonos, play in the studio.
Sonos: I can’t locate that. Please check your product names in the Sonos app
Jonathan: Hey Sonos, play in studio.
Sonos: I can’t locate that. Please check your product names in the Sonos app.
Jonathan: It’s definitely called studio. Stop. [music] Stop. [music] Hey Sonos, stop. That really is quite loud actually. I’m not sure why it’s so loud. H, volume three. Hey Sonos, set volume to 40%. Hey Sonos, what’s my battery level?
Sonos: The battery is fully charged.
Jonathan: Okay, so it’s quieter now. Hey Sonos, play my Variety playlist.
Sonos: I can’t find that content. Should I play the song called Riot instead?
Jonathan: No. Hey Sonos, play my Workout playlist.
Sonos: I can’t find that content. Should I play the song called Workout instead?
Jonathan: No. Hey Sonos, play the playlist Variety from Apple Music. No? Okay, don’t then. Hey Sonos, play my Workout playlist from Apple Music. Now, Sonos does say that some services don’t support playlists and it may be that they don’t have playlist support enabled for Apple Music. Hey Sonos, play I Still Have Faith In You by ABBA.
Sonos: Sorry. I don’t understand. Please use the Sonos app.
Jonathan: Ooh, that’s really quiet. Hey Sonos, set volume to 50%.
Why is it playing that? Hey Sonos, play I Still Have Faith In You by ABBA.
Sonos: Sorry. I don’t understand. Please use the Sonos app.
Jonathan: That’s interesting. [music] Hey Sonos, stop. Hey Sonos, play Mushroom FM.
I can tell you now that is not Mushroom FM. Hey Sonos, stop. I’ve got a hotkey that tells me what Mushroom FM is playing at any given time and it’s not playing that. It’s actually playing Ronnie Millsap and that doesn’t sound anything like Ronnie. Hey Sonos, play Mushroom FM on Sonos Radio.
Jonathan: We don’t want to hurry you, but no, it doesn’t seem to want to do that either. Hey Sonos, play Mushroom FM on Sonos Radio.
Jonathan: Yes, well– Or maybe it was listening to that so it’s not– Oh.
Now, it is actually playing it. It is playing it from Sonos Radio if we specify that. Hey Sonos, stop. I have just taken a look actually while I’ve been having a play with this at the Sonos app. To be fair to Sonos, the name of the device precisely in the app is called Studio Sonos. The reason for that is that in the studio, we have all sorts of devices. We’ve got lights, we’ve got things that are controlled by home automation. I changed the names to Sonos to make it explicit when I’m talking about devices.
That said, if I use a Siri command or a Soup Drinker command, I can just say in the studio and it gets it. Perhaps the Sonos device is a little bit more fiddley at the moment. Let me try. Hey Sonos, play The Name of the Game by ABBA.
Sonos: Sorry. I don’t understand. Please use the Sonos app.
Jonathan: Is it something to do with the name ABBA that it doesn’t understand? It is quite strange. Let me try. Hey Sonos, play Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.
Okay, now let’s try. Hey Sonos, play this in the Studio Sonos.
Sonos: Grouping studio. Sonos with Porta Mosen.
Jonathan: All right. Now, we have really good sound because it’s coming not only over the Roam, but also in the studio where the Sub is and we’ve got two stereo PLAY:5s. Hey Sonos, stop. You do have to be really precise about the names of your devices. In the app, this is called Studio Sonos. You have to say Studio Sonos, if you want to group it, but the ability to group devices by voice is super handy. You can also use the Sonos app to configure different groups. That may be a more quick and reliable way. For example, we have a scenario in the morning where we want our morning news as we get ready for work to be played in the dining room, the master bedroom, and the living room as we move around. I also have it connected to my hearing aids through the Sonos– what do they call the new one? Sonos Port, I think. Having a group is very useful because then you can just use Sonos voice to say, play this to this entire group and it will do it. Let’s try something else. Hey Sonos, resume.
It picked up where it left off, and now we can say, Hey Sonos, I like this.
Sonos: Okay, I’ll play more songs like this one on Apple Music.
Jonathan: Hey Sonos, play A Night at the Opera by Queen.
Sonos: Sorry, I don’t understand. Please use the Sonos app.
Jonathan: Hey, Sonos, play the album A Night at the Opera by Queen. I think it’s going to do it so you really have to be quite prescriptive right now. I think this is one of the downsides of the on-device model. Now, we should be able to say, Hey Sonos, skip. Hey Sonos, like this song and skip.
Or maybe it did because we’ve skipped. Hey Sonos, add this album to my library. I didn’t get any confirmation about whether it did or not. Hey Sonos, stop. Of course, we still have access to the other service that we might have set up. If I say, for example, Hey Sonos, what’s the weather today? Hey Sonos, what’s the weather forecast?
Sonos: Sorry, I don’t understand.
VoiceOber: It’s currently cloudy in 11 degrees.
Jonathan: Now, that’s interesting.
VoiceOber: Expect partly cloudy skies starting tonight. Temperatures will be fairly consistent averaging about nine degrees.
Jonathan: They’re all talking to me, but of course, we still do have the other one so we can say, Soup Drinker, what’s the forecast today?
Soup Drinker: The current weather is 13 degrees Celsius with intermittent clouds. Today’s forecast has showers with a high of 13 degrees and a low of 5 degrees.
Jonathan: Wow. We still have both voice assistance. Soup Drinker, play Don’t Shut Me Down by ABBA.
Soup Drinker: Don’t Shut Me Down by ABBA from Jonathan’s Apple Music.
Jonathan: See? Just like that.
Yes, there we go, I better stop it now. What I conclude about this is that it’s pretty rough and ready right now, who knows if it will get better. Clearly, the on-device feature is a point of difference and they’re trying to be sensitive to people’s privacy concerns, whether that will inhibit the development of this voice control remains to be seen, but the grouping stuff is really good. When you get used to the fact that you do have to give very precise names for the devices, the ability to group by voice is useful and practically beneficial.
I see myself for the most part though, using my Soup Drinker. One thing I haven’t demonstrated because I have the Roam here in the studio and I’m not going to go up to the living room for this demonstration is the way that you have some control over your home theater system. Again, this is quite practical. Although, I can do some, not all, but some of these things with the Soup Drinker. I’ve got the Samsung TV that I’ve demonstrated on the podcast before, for example.
I can use it to do quite a lot of things relating to the TV, but you can if you’ve got a sound bar that is connected to your TV via HDMI-CEC, say to your voice control on Sonos to turn on the TV. Of course, you can do that from anywhere that you have a Sonos Assistant. You can also toggle night sound or speech enhancement on and off. That is actually a really practical thing to be able to do at times. You can toggle between the Sonos, being a Sonos and playing from the Sonos ecosystem, and playing from the HDMI with a voice command.
Sonos will try and toggle automatically depending on what’s going on, but to be able to do that by voice may just speed things up and make things less ambiguous. That’s a quick look at the first iteration to go public anyway of Sonos voice control. It doesn’t hit it out of the park for me, it isn’t a feature that I would say sells Sonos that you would buy Sonos specifically because of it, but it has some practical benefit and we’ll watch where it goes. If you’ve been playing with Sonos voice control and you have some thoughts to share, do be in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org is my email address.
You can attach an audio clip to that email or just write something down. My number at which you can leave a voicemail is 864-60-MOSEN in the United States. 864-606-6736.
Jonathan: For many years when the kids were younger and cuter, we used to have this feature called the Banana Report on The Mosen Explosion. The kids grew up on the radio. The reason why we called it the Banana Report was that there were four of them and I considered that a bunch of them, one banana, two banana, three banana, four. We don’t have Banana Reports very often but when we do, they tend to be momentous these days. Joining us from sunny Invercargill is David Mosen and Joanna Mosen. Welcome to you both.
David Mosen: How’s it going?
Joanna Mosen: Hello.
Jonathan: What an introduction. This is the first time you been Joanna Mosen on here. Joanna?
Joanna: Yes, it is.
Jonathan: Yes. You rock in that name, no regrets or anything like that?
Joanna: No, no regrets yet, at least.
Jonathan: You’re right, well, you got time.
You guys got married in January of this year and it was a great wedding, but wow, wasn’t it hot?
David: Oh, it was a scorcher, mate.
Jonathan: Yes. In retrospect, would you have had an indoor wedding?
David: No, I don’t think so. I just wish we hit it on a day that was maybe five degrees less.
Jonathan: At least, at least. All of those photos too, all those photos.
David: Oh, I get it, that was a killer.
Jonathan: You haven’t messed around. You have messed around actually.
I told you, you’d go blind. We got the most amazing call a few Saturdays ago. What if we just let you both pick up the story?
David: Basically, we’re going out to a party with friends. Joanna thought it’d be a safe idea to check, to see if that’s the appropriate thing to do, to go out. I’m minding my own business, and then out of nowhere, Joanna comes around the corner with a pregnancy test with a clear, positive reading on it. Oh my God, my soul lift my body. It was crazy.
Jonathan: You had a hunch, Joanna. Did you get a hunch that you might be pregnant?
Joanna: Yes, I just had this feeling.
David: We were trying for a baby but to no avail, and so that–
Jonathan: To no avail? You’ve only been married three or four months or whatever it is.
David: Yes, but we had our goals set out in front of us. We know what we want.
Jonathan: At least the trying’s not exactly unpleasant.
Jonathan: Then, I got a call.
David: Yes. I had to do the calling and we called Joanna’s parents and we called you and everyone seemed very happy.
Jonathan: Oh, I was just absolutely over the moon.
David: I was stoked with how happy you were.
Jonathan: Yes, I had tears streaming down my face. I was so excited and happy. I am so looking forward to being a granddad and being able to spoil the kid rotten, and then give it back to you, and all those good things. I’ve been down here in my studio recording little stories with sound effects and all sorts of funny voices and things like that. The baby is going to have quite a collection of stories by the time it arrives, which is when? When is the due date?
David: Originally, we thought– because of this little app, we thought that due date was going to be the 10th of January, but we recently had a scan to see how everything was going, the eight-week scan and she went and told us that actually, the due date is the 5th of January, just after New Year’s so five days into 2023 is when the baby is due.
Jonathan: It’s a bit of an approximation anyway. Often, first babies tend to be late and all kinds of things like that so you never know, you might get a New Year’s Day baby.
David: Yes, maybe.
Jonathan: How’s pregnancy for you, Joanna? It’s been a bit yucky at times?
Joanna: Yes, it’s been interesting. Some days are definitely better than others but it’s been strange like a strange feeling almost but it’s good.
Jonathan: When you see that scan and it makes it just so real that there’s this wonderful living thing there, that is just so special, isn’t it?
Joanna: Yes, especially seeing the heartbeat, a little flicker.
David: It’s a little flicker on the screen and you could see the baby’s heart going. Man, those baby’s hearts are going fast
David: As of the scan, it was 21 millimeters long, which is tiny about the size of a dates, so it’s very small.
Jonathan: It’s a miracle, isn’t it? It’s such a miracle.
David: Yes, it’s crazy how big they get in the space of nine months from literally nothing to like a loaf of bread.
Jonathan: [laughs] Very exciting, and so you’ve started thinking about names and all those practical things?
David: Yes, we’ve been going through that. It really depends on the gender of the baby and stuff, which we will find out at 20 weeks, so we have a few names in mind.
Jonathan: Oh, so you’ve not definitely decided on Harley for a boy?
Jonathan: I couldn’t tell if you were ribbing me about that or not.
David: What do you mean, no? I really like that name.
Jonathan: Because when I said to you, why you want to call it Harley, you said because it’s Harley David’s son and I thought you’ve got to be pulling my leg about that then.
David: No, we do actually really like that name. For a girl, when I proposed to Joanna, I proposed to her with a ring that’s been in the family for a while and the original owner of that ring, her name was Florence. We both really liked that name, it’s a bit old-fashioned, but it sat well with both of us so we’re thinking of Florence for a girl or Flo for short or Flossy.
Jonathan: That’s pretty, we’ll give her a baby monitor. It’ll be Florence in the machine.
David: Exactly. Those dog days are over.
Jonathan: Yes, tremendous. Big changes coming for you both because you’ve decided to come up to be a bit closer to family and obviously, family are very excited about this. You have a big line of people lined up to do the babysitting and stuff, I’m sure.
David: Oh, I mean that’s the idea because a few years back, Joanna and I both moved to the Deep South, which is quite far away from home. We have decided that probably the best thing is to move back north, where all the family are at and then we’ll be around people that can give us support and it’s a bit warmer and a bit more familiar.
Jonathan: What you find with a lot of young parents is it’s just really overwhelming, it’s a huge thing, but Joanna, you’ve had a lot of experience with kids in your family, right?
Joanna: Yes, I definitely have.
Jonathan: How many nieces and nephews and siblings and I mean you’ve got a lot of experience to fall back on?
Joanna: Yes, well, I have three younger siblings, but the younger two, I remember helping out with Mum. Other than that, I have 14 nieces and nephews in totals, so a lot of practice already.
Jonathan: Yes, so what was it like when grandchild number 15 was announced for your parents? Were they like, “Yeah”? Are they still excited about it, a grandchild?
Joanna: Yes, well, that’s what I was expecting them to do, but Mum ended up in tears and dad was really excited, so still good reactions this time around.
Jonathan: It’s such wonderful news, and of course, then the most common question that I’ve been asked is very much an excited bystander who’s involved to some little degree, is what will I be called and it’s interesting how many people want to know this. How many names there are for grandparents?
David: There are a few. Some I haven’t even heard of, but Bonnie was suggesting names like, what was it, Babushka.
Jonathan: Yes, she been radical–
Jonathan: It wouldn’t surprise me if she just got called Bonnie, to be honest. I think she’d be quite happy to be called Bonnie, but Paul McCartney wrote a book. He’s written two now actually for children about this character called Grandude. When Heidi saw that book, she said when the grandchildren come along, you should be called Grandude and it’s kind of cool, I like that idea.
David: You want to be called Grandude?
Jonathan: I don’t know if I could go through with it, I’m not sure.
David: I mean it’s a nice thought.
Jonathan: Yes, but Heidi thinks it suits me, so I did that. I think often kids decide. Kids come up with names for grandparents and stuff.
David: Often it’s just what they can say or what they can get their mouth around us. For example, your father was granddad to everyone else, but Papa to us because that’s what Heidi could say.
Jonathan: Yes, Heidi said we change. She couldn’t say granddad, she said Papa and so it stuck, that sort of thing happens. Do you have a hope for either gender, like would you in your heart of hearts prefer a girl or a boy or doesn’t it matter?
David: Well, personally, I’m hoping for a boy.
Jonathan: Are you?
David: Yes, but I wouldn’t be disappointed with a girl because what kind of a parent would I be, but I am hoping for a boy personally.
Jonathan: You think there’ll be a bond there?
David: Well, I hope so.
Jonathan: Jo, you got a preference?
Joanna: I’m torn. Some days, I’m like, “Yes, I really want a boy.” Other days, I’m like, “No, a girl will be cool.” I’m unsure, on the fence.
Jonathan: Well, when you hold that little bundle in your arms, you’ll just love them to bits, no matter what. It is so exciting. I cannot tell you how hard it was right throughout my career, my life.
I’ve had to keep all sorts of secrets, certainly professional secrets about amazing products that I’ve been working on for a year or two or various really big things like that, but keeping the secret for the short time I’ve had to keep it, has been the hardest thing in my life because I wake up in the morning and the first thing I think of when I start to gain consciousness every morning is, “Whoa, I’m going to be a granddad.” Then, I bounce out of bed, so keeping it a secret for all that time has been just the hardest thing. We’re super excited here.
David: Yes, I mean, even though it was our decision. I also found it a bit of a hard time just not telling everyone I see on the street, “I’m going to be a dad by the way.” We waited for the first scan before we went and announced it to the world.
Jonathan: David, people have been listening to all this internet radio malarkey, since before you were born and I actually remember when you were born, I had this massive folder of emails from people who sent in congratulations from all around the world about the fact that you had been born and I came on the radio just after you’d been born and talked about you and all that sort of thing and now here we are, there are people who’ve been listening that long to see you actually having children of your own so that’s amazing.
David: That is crazy to think about. Wow, you’ve been doing this for a long time.
Jonathan: Yes, yes, yes, so I’m sure that there’ll be many people who’ve watched you grow up or heard you grow up on the radio, who just couldn’t be more thrilled for you. They’ll be just absolutely over the moon, so well done to you both.
David: Well, I look forward to the– what are we going to call it? Is it going to be called a Banana Report when I bring my own child on or is it going be called something else?
Jonathan: BTNG, Bananas The Next Generation.
David: Well, I look forward to the first of BTNG Report.
Jonathan: Yes, all right. Thank you for joining us.
David: Hey, thank you for having us.
Jonathan: Good luck, Jo, it’s going to be epic.
Joanna: It is going to be good.
Jonathan: I’d love to hear from you, so if you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan, J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener line number in the United States, 864-606-6736.
[01:58:36] [END OF AUDIO]