Podcast transcript, Mosen at Large episode 195, one guys thoughts on iOS podcast apps, looking ahead to Apples Far Out event, and could the Dot Pad be the holy Braille?
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is Mosen At Large the show that’s got the blind community talking. We look ahead to Apple’s Far Out event, a warning for Castro users, and my commentary on the state of iOS podcast apps. I’m joined by Eric Kim CEO of Dot Incorporated. Could the dot pad be the holy Braille?
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast
Looking ahead to Apple’s Far Out event
Jonathan: Lovely to have you here for episode 195, the next episode of Mosen At Large. See, we should always be looking to the future with positivity, will be out of the normal cycle because episode 196 will be recorded right after the Far Out event. Yes, indulge me, and I won’t be able to do that for much longer. That event, as a reminder, is going to be happening on the 7th of September in the United States. That will be at 10:00 AM Cupertino time in California, 1:00 PM Eastern, bright and early on a Thursday morning in New Zealand and Australia.
When the event concludes, we are going to be having Anthony Horvath, Judy Dixon, and Heidi Taylor, with all her descriptions and me getting together and discussing the event will get that podcast episode published for you as quickly as we can, all live and raw and largely unedited. We will endeavor to help make sense of the event from a blindness perspective because you’ll be wanting to think about pre-order an iPhone 14 or an iPhone 14 Max. We believe there’s going to be one of those this year, and an iPhone 14 Pro, and an iPhone 14 Pro Max. The model numbers get confusing, don’t they?
We will talk about that in that special episode, 196, which will be published right after the Apple event. I won’t talk too much about rumors at this stage because we’ll know the real thing soon enough, but the wider angle lens on the iPhone 14 pro is catching my attention. Obviously, the camera technology was improved quite a bit in the 13, and I still have the 12. I may be thinking about doing the upgrade. We’ll see, what else is there.
This whole concept of satellite calling is intriguing so if you haven’t heard about this, the rumor is, and this has been a rumor for a couple of cycles now that if you are in a position where you can’t make a cellular call and you’ve got an emergency going on, then you can use satellite technology to send a text or make a call to officials to get help. We believe that that is the scope of the feature at this stage. It’s not going to be a regular thing that you would do, but I guess you never know how it develops.
Of course, it was slated for the iPhone 13 and never made it. There’s been some suggestion that the reason for that is that there weren’t the partnerships in place that the technology was done at Apple’s side, but they didn’t secure the partnerships in time. We’ll see what happens with that very interesting, intriguing feature.
It would be nice if there was a feature that was kept under wraps, that was so under the radar that all the usual suspects don’t know about it because it’s like waking up on Christmas morning, knowing exactly what you’re going to be getting these days, isn’t it? We’ll see what happens. We’ll report it all to you in episode 196. If you watch the keynote on Apple’s website or on the Apple TV, then you should get the audio description again because it’s one of those hybrid events where they are inviting people to Apple Park, but the material’s going to be prerecorded, I believe. That means that we should get the audio description, which is very welcome, and it’s a lovely touch that Apple takes the time to do that.
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast
Will the Castro podcasts app be ready for iOS 16, and what’s the best alternative?
Jonathan: Next week, time permitting, I do hope to take you through some of the things in iOS 16 that have caught my attention just ahead of the release of that operating system. I know we’ve got a good number of listeners who’ve been playing with the beta. There are some people who don’t want to do that. Actually for the first time ever, Bonnie has installed a Beta of iOS 16 because she’s really interested in door detection and she has an iPhone 13 pro max. She’s got a newer phone than me. I can live with that. She’s pretty proud of the fact that she’s got a newer phone than me. [chuckles] Whatever.
Now, as we get ready to head away, my big decision was, do I put iOS 16 on my primary device, or do I keep iOS 16 on my test device and take the phone away with me running iOS 15? Really it was all the door detection stuff that did it for me. I thought if I can go to hotels or unfamiliar places and have all the door detection stuff going that could actually be practically useful. I decided that iOS 16 has probably gotten as good as it’s going to get before the official release anyway in terms of accessibility, so last weekend I took the plunge and I put iOS 16 on my primary device. There are one or two little wrinkles. There always will be in a major operating system, but by and large, it’s manageable.
I’m just relieved that Braille seems to be largely unaffected in this release. In fact, it seems to be unaffected completely, as far as I can tell with my Mantis device, I’m not seeing any regressions at all. I’m thrilled and relieved about that. Sometimes though, what happens is that for some inexplicable reason, you get a third-party app that has a hiccup with a new operating system.
In the days when I used Skype, it was often Skype. You would install an early build of iOS and Skype would break and eventually it would get fixed. I think because of all the technology that Aira is using, sometimes this happens to Aira too, and they really transparent about it. They say, be careful about installing the betas of iOS until we say we’ve got it sorted.
Now one third-party app that seems to have been impacted by iOS 16 at the moment, at the time that I record this, is the Castro podcast app. Castro podcasts is the best podcast experience I have ever used. This app totally floats my boat and if you’ve been listening to Mosen At Large, for a long time, you will know this. I first devoted an episode to it quite some time ago and then I worked with the developers of Castro on optimizing the voiceover experience even more.
It is efficient, it is a great app to use, but it has some serious issues in iOS 16, and because we’ve demoed Castro on this podcast, talked it up, and showed why it is such a good app I think we have a disproportionately high number of Castro listeners to this podcast. As a result, I have been contacted by quite a few people during the iOS 16 beta cycle to say, “When we try to listen to Mosen At Large with iOS 16 and Castro, it goes bing, and it says that there’s an HTTP 400 error and there’s nothing we can do about it. Except either not listen to Mosen At Large, which could be great for your health, or use another app to listen to Mosen At Large instead.”
I know that Castro is aware of this because they did make a comment on Twitter about getting further data to help diagnose the issue. They also have had a number of people including me contact them and point the issue out. I haven’t had any response to this, and I provided some detail because what seems to be happening is there’s some compatibility thing that is crept into iOS 16 with Castro between Pinecast, which is the podcast host that we use, it’s super, it’s accessible and the tech support is second to none, and Castro.
Since we did a review some time ago of podcast hosts, the blind community has embraced Pinecast insignificant number. You will find quite a lot of blindness podcasts now that are hosted on Pinecast. This is a big deal if you’ve got an app that’s been adopted with love by the blind community, and it’s not talking well to the podcast host that has been adopted with love by a lot of the blind community, we’ve got a problem.
I’ve held off talking about this on the podcast because we know that beta software has bugs, but we are now getting so close to the release of iOS 16 and I’m going to be heading away shortly that I did just want to alert people to this now. That if you are listening to this with Castro, and if there is not a fix that is published in the next week or so, and there may be, then you will not be able to listen to this podcast and several others in the blind community when you upgrade to iOS 16.
Now, if I had gotten any acknowledgment back, yes, we’re aware of the problem we will have it fixed for iOS 16. I would’ve just pointed that out, but one of the things that is also concerning me is that it does seem like the development of Castro has slowed right down. That could be because they’re working on something wonderful or it could be because maybe the best days of this app are behind us.
There have been some other issues with Castro that I’ve tolerated because it’s just such a good user interface. For example, some podcasts seem to take forever to refresh because, with Castro, they follow a model that’s similar to the one that Overcast has, where you’re actually getting podcast material from their servers. It does a caching thing and some podcasts take a long time to come down. Some podcasts actually are not visible in Castro for some reason, but they are other apps so it has been challenging. It’s a tribute to the amazing user interface of Castro that I’ve put up with that and stuck with it.
Now that I’ve upgraded to iOS 16 on my primary device– Soup has got real, Matt. I do apologize. Soup has got real. Now I am told by others that this is not just happening to Pinecast, but it is also happening to some Anchor episodes as well. There could be another reason for that. Adam Curry mentioned on Twitter to me that there may be issues with Anchor and RSS feeds because they could have changed their policy, but certainly with Pinecast it’s a problem.
I reached out to Matt from Pinecast, who we’ve had on this show before. He was fantastic, he had a look at the logs and couldn’t immediately see any issue. He said, one issue could be that if Castro is not properly presenting itself, as a user agent, then they will block that traffic because it’s difficult for statistical purposes, to have just random things pulling their podcast feeds. Sometimes they might be doing that for nefarious purposes, but he can’t immediately see an issue. It’s unclear why it all just works peachy in iOS 15, but it’s completely broken with Pinecast in iOS 16.
At least for now, there is a real need for me now that I’m on iOS 16 on my primary device to keep the podcasts coming and I took another look at the podcast app scene for iOS. I have had a play with quite a few, including Downcast and Overcast and iCatcher and Pocket Casts, and a few that are less accessible. I was trying to get as Castro and experience as possible.
Now, some of the features in Castro people say I don’t need those features and I completely understand that, but I’ll tell you specifically what I really like about Castro. I can live without the features like being able to deselect podcast chapters in advance, copying a lot of audio to a special place on my PC and finding it magically appearing in Castro. The ability to go to YouTube within the YouTube app and send a long YouTube video to Castro so that I can listen to the audio of it anywhere and pause it and resume it and various other things that are nice things to have.
What I like about Castro is that you get all your podcasts in an inbox, your email, you flick through all these new episodes that are in one place. When you find an episode you want to listen to, you just add it to the queue. Now the really cool thing is that you don’t need to delete episodes that you don’t want to hear as you go, because when you’re done and when you’ve assembled your queue, at the top of the screen there’s a mark all as played button. All you’ve got left in your inbox are those podcasts that you don’t want to hear because you’ve added the ones you do to the queue.
Then you double tap the mark all as played button, confirm that, and you’re done. It’s really quick and I can get through massive amounts of podcasts in a very short amount of time and assemble my playlist of things that I want to listen to. It’s elegant and it works really well when it’s retrieving the podcasts that I want. I wanted to get an experience that was like that, and nothing has done it for me. Some have come close, but nothing has done it for me.
I’ve always been quite attracted by Pocket Casts because Pocket Casts is cross platform. You can use it on pretty much anything, including Sonos. I like the idea that I can assemble the podcasts that I want to listen to and then go to my Sonos devices and have them playing when I’m doing other things. That is a very attractive feature and you can make Pocket Casts become very Castro-like, and they also have additional features like playlists, which I’m conscious of because as we prepare to do 30-ish hours of flying each way over the next little while, I do want to grab some podcasts that I can listen to on the plane that are not particularly time-sensitive right now.
Having a playlist to file those in is a really good feature. The reason why I’ve discounted Pocket Casts though, is that when you swipe through the list of episodes, you do not get a description of the episode. You do not even get a short snippet of the show notes and I listen to a lot of news podcasts. I don’t listen live to anything really in terms of news in New Zealand, but I do subscribe to all the morning radio shows that do news and the evening ones too and I can quickly flick through here a description of what the item contains. Sometimes that’s enough to keep me informed. At other times I think I really want to hear this interview or this story and I add it to the queue.
Pocket Casts is nearly there. If we could just get that automatic speaking of show notes, without having to double tap a button every time. I’ve told Pocket Casts this, and they’ve said, “Thanks for your feedback stuff.” Maybe they will get there.
Downcast is an interesting proposition because it as far as I know, subscribes directly to the RSS feed. While there are potential battery consumption issues with that, there are also advantages in that you’re not dependent on a third-party server to get things done. I did have a look at that, it’s really accessible, it’s a lovely app, but I couldn’t create that Castro experience where I have all my podcasts in one place, all the episodes. Then I can just flick through and add the ones I want, globally deleting those that I don’t. Couldn’t get that done.
I’ve been playing with this a lot, I’ve been searching for the nirvana of podcast apps. Or at least another one because when Castro is working for me, Castro just totally suits this use case. I have ended up going back to Overcast, which is what I was using before I found Castro, and just fell in love with that app. Since I last used Overcast as my podcast app of choice, it has gone through a redesign, and it’s clear that that redesign has made it a bit more Castro-like. It’s interesting that the developer of overcast has responded to all of this.
You can create a playlist called All Episodes and just as the name implies all episodes go into that playlist. That’s cool. Then there is a queue you can add episodes to that queue. All right, we’re getting there. Add to queue is not on the actions rotor. You’ve got to go down to actions, double tap, and then choose at to queue. Which when you have as many podcast episodes as I do, is super time-consuming. There is also no one tap way to move an item from one playlist to another.
Let’s say I’m going through my all episodes list and I find something that I want to add to my Listen Later podcast playlist. This is something that I’ve created in Overcast for things that aren’t time-sensitive, things that I will get to whenever I have a moment. When I found that episode, I flick down until I get to actions and then I double tap, and I flick right and I find the appropriate playlist and double tap.
That has copied the episode to that playlist but it remains in the all episodes list. If I don’t want it in the all episodes list, I then have to flick down a second time to get to actions, double tap, and then flick through to delete from all episodes and double tap that. It is tedious. When if you just had a move option, you could take care of that in one action.
Overcast has an edit button and I was perplexed. Perplexed I was which is nothing unusual for me. What’s the point of this edit button? It doesn’t appear when you bring up a podcast itself, it only appears in playlists, but I couldn’t work out what it was doing. I finally did get some progress with it. When you double tap the edit button in a playlist, if you flick through the episodes and double tap, it does nothing at all and at first I thought, is this an accessibility thing or not, and it appears not. If you double tap as a voiceover user, you get nothing happening. But if triple tap, then overcast confirms that the episode is selected. You can go through and I’m doing this now in the all episodes list and triple tap each episode that is not of interest to you. When you’ve done that, you’ve got a whole bunch of episodes selected that you don’t want to deal with.
At the top of the screen, there is an unlabeled button [sound effect] in Overcast. I thought I shall boldly press this unlabeled button. If it explodes [sound effects] my phone well, I’ll get the iPhone 14. I press that unlabeled button. It didn’t explode my phone, but it did delete all the episodes that I had selected at least I think it’s deleting it I can’t be sure because it’s an unlabeled button it may just be marking the episodes as played. It’s a bit hit and miss actually sometimes I’m finding if I select a huge number of episodes, not all of them appear to get deleted but most of them do.
That as far as I can tell is the only action you can take on a bunch of episodes. Once they’re selected you double tap that unlabeled button, you will delete them and you’re not just deleting them from the playlist, by the way, you appear to be deleting the episodes entirely. It’s a slightly different methodology from Castro in that you go through and you choose the ones you don’t want. Then you’re left in the all episodes list with just those podcasts that interest you. You can add them to the queue then if you want to but if you do that, you’ve got to add them to the queue one at a time.
That is tedious because it’s not on the rotor. That’s another thing I would really like to see with Overcast, an accessibility settings option that allows you to customize what’s on the rotor because I would want add to a queue right there on the rotor. I would also like to be able to reorder the rotor. I don’t want to use the drag function. I’d like to be able to hide that. I do want the delete button at the bottom and the add queue button at the top because that way, it would be at least a bit more efficient. When I find an episode that I don’t want to delete, I have to flip down to actions. I can choose add to queue and then I can keep going.
Now you may ask why don’t you just delete the episodes that you don’t want from the all episodes playlist and then play the all episodes playlist? Because if new material comes in, you get a podcast that you may not want to hear playing when maybe your phone’s unattended, you’re some distance from the phone, you’re doing something which means it’s not possible to touch the phone. You suddenly find yourself listening to a new episode that’s just come in and it’s of no interest to you at all. I guess you could use a Siri shortcut to skip it, but sometimes you might not even be in shouting distance of Siri.
Speaking of shortcuts, when I’ve heard enough of an episode in Castro, I’ve set up a shortcut where I say to Siri clear this episode. It marks the episode as played and it moves on. The only thing I’ve found in Overcast that’s close is a shortcut to skip to the next episode, but it doesn’t mark the episode as played at that point. It’s still in your all episodes playlist.
Another efficiency hit I have taken is something that I did get Castro to fix. When I first got Castro and you were moving through the Castro inbox, you would hear the podcast name first followed by the episode title. I said to the Castro folks, “What’s most important at that particular moment? What you really want to know is what is this episode and where it’s coming from is secondary.” If I’m going through a whole lot of news stories I want to hear the headline. Then maybe I want to hear where the headline came from. Overcast doesn’t do that.
As you arrow through your all episodes playlist you first have to sit through the name of the podcast. Then you get your episode title. It sounds like a little thing, but when you’ve got a lot of episodes, that adds up to quite a bit of wasted time. Another thing I’ve really noticed and it could be because I’m running an ancient decrepit iPhone 12, but when I’m playing episodes in Overcast, my phone gets really sluggish.
If I’m just listening to something in the background and I want to flick around or go to the home screen, it’s as laggy as anything. I didn’t have that issue with Castro. My phone was as nimble and quick as ever when I was playing a podcast with Castro but it feels like something in Overcast is really dragging it down.
Overcast is very close and there are features that I do actually prefer. I think that the audio compression features in Overcast are better than Castro. Smart speed works well. Castro has that too but I do wish we could get the Overcast developer to have a bit of a dialogue with people from the blind community who understand what’s required to get an efficient user interface from an accessibility point of view because he’s clearly put some work into the accessibility.
What we’ve got with Overcast hasn’t just happened. I tell you this it’s so much more inefficient to do what I have done with Castro when using Overcast, but it works. There is not the issue with episodes taking ages to pop up like there is with Castro. In the end, you have to make a judgment, don’t you? If you can’t play your favorite podcast in Castro and some of them aren’t even appearing at all, it probably is time to move on.
I should also say that a while ago, Flor Lynch, who listens to Mosen at Large recommended something called RSSRadio to me and I had a play with this and just couldn’t get on with it. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. It just didn’t make sense to me intuitively whereas Overcast does and Castro does. We’ll have to see whether Castro comes out with a shiny new version and time for iOS 16 or not.
I did want to give people sufficient notice to be aware of this. If you upgrade to iOS 16, if you use Castro and if you suddenly find that this podcast will not play and it definitely won’t unless they do an update and other podcasts don’t play then that’s why and you may need to look elsewhere for your podcast.
Luís Penia has done this already. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. I started using Castro a couple of years ago after your comprehensive review of this app. I was pretty happy with Castro until recently. I stopped using Castro a couple of months ago for several reasons. One, Castro fails to update many of my Colombian podcasts. A while ago you suggested me to do a manual refresh, but unfortunately, this procedure does not always work. I had to switch to another podcast.
Two, Castro doesn’t have a method to delete the episodes that you have placed in the queue section. To accomplish this task you have to do it one by one. If you don’t clear these episodes they take a lot of room in your iPhone. Something that is problematic for me since I only have a 24 gigabyte iPhone 11 Pro.” I’m assuming that’s a 256 or maybe 128 but there was no 24 gig one.
“Three, Castro is expensive and I don’t think it is worth paying a fee when you find other apps for free that do pretty much the same things Castro does. I can see your point of displaying the new episodes on an inbox format. For me, this feature doesn’t justify the annual fee that I have to pay to use Castro. My subscription expires next February and I am not planning to renew it.
Four, due to the fact that I have some sight I don’t like the visual appearance of Castro but of course, this is not relevant for most listeners. In my case, I can easily locate some of my favorite podcasts by recognizing the different colors that they use. Five, there were some Spanish-speaking podcasts that Castro couldn’t discover while other podcast clients do. This required me to use another podcast client to listen to those episodes not recognized by Castro. Of course, there is a workaround for this problem, but I was concerned that it kept happening in the future with new podcasts.
As a result of my disenchantment with Castro I started using Pocket Casts. I’m very pleased with this application. It is fully accessible. It’s visual look is very nice. My Columbian podcasts are always updated and it’s free. The only accessibility issue that I have found is to move back and forth through long chunks of time. This feature is not accessible with voiceover. Jonathan, give it a try and let me know what you think about it.”
Guess I just have Luís. Thanks for your comments. I also do agree with you about some podcasts not being discoverable in Castro. That has been annoying. We had a new radio network starting here earlier in the year and they’re doing a lot of great podcast and none of them are showing up in Castro, but they do show up in other podcast apps.
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Jonathan: Let’s talk for the most part about Apple’s Far Out of end coming up next week on the 7th of September. We’re going to make the most of that while we can You see. Rick Roderick is writing in from sunny Louisville in Kentucky. First of all, he says, “When Aira introduced the glasses, I thought the show This American Life should have featured them.” The host is Ira Glass, I get it. “I have not used Ira says Rick, but I am glad to hear about this partnership.”
Now for the iPhone issues I would like to see. In the next phone, I would like to make it possible to dial a phone numberv and also the extension that follows it in a conference call, I would say call (800) 522-5522. The phone would answer and I would say, call 1-2-3-4-5-#. The extension would be executed. This would probably require new circuitry to implement.
Another thing I would add to Siri is a feedback mechanism. Right now if I give feedback, Siri will say “I’m not sure I understand.” My idea is similar to what the Amazon Echo does. I would say, “Feedback,” a developer or support person would see the message. They could then decide to remove a defunct business or fix a recurring misunderstanding.
One more thing for Siri, I would like to be able to use Lyft hands-free. I would say, “Request Lyft.” Siri says, “Are you at–“, and then it would say where it thinks you are. I would say yes or no. I would say what I wanted to use if it was wrong. It would say, “Where do you want to go?” I would say the place or location. This would continue until all questions were answered.
I would like to see some improvements in Braille with a lowercase B entry. I’ve had many cases in which Braille is not entered properly when I go to a field even when I have double-tapped the field. I also don’t like the inter-image from camera being right next door. I would like to be able to remove it since I never use it. I would like to remove emergency SOS from my home screen. It is too close to the shutdown button.” Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts Rick.
“Hi there. This is John Gallagher from Leeds, just to say hope everybody’s looking forward to the new iPhones being released. I hope to get one because my se 2020 battery is playing up and I’m fascinated to learn about the new door detection. I did take a look at the Humanware device, the Stellar Trek, but to me at a £1,000, that’s English money, it just seems a lot of money for a GPS device.
Very interesting about the Envision Glasses. I know I’ve always said well, you can do the same if you hold the phone out and take photographs of things but I must say those people deserve a lot of credit. It really does sound as though they’re doing a lot to try and make it cheaper. The facilities that they’re bringing onto the device really seem very good. Another year my good old friend Zara will have to retire and because I’m a dog person, I am going to really struggle using a white cane, so I really am looking for some technology to help with mobility. I don’t think you’ll ever get it, but not in my time anyway but it’s absolutely fantastic to hear the podcast such lovely people that come on and what a service it is that Jonathan provides for us. You every week listen to it and think well, it’s unfair that it’s free but hope everybody’s okay. Recovering from COVID which both of us caught not nice but there you go that’s life.”
I hope your recovery is swift and complete John. Thank you so much for the kind words. If you’re interested in the door detection stuff, do make sure that you get a Pro iPhone in the iPhone 14 range. I assume it’ll be the 14 that you go for. The Pro range will have LIDAR, which is required for door detection. I think it’s highly unlikely that the regular iPhone fourteens will.
I’ll include this email here because it does start off talking about Apple things and then we descend or veer into a wonderful world of geekery from Sabahatin. He says, “I caught the Siri bug as well. I couldn’t even say play audio book and have it work. It would play music instead. Absurd.” He says, “But the good news is that it’s now less broken than it was at least. That particular command now works again.
My adventurous commands like playing a specific book are still broken. What on earth are they doing to Siri?” He says. “Is torture legal when you do it to a smart assistant?” See, these are some of the ethical questions of our age aren’t they? “Concerning the Sony WH-1000XM5, I am seriously ‘eyeing up’ these cans, because this is my second pair of AirPods Max, which I do love very much for the comfortable wear and Apple integration, and the failure rate of these things is astronomical.
Sure. After Googling about I found the chief cause to be moisture buildup under the ear cups and more important corrosion of the headband connectors and have now learned exactly how to pull them apart and clean both saving me continuously returning them to Apple for service.” That sounds like a horrible design floor you’re dealing with there. Not very Apple-like at all is it?
He continues, “In case you decide to go there. The trick is to stick a SIM ejector tool into a tiny hole above the headphone grill which lets you pull the cups off the headband and clean off any moisture or grease. There you go. You see Apple is going to market this as a plus. Not only can your little SIM ejector that we very kindly bundle free in the box, pop out that secret little tray in the side of your phone so you can insert a tiny nano SIM if you haven’t lost it between when you got it out of its packet and when you put it in the phone, at least in some markets, it’s now also your AirPods Max cleaning tool and you get this double duty free. You wait it’ll be on the marketing blurb I tell you.”
He continues. “My understanding of the XM5 leads me to the conclusion that you can use two devices but only by switching from one to the other. You can’t use both simultaneously.” I get that but I can’t make them switch. I’m not sure what the deal is. I should try it with two different devices and not just my PC and phone which is really what I wanted. He says, “The AirPods of course use handoff to achieve a similar thing on Apple devices. Plus you have headphone accommodations for very basic equalizer slash compression on iOS and Siri’s announced notifications feature which is pretty darned magical in practice.” The headphone accommodations. It’s a very nice user interface they have there.
He says, “If Apple don’t get it together soon, then are begrudgingly learn my £1000 lesson and switch to the Sony ones when these Airpods fail permanently. Next subject. I too am sad for the death of Apple’s AirPort routers and wish they’d revive the brand, especially given today’s smart but exceedingly snoopy and simplified router alternatives. There’s plenty of scope for Apple in the smart home, privacy, storage, and mesh domains. Here we are and cheaper alternatives are now out there.
I went with a single Netgear RAX200 Tri-band AX base station. Frankly, it just makes the latest AC airport routers look silly. Me too for hanging onto them for so long. Even with just 5GHz Wi-Fi in use, the range is absolutely fabulous. I disabled 2.4GHz entirely. The web I interface is dodgy but serviceable and accessible. It’s not smart. You don’t have to use the mediocre but just about usable app. You can choose not to use their services and opt out of any data collection if you really want.
It has two 5GHz bands that can be configured up to 160MHz each if you’ve got the spectrum for it. I don’t. Depending on your network you might be able to use the 2.5 gigabit ethernet port for your internal or external connection. It supports bonding two of the four land gigabit ports as well. There’s a smaller sibling. The RAX120, which is dual channel and has a slightly faster processor and a five gigabit ethernet port. The firmware has matured enough now to be stable and you can do all the usual things you need. DNS settings, VPN server, port forwarding, all that but it’s fundamentally a consumer box.
The good news is you can always turn it into an access point in bridge mode and use another router for more advanced functionality if that’s what you want. I don’t know about their Nighthawk mesh products but my feeling is that there waters become much murkier accessibility wise. Perhaps someone else can comment, but I hope that helps if you just need an AirPort replacement and you don’t mind getting your hands a little bit dirty. Thanks very much love to geek out on this stuff.
It took me a while to get familiar with all the bells and whistles that Ubiquiti have. I actually think Sabahatin that you would really like the Ubiquiti Unify products if you’ve not played with them. You can geek out. I wouldn’t describe the UI as intuitive or necessarily intuitively accessible but at the moment it is usable. If you do a few tricks to it and the iOS app is in very good shape but there are some things that you can’t do on iOS that you have to go into the web UI to do.
That’s why I persist with the web UI but man, it Ubiquiti is just reliable. It’s solid. The coverage is amazing and we have carpeted Mosen Towers with Ubiquiti gear. And it’s one of those products that is just so good and reliable and solid and fast that I couldn’t imagine using another brand now.
Singers: Mosen at Large podcast.
Jonathan: We can make transcripts of Mosen at Large available thanks to the generous sponsorship of Pneuma Solutions. Pneuma Solutions, among other things are the RIM people. If you haven’t used remote incident manager yet, you really want to give it a try. It is a fully accessible screen reader agnostic way to either get or provide remote assistance. These days, not a day goes by that I’m not using RIM.
One of the ways I use it is to either receive or provide technical support from family members, I’m the tech support guy in our family. I quite often get questions from family members that they want me to solve. It’s not realistic to expect them to install a specific screen reader even the demo. Before RIM came along, I found myself having to try and talk them through what they needed to do. Now I can tell them to go to getrim.app. Install a simple application on their Windows PC, and just by exchanging a code word I can have a look at what’s going on.
I can either run Narrator on their system or if you’re using NVDA, you don’t even have to do that. It’s an amazing tool. Do check it out. RIM from Pneuma Solutions at getrim.app.
The Louis Braille Museum and other travel tips
Here’s an interesting email from Linda McCloud and she says, “Dear Jonathan, a few months ago, when you and Bonnie said you were intending to visit the Louis Braille Museum in Paris as part of your trip to Europe, I knew I had to go and immediately contacted my travel agent to look into arranging for my own tour of the museum. Since my husband who is sighted, and I, were planning a trip that included a stop in Paris.
I have also just started learning Braille a few months ago” Congratulations, Linda. “It seemed especially fitting to go see the museum. Then while I was listening to your show on my European vacation specifically, while on a cruise on the Rhone River in France, I heard you were having difficulty contacting the museum to arrange a visit. Well, I am here to help. I was able to visit the museum for several hours on August the 4th, though. Not without a few hiccups along the way. First, let me give you the necessary contact information.”
Thank you, Linda. I’ll give this out though, just in case anyone else is interested because it turns out the problem that we had was that we used the website, which they agree is not in the best of shape. Pedro Zarita also came to my rescue here and put me in touch with them by email. Once the email contact was made, it’s great and it’s all sorted, but here’s what Linda said. “The email address of the museum is museum.louisBraille, all joined together, so museum.louieBraille@orange.fr. The contact person that my travel agent dealt with is Stephan.
The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. One-hour tours are held at 11:00, 2:00, and 4:00. Admission costs €7 per person, payable only in cash. Stephan has been the museum’s caretaker for 24 years. As the museum is small. Since he ended up being the tour guide too, I suspect that he may be the only employee or one of only a few who work there.”
I’ll just stop there Linda and say, there are more because I’m going to take my recording equipment to the museum and sit down with an interview with the woman who directs the museum. There is at least her as well as Stephan.
“From the start,” she says, “Our immediate problem was how to fit the museum visit into our trip to Paris. I was told that the museum is about 15 minutes from the airport. More on this later,” warns Linda. “Both the airport and the museum are an hour’s taxi drive away from Paris. Ultimately after much discussion amongst ourselves and email assurances from Stefan that the museum could accommodate our schedule. We decided that we would land in Paris at 10:30, take a taxi to the museum, do the 11:00 AM tour with assurances that the tour could start late if necessary, and then take a taxi to Paris, hoping to arrive at our hotel in mid-afternoon.
Unfortunately, our taxi driver, despite saying that he knew where the museum was, drove us to a busy city street, approximately 30 minutes away only to discover that he had taken us to the wrong place. We tried calling the museum, which only had its answering machine on in French. Finally, after much confusing discussion, the taxi driver determined that the museum was now 45 minutes from the spot we were now at. As we had heard that the museum was close to Disneyland Paris, we knew we were nearing the right spot when the taxi driver informed us that we had just passed Disneyland Paris and that we were about five or six kilometers away.
The museum itself was very small located at the two-story house that Louis Braille lived in for the first 10 to 12 years of his life before he left home to attend school in Paris. The town of Coupvray is a country town with fields of crops surrounding it. The museum is on a small country hilltop road with other small old houses. Because of this, we were concerned about being able to call a taxi after we were done. We asked our driver to meet us back in about 90 minutes, to which he readily agreed.
Because of our experience. I would suggest that when you take your taxi to be sure to indicate that the museum is near Disneyland Paris in Coupvray and to ask if the taxi driver can pick you up after you are done to ensure that you aren’t stranded for too long trying to find a taxi. When we arrived, Stefan took our luggage and let us into the home. There was no one else there. The small lobby was great because it had a tactile replica model of the Louis Braille House Museum labeled and Braille. It also had a large bust of Louis Braille, which I was allowed to feel. After many days of limited tactile experiences on my travels, this was a welcome change.
Stephan told my husband and me that everything in the museum could be touched. I won’t go into great detail about the tour as not to disclose everything, but the tour included visiting several rooms of the house, including the family living quarters, the leather workshop, the small garden, and a room where different Braille books and Braille writing machines were displayed. As I had never written Braille, I was able to write my name in Braille for the first time using a stylus.” Well, wasn’t an amazing thing to do that at the Louis Braille Museum, Linda.
She continues. “Since you are obviously much more advanced in Braille proficiency, you will doubtless be very familiar with the various writing instruments, but I think that you may find the over 100-year-old books in Braille and other reading alphabet/languages interesting. Stephan seemed to have a pretty good basic knowledge of the history of Louis Braille’s life and the development of the Braille and other languages for the blind that competed with the Braille alphabet early on. He is not blind, however, and he does not read Braille fluently.
For example, when I asked him if the French refer to Braille with a capital B, he said they did not. He seemed puzzled by the question. When I explained the reason for my question, that there were many in the blind community who felt that a capital B should be used to refer to the Braille language as a matter of respect to Louis Braille, he was completely unaware of the issue.
These factors, including the fact that English is not his first language, lead me to believe that much of what he presented to me during his tour will be well known to you as well as others who are well versed in Louis Braille’s life and work. Nevertheless, I did learn a few interesting new things that I did not know before. I’m sure you will, too. I was disappointed that the museum did not have a selection of Braille books to purchase. As I was hoping to purchase a children’s picture book in Braille.
One of the best things about going to the Braille Museum is that it gave my husband a chance to learn more about Braille. I think he thoroughly enjoyed it for me, seeing the humble beginnings of a man who was not only a great intellect but had such a profound influence on the lives of all blind people was quite moving. The museum is still as humble as his early life. I hope this email helps you and Bonnie, as you prepare for your trip, if you have any further questions, please contact me at my email address.”
Thank you so much, Linda, for that really great preview, I’m looking forward to going a lot and we’ll take the microphones there and see what we can record for the Mosen at Large audience. We are actually going on our second day in Paris. Having talked to Stephan, I’ve decided that I’m going to take an Uber from our hotel in Paris. Uber tends to be a bit more reliable than taxis because you enter the exact destination into the app, and then it’s confirmed. Generally, the Uber app guides the driver to the right place. Hopefully, we’ll be okay, but I will make a note of the fact that it’s close to Euro Disney in Paris.
On a similar subject, we now say bonjour to John who says, “Hi, Jonathan, I am sorry it has taken me so long to send this.” Better late than never, John. “I lived as a student outside London for six months and I visited each of these cities more than 10 times over the years.” I think we’re talking about London and Paris here. “Sometimes while sighted, oftentimes while being blind.
I won’t give you a list of sightseeing points of interest because I am sure you can get those elsewhere and probably have many in mind already with one exception. I seem to recall you are a big fan of history and if so, there is no better museum for that than the British Museum. Alas, I have only spent a few hours in Stockholm, a very nice city with a wonderful pedestrian-only area, but don’t feel comfortable making any comments about that city.
I will include at the end of this email, some foreign travel basics that I presume you already know, but I’m including just in case that here are some practical tips I have learned over the years. London, getting around London. The subway, aka the tube, is a terrific way to get around the city. London traffic is horrible, especially in the central city. Having said that if you are based near the attractions, you most want to see walking around, especially the Royal area, parliament, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, et cetera is easy and well worth doing.
Also, consider a boat trip on the Thames if you want to go to Greenwich. You can get the boat right outside the Tower of London. It is relaxing and formative and drops you right near the Observatory and Tower. Too and from the airport, there is a new subway line from Heathrow to Central London. If, and it is a big if you feel you can travel on the tube with luggage. This will be a nice way to get into Central London fast and a lot cheaper than a cab.
However, keep in mind, getting around with a lot of luggage, especially when jet lagged is darn near impossible. We have been flying for well over 36 hours by the time we get there, John. Sharing a cab or arranging for a pickup, your hotel can do this, or you can find someone online will be a lot less stressful. All be it more expensive but to me, well worth it. If you plan to go to the theater in London, sometimes the plays are described.
If you get lucky, maybe you will be in town when they do those. Here we are doing Mamma Mia in keeping with the whole ABBA thing, John. We’re doing Mamma Mia on the west end. If you want to see a specific show, book it in advance. Yes, tickets are already obtained for Mamma Mia, John. If you are flexible, there is, or at least there used to be a half-price ticket office unless Leicester Square.
Not every show will be available, but many will be and the price savings are significant. Pubs are good for food, social life, and drinks, but ask at your hotel for a good one with local color. Food in England is dramatically better than it used to be and you have very good ethnic Indian, Chinese, et cetera, options too. Paris. First, the most important thing I can tell you, and it is something I never realized until I had visited France more than a dozen times is the following.
When you walk into a restaurant, pharmacy, small shop bank, et cetera. The first thing you should always say is Bonjour. Not saying Bonjour is considered rude, especially if you begin by saying anything else. This is true when walking up to someone to ask for directions or advice. By saying bonjour, first, you are being polite and will get a much better perception.
Possibly the worst thing you can say when you first walk up to someone is do you speak English? That is okay after bonjour, but never before. If you know any French at all, try to use it. It will be appreciated by the person you were speaking with. Often after you say bonjour and try your French even awful French. Take it from someone who speaks only a bit and speaks it badly. They will often rescue you by responding in English. This simple bit of politeness has made our most recent visits to France so much better.
John, that is one of the first pieces of advice I got when I first visited France and I’ve visited on numerous occasions. The first time was when I was very young and I went in 1989. We didn’t have a big budget and they said, look, people really do like you to make the effort. They’ll treat you better if you make the effort. I remember I was so keen on my first visit to France to go and see the headquarters of Radio France international.
I walked in there and we spent ages my then girlfriend and I, who was traveling with me. Thinking of how do we ask this question that we wanted at Radio France and finally, we worked it out. We had the hard copy phrase book she could see, and we worked it all out with the phrase book. It took us probably five or 10 minutes to construct the sentence and finally, we go up to the counter already to rumble when we do bonjour madame, [foreign language], and then she said, “Oh, you may as well say it an English it’s far easier.” She said it in a very fluent American English accent.
John continues to and from the airport, please take a taxi If at all possible. Taxis have a fixed price they can charge for transportation to and from the airport. Also, they can use the express lanes on the highway. Uber may or may not be cheaper, but they cannot use the express lanes. The money you save, if any could mean a lot of stress and aggravation to say nothing of lost time. There are buses. They also can use the express lane, but drop you at a set point from which you will need a taxi or Uber most likely.
Again, for me, a taxi to and from the airport is a no-brainer. Unless you are a poor student with a backpack. Been there done says, John. Yes, me too. I hope to never do it again. Transportation inside Paris continues John, if possible, walk everywhere you can. The sites and more important in your, and my case sounds of Paris streets and neighborhoods are terrific. There are some great walks and amazing parks. I know you can’t walk everywhere, but to the extent you can, it is worth it.
Having said that there are often narrow sidewalks and a lot of construction. As they get ready for the Olympics so you will also need other transportation. Here, a taxi or Uber, both work well. The subway, aka, the Metro is terrific, efficient, and cheap. However, it is not blind or disabled-friendly at most stations. We still use it more often than not, but my wife is cited and we have used it many times over the years and know our way around reasonably well.
If you do plan to use it, your daughter will make your life a bit easier. If she studies it in advance and reads up on how to use. Again, if you have used it before and know the pros and cons, go with your instincts here. Taxis at a small charge if you get them at a taxi stand and a bit more if you flag them down or call them to your hotel. Again, the convenience is usually worth it.
By the way, taxis must accept credit cards. Some will tell you they can’t or that the machine is broken. Don’t believe them. They prefer cash but must accept credit cards. Some basic advice, sorry if you know this already, but once I presume someone I gave advice to new or this and it turned out they did not. Always get a few English pounds and Euros from your local bank before you go so you can plan for things in a situation where a credit card won’t work.
Also good for tips. If you need currency, use your bank card at a local bank. There may be a slight charge, but much less than at a currency exchange office. Also, check with your bank before you leave to be sure your bank money card and the pin you use will work in Europe. Generally, you want a four-digit pin, but again, ask your own bank. Tell your bank and credit card companies that your card will be used in Europe and tell them your travel dates.
If you don’t and you try to charge something in London, your bank may think it is a fraudulent transaction and freeze your card. No fun, if 5,000 miles from home. I tell you what, that has not happened to me and I’m a very frequent traveler. At least I used to be traveled the world quite extensively, but it did happen to Bonnie when she first visited New Zealand and I stepped back and Bonnie and my children went on a getting to know you trip without me.
Confidence building and all that stuff, because she was going to be the stepmother you see so I left them to it. Bonnie took them to the museum or rather they took Bonnie to the museum and introduced her to some New Zealand culture. Then Bonnie decided that she would take them to McDonald’s. A very good confidence-building measure for children of the age that they were then.
She went there and she tried to pay with her credit card at McDonald’s but because she had bought some touristy things from the museum that the kids took her to. The Bank of America was suspicious and they froze her card and she was unable to pay at McDonald’s. Luckily McDonald’s had mercy and took her US currency. Interesting. Now back to John, learn some basic language for France and Sweden saying things like, please, thank you, excuse me, and good morning, et cetera can’t hurt and will be appreciated. Learn about local food and don’t be afraid to try local cuisine if possible.
Again, learn a few restaurant terms so you know what you are ordering that always helps. All the good things you have heard about French food are true. Indeed they are, especially if you’re not on a student budget like I was the first time I visited in Paris and I believe London, they must bring you tap water at no charge. You do not have to pay for bottled water. If you enjoy wine, ordering a glass or carafe, or half carafe of the house wine is almost always a good idea and great value.
Trust me if a French restaurant has bad house wine they will not be in business very long unless they are in a tourist only zone. By the way, there are probably no bad bakeries in France. The French care a lot about bread and those self-respecting [inaudible 01:00:25] will serve bad baguettes or [inaudible 01:00:29] et cetera. Most important advice of all have a wonderful time.
Thanks very much John appreciate the advice and that may well be useful advice for people who are traveling soon or perhaps want to file it away for the future. I’m going to have to be really careful in France because you’re right. There’s a lot of bread and that kind of thing and as somebody who is eating the ketogenic lifestyle that’ll be a challenge.
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast
Elevators at the NFB convention
Jonathan: The prolific Mike May is back with us once again what you got Mike?
Mike: Jonathan another thing that might be a really hot topic and I bet you’ve already heard from people about this but in short at the NFB convention with 2500 people mostly in one hotel having on demand elevators that most people were not familiar with and those elevators not set up to deal with that many people and not that many people using the accessibility mode, it was an unmitigated disaster, unbelievable. You’d have to plan half an hour 45 minutes to get somewhere or use the stairs.
Gina and I moved after two days from the Marriott to the backup hotel across the street the Sheraton because of this. A lot of people just had to live with it. Good exercise but combination of things don’t work in that situation. There’s a couple different kinds of on demand elevators. They tend to have a regular keypad and at the bottom with various tactile markings there’s a long bar you press and it says enter your floor. Now some of them you actually have to scroll through all the floors.
There’s one in Hawaii that does that at Hilton but at this one you type in your floor 18 and then it tells you go to car F and there are seven eight elevators in this big bank. First of all you can’t hear where you’re directed to because of the loudness in that area with probably 50 people trying to queue up for the elevators. You can’t hear what it is. You stick your head next to the wall and try to hear it. Maybe you do. That says go to car F or which one’s car F? If you’ve learned this ahead of time, you can probably locate it.
If you have to feel around the walls try to find where the F is and they’re not always on the same Braille label that the floor number’s on that might say Maine or lobby car F, car G, car E. You got to find that. They did have a cited person there occasionally managing all of this and then it was okay but somebody gave me a piece of information that that’ll make sense in terms of programming but I can’t confirm that it’s true but I do know one thing that’s true when you hit that disability speech button, which is also meant to give more time for a wheelchair person to get to the car and get in it.
That means that it slows down the opening and closing of the doors which makes the process even slower. This one person told me that they also assume that if there’s one wheelchair in the car because the person hit the button’s probably in a wheelchair or maybe in a wheelchair that they don’t allow two people with wheelchairs. If you hit that accessibility button and you want to go to the same floor or sequence of floors, then you start getting this car unavailable message.
You can see how it would be chaos with everybody pushing in the floors multiple times because they’re not coming. The sighted person can see a display above the door that says where the elevator is in progress. That at least gives them some idea that it is coming eventually. It’s still headed up but it’ll be coming back down to get you. It would be wonderful to engage with the Otis elevator company or whoever makes this software and improve these things because it’s really a mess.
Of course then when you get in the elevator there’s no buttons, there’s a closed and an open door button that’s it and you can’t do anything. People learn different strategies like just take whichever elevator comes along and get out. Then on that floor it should be quieter and you can hear the proper designation and figure out where to go or you take the stairs. Loads of fun at NFB.
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Dot Incorporated CEO, Eric Kim talks about Dot Pad
Jonathan: There was once a time when supposedly wise people wise predictors of the future were forecasting Braille’s demise with talking computers becoming more capable and affordable. It was claimed that Braille would be obsolete. That was a common refrain. Usually from cited people back in the 1980s. 40 years later and beautiful Braille is more viable than ever with many cool new products and Braille readers connecting their devices to smartphones and computers.
For all the great innovation one much sought after goal has been elusive. A viable multiline display that can not only show multiple lines of text but also produce tactile graphics helping blind people with a range of tasks but particularly stem subjects. A company with technology that is looking very promising is Dot Incorporated. They have technology called the Dot Pad and they’ve done some other innovative Braille things already.
As we heard an episode 176 of this podcast, they are partnering with APH and HumanWare and I’m delighted to welcome Eric Kim to the podcast he’s co-founder and CEO of Dot Inc. Eric it’s a real pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much for your time.
Eric Kim: Thanks for inviting me. Thank you Jonathan.
Jonathan: How did you become interested in the field of Braille technology and founding a company like this?
Eric: It’s a long story but I was a startup kid and I really wanted to change the world in a good way always from high school students. I happened to apply for studying in the US and I studied in English Washington in Seattle and I had three startups in software side. At the end of that journey I felt like I wanted to do more meaningful things. Obviously that is about making a product that makes people more happier and more painkiller product.
I really wanted to make that. I became a Christian around 2013 when I was a junior and I saw Braille Bible. It was really big and it was quite shocked to me. That was the first time that I saw Braille book. After that I realized all the problems that you mentioned just before and I really wanted to solve it but like I realized not many people actually solved it. I felt like oh, this is something that I could contribute to the world so we started.
Jonathan: I remember as a kid the Oxford pocket dictionary was in about 36 Braille volumes and I used to think to myself you’re going to have to have a really big pocket to put the dictionary in it. It is bulky and of course refreshable Braille has helped with that a lot. I was really intrigued by what you were saying about wanting to make a difference because I’ve had product manager roles in various assistive technology companies. I’ve said this to engineers that it is hard to imagine an industry where what you do is more impactful and changes so many lives for the better.
Some people may be familiar with a product that you’ve already got out there which is called The Dot Watch and that’s been on the market for some time now. Could we just talk a bit before we talk about the Dot Pad, about what that product is and what you believe its major selling points are?
Eric: Right now we’re more focused on Dot Pad and basically Dot Watch was like if you want to achieve something you need to do step by step. Dot Watch is our first step product. On the Dot Watch we used our first generation of Dot Cell which is a Braille cell. That was pretty innovative in terms of small sizes and low energy consumptions but it had certain limitation of course.
We used that technology in wearable format and that was only four cells so it’s not enough for reading long text or reading like long sentences but it’s the first digital watch anyway in tactile format. It’s also smart watch so you can read the small amount of text or you can check your memo. You can check the numbers and it’s more private than just hearing it in public spaces. You can also, very quietly, you can just touch your wrist. When I first saw this market and so the problems I felt like there are not many options to choose.
I hope this could be another option for blind and visually impaired people. Also, we wanted to create beautiful design. We really try hard for that. Also I really wanted to make some breach between a lot of people, becomes blind in later agents. I found out that, learning Braille for them was really, really hard. From numbers to small text or characters, you can learn on Dot Watch. Our principle of the Dot Watch was making a bridge between Braille literacy and also we wanted to make a really affordable price.
It’s around $300. Of course, for some people it could be expensive, but we really tried to make it affordable as much as possible. Our goal was not the Dot Watch. Our goal was making a Dot Pad and make a huge impact what you mentioned earlier. We’re really happy that we could achieve through those researches and innovation that we found out through Dot Watch journey.
Right now we upgraded that technology and we are using second generation Dot Cell. We’re really happy that we could create this Dot Pad and really make our customer more happier.
Jonathan: Looking at all of this through a technologist lens, as I do. One of the things that I think is significant about the evolution of the Dot Watch is that you have proven that your Braille cells are viable and that they actually do feel like Braille because the industry has been stuck for decades with the peso electric technology. Nobody has really been able to crack it in both senses one it’s responsive enough to be viable and two that it actually feels Braille enough for a blind person to read it credibly. It looks you have managed both of those problems.
Eric: Yes, it was not easy journey. Of course, this market has lot of experts. We needed to hear a lot of opinions and feedbacks around the world and that actually helped us to become better. Right now we have better technologies and everywhere we bring Dot Pad, people are really surprised and they like you so much and they’re really feel happy about it. I’m also very happy.
Jonathan: Tell me about Dot Pad then for somebody who’s never heard of this, never been able to get their hands on one. What is it? What excites you about it?
Eric: Well, our co-founders are really fans of Apple. We really like Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs and their approach. They brought us graphical using to base from Macintosh and through those innovation. This is all about human controls, graphical elements and make product lives and education to entertainment and professional careers and everything. This market lack of that part in terms of hardware technology to software technology.
Dot Pad is exactly breakthrough point for that. We created the monitor that is affordable enough to bring the market and also reliable enough to people use and fast enough to check all the graphic images and clear enough to you see it, and it also follow Braille standards. You can read Braille and also you can check graphics in really densed distance where, you can recognize every dots because we follow Braille standards.
Every time we bring this Dot Pad to people, they are really surprised because it has 2,400 pins on the upper side as a, graphical screen. On the bottom it has a 20 cell Braille display. If you transfer that to 2,400 dots to Braille, it’s a 300 cells Braille cells on upper side. It’s really a big screen. What we are doing with APH, it has much more bigger screen and high end technology.
I would summarize that what we’re making is a monitor for blind and visually impaired people. It’s not just about one product is more whole new selections of monitors and graphical user interface experience. On laptop there we have 13 inch or 15 inch 16 inch. It will be something like that pretty soon. We could already see a lot of those things happen. Eventually I believe blind and viewing through people will leave the error with graphical user interface in digital life.
Jonathan: Just so I understand the layout, you’ve got the 20 cell Braille display at the bottom, a more traditional 20 cell Braille display. Does that mean that the cells above that or those other pins are exclusively for graphics? Or can you also use those for multi-line text? If you want to?
Eric: You can just imagine it’s scare look like device it’s really thin. You’ll be surprised by that. It’s only one kilogram, so it’s really light. On the very bottom we have a 20 cell Braille display and upper that we have some buttons you can make a functions each of them. Then above that we have a 300 cell Braille display, which is a graphical display and it’s really fast and you can check graphical interface in there. Then what we did with Apple is that if you connect with your iPhone on 20 cell display on the bottom, it creates voiceover highlighted parts. On the upper side, we show exact graphics and icons, for example, phone icon, when you highlight the voiceover cursor to there. Basically it’s combination between that. Of course you can read multi lines of the Braille on the graphical screens too, if you want. I think there are going to be a lot of also interesting development coming up in there. It’s all about the combination or each person’s preference.
Jonathan: You must be very proud of the fact that Apple is already supporting this device in iOS at this early stage.
Eric: Yes. Like I said, our co-founders are all fan of Apple and we really like their philosophies and everything. It was a huge honor that we could actually work with Apple and make a progress and the result, and actually this is really historical thing, right. Apple really saw the significant needs of this technology and this direction. They opened the voiceover API to the graphical elements. We see also a lot of other more and more developments coming up. I mean really humbled and I like it so much.
Jonathan: Well, that’s super impressive. Do you have software on board that allows the user to open different types of files and work with graphics at the moment? Or does that all come from the device that the Dot Pad is connected to like the iPad or a PC say?
Eric: Dot Pad that we work with apple, it’s like a monitor. It’s a Braille display like device. You can connect with iPhone or iPad or other apple devices. You can use that Apple device as a computer. Then you use Dot Pad as a monitor. It should be combination Dot Pad, but also on the Dot Pad buttons, you can also control elements on your iPhones or iPad. Right now the current version that we have as a iPad Dot Pad, it doesn’t have own functions.
Of course you can save some data, something like that, but it’s a display, but you can see the computer type of device will come up and then, a lot of diverse device will come up. You’ll see it pretty soon.
Jonathan: Essentially it’s in terminal mode.
Jonathan: What about other platforms? I was talking to Greg and William from APH about this when we had a chat to them, clearly, this is also going to require quite a bit of rethinking for windows screen readers. The one that is clearly used in a lot of education or in vocational settings is JAWS. Do you see this device working in the windows environments anytime soon?
Eric: Yes. I cannot disclose many information, but certainly Apple opened the door. Lot of companies already willing to do that. We have lot of meetings coming up on June. I think a lot of things will happen anyway in globally, not just in the US. It will support multi, iOS , not just windows and other, iOS system. I can see, but I cannot tell you about the specific information yet, because it’s not released.
Jonathan: Can people buy these at the moment or is it still in the prototype stage?
Eric: Well like you mentioned we have a very important project with APH that is much more bigger project than this one so you’ll find out the schedule from Greg about it, right?
Jonathan: Yes that’s right so some way down the track yet before they’re expecting to release that.
Eric: Yes so the project with Apple that the Dot Pad that I mentioned to you is it will be available from Q3. Already we are working with a lot of companies and a lot of HR directors from those companies want to bring this device to their employees and we’re thinking to make a lot of useful applications with them. We also have a lot of meetings with universities in the US and also in Europe they are also eager to create games or some useful application for work like calendars and connecting this application with maps.
There are so many ideas coming up so we’re developer mode right now so we want to provide this first batch of units to a lot of developers. It’s not just about bringing to personal developers more research oriented institutions or big companies, I think they will be first people who get the first batch of Dot Pad. After that I think will slowly release it to private customers. Actually a lot of governments already have a big interest to bring this to their people in their procurement system. I think if you make a good progress in there maybe some countries will get the Dot Pad pretty earlier than they thought in this year or early next year so things aren’t moving really fast right now.
Jonathan: Is it too early to talk about pricing?
Eric: Like I said it’s more like developer oriented right now and also we are having a big project with APH so all things are related so we want to create a really ecosystem. Our goal is really simple, making it affordable so we’re going to find a way to making it affordable and traditional Braille display.
Jonathan: There are two objectives at the moment it sounds like one is obviously refining this technology and it’s pretty groundbreaking technology and the other is looking for use cases. Have you done much research at this stage into the way that blind people can interpret or not tactile graphics? I ask this because in my experience there are some blind people who really get tactile graphics and can glean a lot of information from them.
I’ve also seen blind people who struggle with interpreting tactile graphics and I’m not sure why that is, why some people thrive and others don’t. Is this something that you’ve been observing in research that you’ve been doing?
Eric: Exactly that is one of the biggest research topic for our software team and it’s not a learning curve. It’s not just about getting tactile information is more like everyone has a different preference and the key thing is making graphical experience in whatever they want to experience. For example that could be PowerPoint, that could be games, that could be webtoons, that could be multi-line Braille experience or that could be maps.
For example if this one person want to see maps and if we create graphical user interface in map type of format, we can customize it with that customer and he gets it in short period of time. I think for stem type of math equations or education matters it will be good for students, but I think for adult it should be more like web surfing, it should be more like gaming, it should be more like professional tools for their daily use. I think making as many use cases and customize those tech graphical interface experience is really, really key things.
Once we bring each of those preference to each users they get it because they want it. If you just bring for example some math problems or questions with all the graphics and everything to some adult, they might not want to do that and they might don’t get it. Everyone we saw they have different needs and if they find their needs on graphical tactile experience instantly they get it.
We are researching a lot about how can we simplify confused images and how can we transfer the photos that you take to the simplified graphical images and how can we give the level of options for customers to adjust the best type of practical user interface options. That is our research topics and there will be ton of variables in that software development alone.
I will not say it’s not just about someone understand or someone doesn’t understand, it’s more like how can we make lot of variables and a lot of options for each people’s preference and how can we fulfill their needs? Those are the key factors and once we get the key factors, everyone love it that’s what we saw until now.
Jonathan: I’m sitting here thinking about my own work where I have to deal with spreadsheets that are quite complex. Thinking well that’s interesting to be able to peruse that tabular data in that environment, but also if you could generate a pie chart and have that rendered it could be a really quick way of cleaning some concepts.
Eric: We already did it and professionals like you when we brought those data they really liked it I could really see it.
Jonathan: Responsiveness latency, your confidence that’s okay in terms of how quickly the device refreshes.
Eric: It’s fast enough, but it will be faster and faster, we’re preparing our next generation of the technologies too and next next generation so it will be faster and responsive. Also it will have some variables in terms of the heights and everything, but right now the current generation is the latest generation is fast enough to check all the images and all the elements and data.
Jonathan: Does all of this Braille cell technology use a lot of juice in terms of battery consumption?
Eric: Dot Pad right now we’re working on normally you use eight hours per day without the charge so it’s like a normal lap laptop. We proved our technologies energy efficiency on the Dot Watch actually making wearable devices extremely hard topics for startup, but we did it. You could use it I think five days to seven days so we managed well about energy consumptions on the Dot Pad too based on those experiences.
Jonathan: The device that you are building in conjunction with APH and Humanware clearly for the education and professional market and that device as I understand it is going to have quite a bit of built in software like a book reader and various graphing rendering tools. That’s going to be I guess when this technology really reaches the mass consumer market correct.
Eric: Yes that is the biggest projects and we really respect APH and Humanware in a way they have a lot of thoughts about it already so we are following and we’re supporting so that the APH project will be the biggest. I think hopefully the best breakthrough opening gate, but also not just education what we want to see is entertainments, gaming’s and everything so we want to make it more abundant ecosystem. We’re not just going to focus about education only we want to make everyone happy so we’re going to try our best to do that in many sectors.
Jonathan: When I think about how I might use this device and obviously I haven’t had my hands on one, I think I’d be inclined to want to press down on the graphics and interact with them in some way. I might be viewing a map and I might want to zoom in on that map and go granular, is that something that’s going to be technically possible or will you just simply use keys to zoom in and out on a particular piece of graphic that you want to expand?
Eric: Right now the current version that we work with the Apple ecosystem it doesn’t have interactions so you need to use buttons on there. There will be accessories for doing that so you can apply in the later, but current version doesn’t have that. Other project that we are working on I cannot disclose many data, but interaction is very, very important thing so there will be like what you said the interactions will happen anyway.
Jonathan: This is very good because I’m trying hard and you’re being very good, and [laughs] that’s the way the interviews work. I try to tease all this stuff.
Eric: It’s really hard.
Jonathan: I know, I understand. I’ve been on the other side as well, but this is very exciting technology. What is the best way that people can stay updated with what the company is doing and rolling out?
Eric: For students, of course, I think the APH has the latest news always about this include all the eBRF revolutions. We will support APH directions in that way, but like in many diverse developments, you can stay tuned to Dot Inc website newsletter. We have a newsletter list so you can subscribe it. From now on, we will also report our research about one of the top universities around the world. All the professors are really, really excited about research possibilities.
We want to create really fun things like games, new type of applications that can help blind people’s professional productivity. Those things we’re going to focus more so with the other universities and the institutions so you can subscribe to our newsletter about that.
Jonathan: Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This is absolutely fascinating. Congratulations on all that you’ve achieved so far.
Eric: Thank you very much, Jonathan. We need your support and we need like APH and humanWare, all the partner support. We’re doing this really our whole heart. Personally, I’m putting my 20s life into this. I really want to change the world in a better way. I really want to achieve some historical thing for everyone, making everyone’s lives better. Please support us and let’s make great things happen.
Jonathan: Comments from a Dot Pad user, Kevin Chow writes in and says, “I’ve been exploring, learning, and figuring out Dot Pad over the last week. I have been having a lot of wow, so cool, and so amazing feeling expressions. Similar to most Braille with an uppercase B displays, it was quick and easy to pair in voiceover Braille settings and I was able to instantly have tactile graphics of app icons, controls, and images. There are light gray pins that raise and dark pins that are lowered to provide the layout and structure.
Along the lines of being Braille literate, there is a gap of being tactile graphic literate. I was surprised to have difficulty making sense and figuring out what the tactile graphics represent because of having visual memory from being cited until the age of 14 and learning and using tactile graphics in education. I’ve been able to have cited people in real life or via remote video walkthrough and describe the parts and context and the details for me to understand the whole. This seems as transformative as the CLI to the gooey or the touchscreen being accessible.
Blind people have access to visual assets such as wireframes and screenshots. Specifically, the layout and structure is a tactile graphic that doesn’t require making a mental picture but adding context in detail to the tactile graphics under one’s finger. It’s been very fun, cool, and amazing to browse through photos I have or ones out on the web to see what different things feel like, meaningful connection, the act of even wanting to see what visual things look like is a new thing because of now having a way to view it in an accessible way.
This has opened up a new spatial layout and structure world that has a learning curve, but I’m curious, excited, and happy to go along the tactile graphics journey with Dot Pad.” Rebecca Skipper writes, “I would like to remind listeners that the Canute is already available and the Orbit Research is working on a multiline refreshable Braille with an uppercase B display as well. The Dot Pad sounds exciting, but I think the proposed Braille standard for presenting text into graphics is the most promising change for Braille in decades.
Having a multiline Braille display or a display that can present textual and graphical information on the same device opens up a lot of possibilities for education and employment. Transcripts of Mosen At Large are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at pneumasolutions.com, that’s P-N-E-U-M-A solutions.com.
Robots at the ACB convention
We have been talking about the NFB Convention earlier in the episode, let’s talk about ACB. Here’s John Gasman with an interesting little piece.
John Gasman: If you attended the ACB Convention and spent any time at all at the Omaha Hilton in the dining room or ballroom, wherever you spent most of your time, you probably saw the two robots moving back and forth, going from kitchen to the staging area where food and drinks were dropped off. Well, I thought it was a pretty unique situation. I had never heard of it before. I had an opportunity to talk to Zachary Dimmitt, the director of food and beverage at the Omaha Hilton all about the robots.
He had a lot of interesting things to say, gave us a lot of great history on the venture. We even demonstrated the robots toward the very end to give you an idea of what it sounds like. What was the main reason or the idea for having this concept of a robot utilized in the restaurant?
Zachary Dimmitt: Well, we knew coming out of the pandemic that we had to get creative. It was very difficult to find people to come back to work that were willing to be here, and so the idea initially started out as, “Hey, we need to find a way to get food from the kitchen to the bar,” because we only would have one bartender a lot of the times and one round trip from the kitchen to the bar and back is 120 yards. That’s approximately two to three minutes where we would have nobody at the bar.
Well, Murphy’s law says, if you walk away, someone’s going to walk up. We knew we needed to get creative so we’d keep our bartenders at the bar. It initially started out as how do we keep our bartenders there and get food to the bar. Then, from there, we decided, “Hey, you know what, we know we’re still going to be very busy as a hotel, how do we use them to supplement the experience?” Now, we actually have a slate, so we have five full-time food runners in a conjunction with these food runner robots.
John: You have how many robots?
Zachary: We have two robots.
John: Two robots?
Zachary: Two robots, yes.
John: Did you contract that out for somebody to build them or how did that–?
Zachary: No, there’s actually a company out there called Richtech Robotics. We saw it online and reached out to them. We were actually a pilot program for Hilton with these robots. Since we’ve had them, they’ve traveled over 350 miles. As a result, we’ve been able to spend an additional 130 plus hours of time in a guest-facing position whereas without the food runner or robot, we would not be able to.
John: Now, describe height and weight, the basic, for everybody who might not be able to envision what the robot looks like.
Zachary: The robot stands probably about four and a half feet tall. It’s about two feet wide by two feet long or deep. There are three different shelves on it. There’s a user interface on the top of it that looks like a face, but it’s like a tablet. On the tablet are different stations or different buttons that we can press which is where we can deploy the robot. It’s actually designed so we can deploy it to the bar. It’s designed so we can deploy it to any of our tables in our dining area during slower times.
Then, it’s also designed so that we can run it all the way over to our coffee shop which is across the lobby, all of this without running into anybody. Each shelf can hold up to 25 pounds so the robot can carry 75 pounds in one trip.
John: Now, can the robot technically walk up to your table, and will you just pick up your plate?
Zachary: Technically, it could. What we found is that it’s a little bit– the guests are not quite ready for that. Especially if there are multiple orders on the robot, we don’t want someone to take the wrong item accidentally, even though we send a ticket out with the order. When the robot arrives to the table, it will say, table 110, your food is on tray one. If it was just you and I sitting there, we would know that we could pick up our food off of tray one from the robot.
John: The robots are programmed to go to a specific spot.
Zachary: Correct, and they have a specific path that they go from the kitchen to the bar and back, and they’re very on point with this. So much so that they’re creating tracks in the back house.
John: Now, can they avoid in case something happens?
Zachary: They can. You can actually jump in front of it and it will stop in a matter of, call it, inches. The speed that we have it set at is 0.8 meters per second and so the robot will first stop and then it will turn left and turn right. It’s got a radar or a sensor in it that it will try to find a path of least resistance. If it cannot find a path of no resistance, it will stop and stay stopped and the user interface where you choose the table to deliver to now turns to a sad face or a tear. It’s crying. That’s how you know it’s in distress.
John: With the robot moving towards you, it’s got sensors so we can tell that you’re in front of it?
John: It’ll stop or would it actually turn away from you in order to avoid running into–
Zachary: It depends on the scenario. Most of the time, it will stop and then try to turn left or right. There are scenarios, we have a couple of tighter spots where the robots will intersect when one’s running food out, and one is returning to the kitchen where one of them will have to stop and reverse course or turn around. Let the other one pass, and then the other one can go by.
John: Now, with regard to upgrades, can you have the robot upgraded in the future to do other things that you’ve come up with?
Zachary: We certainly can. One feature that this robot is really boasted for is its ability to help as a busser. We primarily use it to deliver food to the kitchen or from the kitchen to the bar. We can add a new map or update the map. We would need the technician to actually be on site to update the map, but our goal is in the future to be able to utilize it, to also deliver dirty dishes to the kitchen, to the dish thing.
John: Now, is this pretty unique to Omaha in regard to a Hilton or is this happening in other restaurants around the country?
Zachary: We were actually the first– It’s happening in other restaurants around the country. We were not the first. We were the first Hilton with the robot. I can tell you we were the first ones at Omaha with it. About 90 days after we had it, I saw a news article that there was a local pizza company that is now using it as a busser only in West Omaha. It’s really interesting. They probably saw it here and took it out there.
John: When did it start here?
Zachary: It started here January 20th.
John: Not that long.
Zachary: Not that long.
John: How do you get people wanting to come in after they finish eating and take pictures with the robot?
Zachary: The robots are probably the most famous Hilton team members. There are people that take selfies, that take videos, the kids love it. It is definitely the talk of the convention, talk of the night, concert nights when everybody’s here, and they see these things working because if I’m carrying food out, I’m not much fun to look at because I have one oval tray in my right hand and I might have one plate in my left hand.
Well, with this robot, I can fit 4, 5, 6, 7 orders on it because I have multiple shelves and it’s just very fascinating and it’s very consistent in delivery and path every time and people love it.
John: Now, I notice that when the robot gets here, it plays the little chime that I’m familiar with from working for Disney, which is the Star Tours. Was that by design or is that the way that it was built to begin with?
Zachary: That’s the way it’s built. The robots can’t yell corner. They can see things coming, but they don’t really have the artificial intelligence that a human has, where they can say, “Hey, I’m to your left.” “Hey, I’m to your right.” Anytime the robot moves, it plays music. When it reaches its destination, it plays a higher pitch chime that you’re referring to indicate that has reach its destination and that we can come grab food off of it.
John: It just sounds like the Star Tours’ signature.
Zachary: Does it? Okay.
John: I didn’t know if that was by design because of the R2D2 connection, even though these technically aren’t Disney-related, or Lucas field-related robots.
Zachary: They are not. I’m not familiar with that sound so I’m unable to answer that question.
John: It’s the sound that you hear when it gets here. That’s the sound that Star Tours uses all the time or the Star Wars-related attractions at Disneyland in Disney World.
Zachary: Very cool. I’m not a fan, so that’s why I’m unfamiliar with the connection, but there’s a good possibility that somebody may have been had that in their mind when they were programming.
John: Yes, I would think so. Do you call the robots any particular names or do they have names?
Zachary: Their names are Beep and Bop. Some people refer to them, they have other names. Some people call them R2 one, the other one calls D2, but for the most part, everyone refers them as Beep and Bop.
John: Would it be possible to record the robot coming toward me so that we can hear what it sounds like?
Zachary: Absolutely. Let me run to the kitchen and I’ll send it out to us.
John: Where would be the best place for me to stand?
Zachary: If you actually turn around and you have your recorder on, I will send the robot out. If you want, I’m going to help you here real quick. The robot is going to come right here. It’s going to stop right here in front of you. I’m going to send it out to us. Give me just a moment. I’ll be right back. All right, John, coming back here, I’m going to stand on your left. The robot is deployed to come to bar 1, which should be right in front of you and me, where we’re standing right now.
Any second, it’s going to pop around the corner to where we have design is our back-of-house area, and you should hear it playing music. When it gets here, you’ll hear that chime.
Zachary: Hear it?
John: Yes, I hear music.
Zachary: Perfect. It’s approaching. It’s probably about 30, 40 feet away right now.
It stops right in front of you. It’s like two feet in front of you.
John: How cool. I’m touching the shelves now. The robot is about almost up to my shoulder, I guess, or my chin, little on my chin. It’s on a stand. The whole–
Zachary: Basically, it almost looks like an A-frame with the shelves attached to it. Then, there’s a solid, heavy base at the bottom.
John: This must be the display that I’m touching right now.
Zachary: That’s correct.
John: If I block the sensors, it doesn’t matter now because it stopped.
Zachary: Correct, and the sensors actually in the bottom up.
John: Oh, it is.
Zachary: Yes, it’s a little sensor that just spins really fast as it moves. That’s how it will pick up your presence.
John: Now, it’s turning.
Zachary: It is turning, yes.
John: It wants to get away from the blind guy.
Zachary: It’s going to return to its home screen.
John: It’s programmed to do that within a certain number of seconds or what?
Zachary: Yes, that’s correct. That’s right. It is programmed to do it that after 300 seconds. There’s also, and I didn’t hit cancel, that was my fault, but there’s a button there along the bottom that’s green. When it reaches its destination for user interface purposes to make it easy, there’s a large green button that says return to home. All the team member has to do is press return to home, and the robot goes to the kitchen or the staging area depending on where the other robot is.
John: Wow, pretty cool. It is really cool. If people want to read more about the company that makes them, what’s the name again?
Zachary: Richtech, R-I-C-H-T-E-C-H. This is their Matradee model. They also have some models that actually have a warming chest cavity that can navigate elevators. There’s obviously an integration that has to happen and then upgrade on elevators for that. Imagine getting your room service delivered in a robot instead of a person.
John: Do you know what are we talking about if somebody wanted to buy one of these? They probably made more for companies.
Zachary: They are, I would say you’re probably looking at about $20,000 to $25,000 per robot. They’re pretty pricey, but the longevity autonomous is fantastic. The consistency on them is fantastic. Realistically, you want to talk about a plug-and-play once they get here and program the map, they’re pretty foolproof.
John: Wow. How often do you have to recharge them at all?
Zachary: Yes. On a slower day, we’ll run with one robot, and then we’ll switch them out about halfway through so the other one can rest and get recharged. On a busy day when they’re both operating, typically, we’ll find downtime between meal periods to get one or both of them charged, but they’ll be active for 18 to 20 hours a day, sometimes with a couple of hours of downtime just to recharge.
John: From a technical perspective, what do you pull in? What kind of connectors do they have?
Zachary: I don’t know. Other than it’s a male to a female. It’s a male from the outlet, goes into a female piece on the bottom of the– It almost looks like a headphone jack. It’s very similar a headphone jack.
John: How long does it take to do a charge?
Zachary: The robot can charge in about two and a half hours. Pretty impressive.
John: Absolutely, it is.
Zachary: Pretty impressive.
John: Very cool. I thank you for taking the time to explain and answer all these questions because it’s a unique situation that nobody’s really heard about.
John: I think people will be very interested to hear all about the robots.
Zachary: I’ll tell you. Our team loves them. They show up to work every day, they don’t talk back. They do exactly what you need it to, but overall, the consistency and how we’ve been able to integrate them into supporting our current team as we grow and return from the pandemic has been truly instrumental.
John: They work for nothing.
Zachary: Exactly. They do. There was a cost, but absolutely. They are pretty amazing.
John: You don’t have to feed them. You don’t have to take them out.
Zachary: No smoke breaks, right?
John: No, no, it’s true. Very cool. Well, thank you very much, Zach.
Zachary: My pleasure. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you today.
The Bonnie Bulletin
Jonathan: ABBA’s I Wonder (Departure), an appropriate song to start the Bonnie Bulletin because our departure is finally imminent.
Jonathan: We’ve been planning this a while and originally you weren’t coming. It was just supposed to be Nicola with me.
Bonnie: It was going to be a really fast trip, like 72 hours or something crazy thing like that.
Jonathan: It’s crept up on us, and it’s been a good excuse for me to get into some serious geekery and we’ve got a lot to blame that Gary O’Donoghue for.
Bonnie: Yes, who’s not even going to be in England when we go.
Jonathan: Sometimes he’s on the radio when we wake up, which is a bit scary. You’d wake up and there’s Gary on the radio.
Bonnie: We’re not so much anymore because [crosstalk] we’re on this competitor.
Jonathan: No, because we listen to a different station now.
Bonnie: Different sale.
Jonathan: The F3 is an amazing thing or as they like to say in the UK, an amazing piece of kit. It’s an amazing piece of kit, the F3. I got this Audio Technica mic that I think we spoke about in the last Bonnie Bulletin, but then, I suddenly thought there are a lot of these places you go to now that have audio guides. We are going on this hop on, hop off bus and that has an audio guide and various other places we’re going to and I thought, “Given that I have two inputs on this F3 and I tried strapping the Zoom F6 to my belt, that is not going to work, it’s too bulky.” I’m not going to take– [crosstalk]
Bonnie: You don’t want to have it picked.
Jonathan: Yes, I’m not going to take the Zoom F6. I still have the Audio Technica stereo mic for field recordings where we just want to get a stereo image of things and we will use that, but I have also now got a news gathering microphone called the Sennheiser MD 42. I plug that into channel one of my F3 and into channel two, I got this little cable made up and it has an XLR input at one end for the F3 and a stereo 3.5 jack at the other.
What that means is that when we’ve got audio guides and stuff, I can just plug the audio guide directly into the F3, listen to the guide myself through the F3 headphone jack, but recorded as well, and with this MD 42, I’ll get full environmental sounds because the M42 is not at all directional. It’s got a very wide pickup pattern. I think we are really well set for some good recording.
Bonnie: Just doing those last minute. I think we have everything I need to purchase. We had a bit of robust discussion on suitcases last weekend, I guess.
Jonathan: When you say robust discussion, you make it sound like it was sort of adversarial, but it was never. We were just was a brainstorming.
Bonnie: It was a brainstorming discussion. Maybe not robust, but a productive discussion on to carry-on or not to carry-on. That’s the question.
Jonathan: The thing is, do we want our luggage to turn up at the same place at the same time as we are? Yes, we do, but there is really no way on a long trip like this that we can get away with just carry-on luggage, unfortunately. We investigated it pretty thoroughly.
Bonnie: We did. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube channels about six weeks in Europe with a backpack. What are you doing? You’re stinking or doing a lot of laundry and a lot of young people who do that backpacking across Europe, of course, go to hostels, about 18 or 19 that– probably not. When I was 18 or 19, that probably wouldn’t have been considered an adventure because I was still the– my idea of camping was the higher regency, but I looked at some of the ones. It’s really interesting what people do.
I was actually reading an article yesterday about someone who takes extra clothes on the plane by putting them inside of a pillowcase and sealing it up like a pillow, when Jew’s using it as their travel pillow. I’m like, “Okay.”
Jonathan: That’s innovative.
Bonnie: That’s innovative, but it’s hard because we carry so much technology because you’ve got all the microphones and things like that. Then, that of course takes up the room for clothes. I think we’ve got it. The question is whether I can get it in the medium-size suitcase or the large, which probably in the great scheme of things doesn’t really matter.
Jonathan: No, it doesn’t matter because either it turns up or it doesn’t. We’ve stock up on AirTags.
Bonnie: Yes. My big dilemma now, and ladies and gents, I guess anyone who carries purse will understand this, what purse to take.
Jonathan: Oh my God.
Bonnie: I know, and I’m trying very hard to realize I don’t need another one.
Jonathan: There are probably female politicians who walk around with intercontinental ballistic missiles in their purses because it just never ceases to–
Bonnie: I do.
Jonathan: Yes, exactly. It never ceases to amaze me what comes out of those things. You think, “Oh, man, I wish I had a portable refrigerator.” Somebody will say, “I’ve got one of those in my purse.”
Bonnie: We should discuss your backpack because you’ve– [crosstalk]
Jonathan: No, we’re not going to discuss my backpack.
Bonnie: Probably have one in there. It’s like Mary Poppin’s carpet bag.
Jonathan: It’s a great backpack and it’s full of cool tech.
Bonnie: It is. A lot of people now are carrying diaper bags because it used to be the mom bag was this unattractive huge thing, but now, a lot of the designers are getting into these really nice diaper bags. I know a lot of blind people that carry them just because it has lots of pockets. You can put your chargers and your laptop in it.
Jonathan: Last weekend, I had to fill in this travel declaration form that New Zealand has now introduced for everybody coming into the country, whether you are a citizen or a resident, or a visitor and it’s hideous. It’s really bad. You go to the form and the first thing that caught my attention was, it says click here for accessibility mode and I’m thinking, “Oh God, are they using one of those overlay services?”
I really hope they’re not, but they may well be because one of the interesting things about filling it in apart from the fact that it’s really time consuming for everybody because you have to put all the countries that you’ve visited in the last 14 days before you come to New Zealand and of course– [crosstalk]
Bonnie: Even if you touch ground there.
Jonathan: Yes, even if you’re just in transit. For us, that’s quite a few countries and you’ve got– [crosstalk]
Bonnie: Seven countries and seven days.
Jonathan: You’ve got to upload proof of vaccination and stuff if you’re a visitor, but one of the things that really got me annoyed, was every time you have to choose from a list of things, it’s not so bad when it’s 12 things like the month you were born or various things like that, but when you get to a long list like the country, it appears to a screen reader, I tried this with multiple screen readers, as an edit field, but it’s not an edit field. You can’t type into it. You have to press Enter and then you can either arrow or tab through it.
I don’t know whether it’s one of these accessibility overlays that’s causing this, but because you’re in this mode, you cannot use first-letter navigation. Now, it just so happens that some of the countries that we are transiting or visiting include Sweden, that starts with letter S, the United States, and the United Kingdom, and the only way you can do it, is to arrow or tab through this humongounormous list.
Bonnie: It’s annoying because- [crosstalk]
Jonathan: It was making me grumpy.
Bonnie: -you know how many countries there are in the world and you should be going to Belgium.
Jonathan: While I’ve always grumbled about filling in the ESTA application form, which is the one that you have to fill in if you are visiting or transiting in the United States, at least it’s 100% accessible. If there’s a list of things there, it’s a proper combo box and you can use first-letter navigation or multi-letter navigation. This form is atrocious from an accessibility perspective.
Bonnie: You know what I’m worried about? We’re going to hit green light and they’re going to scrap it, so when we get to Auckland, they’re going to say no problem.
Jonathan: Well, good, but I have to say there is no way that you are or you would ever be considered to be a last-minute packer. You’ve been packing for weeks, mate.
Bonnie: I’m probably going to start packing this weekend. I’ve got everything organized. I don’t like last– I’ve known people, I called them at 2:30 in the after– “Oh, hope you have a great trip to Europe.” Whoop, whoop, whoop. They’re getting on the plane at 7:00. “What is that noise?” “Oh, that’s the washing machine.” I’m like, “I’m unpacked yet.”
Jonathan: I do not want to incriminate people with whom I may or may not have lived in the past, but I have heard of situations where a cab or an Uber or whatever can be pulling up and people are still stuffing things into suitcases. That makes me very anxious. I’m a need-to-be-prepared kind of guy and check and double-check kind of guy.
Bonnie: I’m probably still stuffing things in my backpack at that point because I’m double-checking and triple-checking and all that stuff, but I get very anxious about it. I don’t know what I’m afraid of actually because it’s not like we’re going to the middle of–
Jonathan: There are many things.
Bonnie: There are many stores in London.
Jonathan: As long as you’ve got your passport and stuff like that, there isn’t anything you can’t get on the other side, right?
Jonathan: You have got to have some perspective. I love the Focusrite Vocaster but I don’t think I’d want to pick up a second one just because I was stupid enough to leave it behind, or the F3 for that matter.
Bonnie: I left my tape recorder behind once. That was when I was a kid and that was traumatizing. I think that may have– [crosstalk]
Jonathan: Did you get it back?
Bonnie: I didn’t leave it behind. I took the wrong– This was when I was a kid and I had my library books.
Jonathan: Oh, you left it at home?
Bonnie: Yes, I left it at home on a trip. Thankfully, it wasn’t a long trip and I said, “Oh, I’ll take this tape recorder.” I took this tape recorder because I’ve been listening to my music tapes. Obviously, it couldn’t play the library tapes. I discovered that weekend that I could listen to songs and they were like stories.
Jonathan: That’s true. There are some great story songs out there. Get out the Harry Chapin.
Bonnie: I think it was the piña colada song.
Jonathan: Oh, that is a good story song. We are probably going to do about 65 hours of flying in the period of two weeks.
Jonathan: What are you going to do in all that time? You loaded up with audiobooks or podcasts?
Bonnie: There’s a joke that’s been running for a very long time and I’m an Avid Reader. How many books can I get through on a long-haul flight? I still have–
Jonathan: I haven’t read Avid before. What did they write?
Bonnie: I don’t know. I’m sure it’s a book, Avid. Avid, the history of prolific widow.
Jonathan: If I wanted to be a novelist, I changed my last name to Avid so that people could say I’m an Avid Reader.
Bonnie: Oh God. I still have books in my bared app on my phone from when I went to the states three years ago that I haven’t gotten through. Because I tend to download them, start to read them on the plane, and go to sleep.
Jonathan: Yes, that’s right.
Bonnie: I’m finishing up a book now, and I can’t decide what– I’ve seen some really good books. Unfortunately, I can’t get them on audible because it’s our geographic location. They sound so cute, so cool, just romcoms. I want something that’s light. I don’t need to read about world nuclear propylation while I’m traveling around.
Jonathan: These days is WiFi on the plane.
Bonnie: There is, so you can watch. I’ll probably get some movies and TV shows.
Jonathan: When I started my international career and was doing a lot of travel, I had great difficulty sleeping on planes.
Bonnie: Yes, I used to.
Jonathan: Now, I just zap off on planes so easily because you just have to you learn to do it. You wanted to talk about Mikhail Gorbachev.
Bonnie: Yes, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. 91 years old. Certainly, a huge part of history passed away this week. It’s been interesting reliving a lot of those moments. Certainly, the iconic Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall. It’s interesting hearing the different sides because, in the west, he was seen as a folk hero. It was Gorba this, Gorba that. Gorba was the rock star, but really he wasn’t the hero in his home country.
Jonathan: You often see this, though. I think Barack Obama is far more revered in other countries than perhaps by many in the States. Actually, I have to say, these days, our own prime minister is in the same position. She is absolutely loved overseas, and the luster has completely gone.
Bonnie: Yes, and I think maybe it’s because you know them too well or something. It’s interesting because the legacy that he left is not the legacy he wanted. He did not want the Soviet Union to fall apart. He wanted Communism light, as someone put it last night, that didn’t happen. It’s like when you give people a little bit of freedom, then it’s interesting. It’s really such a fascinating part of history.
Jonathan: Yes, it was an interesting time. I remember I started university in 1988 and I majored in history and political science. I remember doing a paper called the Defense Policy of Nations with a defense expert who had come to New Zealand from the US. Actually, Professor Stephen Hoadley, and he made the comment that the Berlin Wall will never come down in our lifetime. We had Barry Gustafson, he was a Soviet historian as well. It was just such a really fascinating period to live through all that change.
One final thing for me as we start to wrap. Very exciting news about the fact that the Beatles album Revolver is going to be given the Giles Martin treatment. By the end of the year, we will have a mix of Revolver. I think this is really exciting for a couple of reasons. First, it’s one of my favorite Beatles albums. There’s so much good stuff on Revolver. Second, the stereo mixes on Revolver are terrible because they were running out of room, running out of tracks, so they had to do some really weird things.
It must be taking some very interesting technology because they only had four tracks to do Revolver on and they had to make some compromises with the stereo mix. I imagine that they may have had to use some of this new technology where they actually physically separate various instrumental elements from one track and then reapportion them to different tracks. That technology has come a long way and we heard that with get back the Sir Peter Jackson documentary where they were able to just take the narration from parts where the Beatles were just playing in the background.
They were deliberately just playing random stuff with their instruments because they knew the cameras were rolling and they wanted their conversations to be somewhat private. With the technology that’s out there today, they were able to strip all that instrumentation away and leave the vocals. You can do this now. This is going to be quite an exciting experiment in terms of what will this sound like. I’m sure, knowing the guardians of the Beatles’ legacy, if they couldn’t get it to work, they wouldn’t be releasing it.
Something like tomorrow never knows in Dolby Atmos. Wow. Bring it on. It’s going to be exciting. We will have a special on Mushroom FM when this drops because being in New Zealand, we will get the Revolver album before everybody else gets it. Well, I have no doubt that we will hear back on a Bonnie Bulletin when we return with all the goss. Bon voyage. Bonnie voyage to you.
Bonnie: Bonnie voyage, yes.
Jonathan: I love to hear from you. 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.
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast
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