Podcast transcript, Mosen at Large episode 198, microphone advice, laptop advice, and one of these 26 things is not like the other

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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen, and this is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. In this eclectic edition, we have microphone advice, laptop advice, opinions on self-description, and blind pride. When it comes to Braille, one of these 26 things is not like the other.

[music] Mosen At Large podcast.

Jonathan: Great to be back with you for Episode 198. This one is being produced quite a bit in advance while we go on our overseas trip. If there’s anything super topical that has happened in recent times in the blind community, you won’t hear about it this week. However, thanks to our wonderful Mosen At Large community. We’ve still got an action-packed and interesting couple of hours in store for you.

Classic 99 demo

Joe Norton: Hello, Jonathan. This is Joe Norton here in Dalton, Georgia, the United States. I want to wish you and everyone all the best. Hope you and your family are doing okay. As we say in the southern part of the United States, how’s that grandbaby doing? One of the most amazing experiences I had was when we were expecting my second daughter and I was there with my wife in the office of the OB-GYN, they were doing the ultrasound thing. I knew that you could see the baby in ultrasound, but one thing I didn’t know is that you could hear the heartbeat. They said, “Do you want to hear the heartbeat?”

I said, “Yes. I didn’t even know you could do that.” It was so thrilling to me to hear that thing going [unintelligible 00:01:28] I trust that there’s a baby in there. I trust my wife. I trust the doctor, but to have something that actually affects my senses that early on in the process, well, it was just amazing. Of course, later on, the baby kicked and everything like that, but right then, that was just so amazing that the ultrasound could actually do something that I could appreciate. That’s just one of the things I wanted to share on that. Anyway, what I wanted to talk about was something that happened on July the 10th that I find amazing.

I’ve been playing around with a program for quite a while called Classic99. It’s an emulator of the TI99/4A computer, and it runs in Windows. I had one of these computers back in the mid ’80s. Had the computer, the speech synthesizer, several cartridges, the disc system, the 32K memory expansion, that sort of thing. The computer could be made to speak. It didn’t have screen reading as such, so I had to have a lot of sighted assistance, but I did write several programs and used the programs other folks had written that spoke because you were able to make a program speak. You just had to make sure that it explicitly was told to do that.

It wasn’t too hard to do that. The TI, I guess, has a special place in my heart. Anyway, when I found this program, it’s been developed over the years by a gentleman named Mike Brent, and he’s been working on it since 1994. He started it out on the Amiga 2000 and then ported it over to the PC. It’s been running in Windows for quite some time. His What’s New file has entries going back to 1999, as far as things he’s done to tweak the program over the years. He and I had had discussions about several things. One of the things he did was to put a shortcut key in the program that would let you access the Windows-style menus that are in there.

Because those menus are quite accessible but the Windows shortcuts that normally exist are disabled to give someone who’s using this, the full experience of emulation of the TI. For example, alt+F for file would normally pop up on a Windows program, but in the TI, you might have a program that requires the keystroke function F, and that’s simulated with alt+F. He did disable those shortcut keys because most people who are using a mouse, just click on the menu and it comes up just fine. I said, wouldn’t it be nice to have a shortcut key that you could configure in any file that would at least let a screen reader user bring him up rather quickly?

He nicely added that in for me. Then on the 10th of July, I was looking on his website and I saw an amazing announcement. He said that he had added screen reading code into the program. Naturally, I had to go download it and play with it right away as soon as I could. I gave him a little bit of feedback and he changed a couple of things. He changed an algorithm that is used to determine what’s on the screen and what should be spoken. It was something called Myers diff that he’s using now. It does a pretty good job of following along and making sure you know what’s being spoken.

I just want to do a brief demonstration of this. I’m not going to be too long with it. Keep in mind, this is experimental code, so don’t expect a JAWS or Window-Eyes experience exactly. What I want to do is first bring the program up. I have the program loaded on my system. It’s unzipped in a certain place. I’ve got a shortcut key set up for it. To bring it up, I just hit ctrl+alt+C on my system. I’m going to do that.

Machine: Classic90–


Joe: The program just came up and I silenced NVDA. You heard that beep. That is the TI99/4A’s master title screen. Whenever you turn a TI99/4A on you get that master title screen. What I’m going to do is first I’ll put NVDA to sleep.

Machine: Sleep mode on.

Joe: That way we can hear Classic99 go through its paces. Now, there are three keys in the program for screen reading. The first one is ctrl+F4, which reads the entire screen. I’ll press it now.

Machine: Texas Instruments. Home computer ready. Press any key to begin 1981 Texas Instruments.

Joe: All right, that’s fairly straightforward. That’s the master title screen. The second key that’s been put in the program is to turn on the continuous reading mode. I’m going to press that key. It’s ctrl+F9.

Machine: Continuous screen read enabled. Texas Instruments, home computer ready.

Joe: The last key I hit was to silence the speech. That key is control F10. Now, it says, “Press any key to begin.” I’m going to do that and see what happens. Where’s the any key?

Machine: Press 1 for TI-BASIC.

Joe: All right. It says, press 1 for TI-BASIC. There’s no cartridge inserted in the machine at this time, so that’s the only menu option you get, TI-BASIC. That’s what I want, so I’m going to press 1.

Machine: Ready.

Joe: It said ready. On the screen, it actually says–

Machine: TI-BASIC ready.

Joe: The algorithm didn’t detect all that or it didn’t feel it needed to say TI-BASIC, maybe because TI-BASIC was on the previous screen, but everything is ready. It’s waiting for me to do something. To show you how it follows along with what’s going on, I’m going to type a couple of things. First, I’m going to type something invalid. Let me type the word, “cat” and press center.

Machine: Cat. [beep] Asterisks, incorrect statement.

Joe: It said, “Incorrect statement.” You heard that beep, that’s the error beep. Whenever you encounter a warning or an error in a program, you get that beep. You know right away if something didn’t work, even if you didn’t have speech feedback. Let’s see, I’m going to type the word, “list”. There’s no program and memory. I should get an error message. Let’s see, list.

Machine: List.

Joe: I’ll press enter.

Machine: [beep] Asterisks, can’t do that.

Joe: Can’t do that. Okay. Before this screen reading thing was added in here, I didn’t know it did that, so I’ve already learned something new. Now, to load a program from disk, you type the word, “old”.

Machine: Old.

Joe: A space, DSK1

Machine: DSK1.

Joe: Then a period.

Machine: DSK1.

Joe: The word, “stranger” is the file name. I’m going to type stranger.

Machine: DSK1.ST. DSK1.stranger.

Joe: I’ll press enter on that. It’s a large basic program. It’ll take a minute to load. I’ll come back when it’s finished. Takes about 17 seconds or so. All right. The program has loaded and it is ready to run. That’s what I want to do. I will type the word, “run” and press enter.

Machine: Are you. Run.

Joe: Again, it is a large program. It’s 400 lines of code, so it takes a minute to even get started. I will start the recording back when it is ready for me to do something.

Machine: Stranger by Mike Ward. You awaken from a long, restless sleep full of strange and terrifying dreams of heat and light, then terrible cold and giant spiders. You are in a drainage ditch. There is snow everywhere. There are also several strands of long, sticky rope around you. There is a road going to the north, and a drainage tunnel going down. Every other direction is blocked by high cliffs. The cliff to the south has a tree on top. What do you want to do?

Joe: As you can see, this is like a little text adventure game. It sounds like I’ve woke up in a very cold place, snow and everything like that. I don’t think I want to be here. Now, it says there’s a road to the north, so maybe I can go north and get to a warmer place. I’ll type N for north and press enter.

Machine: N. Giant spiders come out from nowhere and grab you. You don’t stand a chance. You are dead. Done.

Joe: Oh, no, I got killed on the first try. You heard it say, “Done.” That means the program has finished executing. I’ll have to come back later and see if I can figure out what to do to get away from the spiders. If I want to exit the basic interpreter, I can just type the word bye, B-Y-E, and press enter.

Machine: bye. [beep] Texas Instruments home computer ready. Press any key to begin 1981 Texas Instruments.

Joe: I’m back out at the master title screen. What I’m going to do is go ahead and exit the program but I’ll just bring up the menus real quick so you can see how they work. I’m going to wake up NVDA.

Machine: Sleep mode off. Classic99 Q399.063.

Joe: There’s the title of the program, it gives the title and the version number. What I’m going to do now is press F10 to bring up the menu.

Machine: File submenu alt+F.

Joe: As you can see, these are normal Windows-style menus. Let me right arrow.

Machine: Edit submenu alt+E. System submenu alt+S. Cartridge submenu alt+C. Disk submenu alt+D. Option submenu alt+O. Video submenu alt +V. Help submenu alt+H. System submenu space.

Joe: That’s all the menus. I’m going to go to the right back to file and I’m going to exit the program.

Machine: File submenu alt+F.

Joe: Here I am in the file menu. I’m going to down arrow.

Machine: Cold reset, erase RAM C. Warm reset, leave RAM W. Debug reset, scramble RAM D. Erase [unintelligible 00:11:05] RAM E. Quit, Q.

Joe: There’s the quit option, so I’m going to press enter on then.

Machine: Classic99, go bye-bye. Dialogue, are you sure you want to quit? Yes button, alt+Y.

Joe: I’ll press enter on that.

Machine: Desktop lit.

Joe: We’re out. There you have it. That is a demonstration of the new screen reading capabilities built into the Classic99 program. This program does have some interesting features. Don’t know if you could hear it or not, but one of these features that Mike added into the program fairly recently is the ability to turn on background noise. Now, if any of you ever owned a TI-99/4A, you may remember that there was a little sort of a whine that it made when it was scanning the keyboard and some things.

Mike wanted to put that in there to give the emulation a more realistic feel. That’s just another thing I was demonstrating in there. Later on, I do hope to have a more detailed recording featuring the download, installation, initial setup, and that sort of thing, which I will probably upload to Dropbox or something like that. If you do want to play with the program before then, you can download a copy. The website for the program is www.harmlesslion.com/software/classic99. The program comes in a zip file. You just unzip it to wherever you want to run it from and run it from there.

It also comes with a very nice manual in PDF format, and that reads just great with Adobe, Edge, or whatever you want to read it with. I even put it on the Braille display I got from NLS and it’s reading great there too. Also, if you have any questions about the program, feel free to email me at joseph.norton@gmail.com. I wish all of you the best. Hope you and the family are still doing okay, and hope your travel plans keep working out the way they should. I wish everyone a great rest of the week. Take care.

[music] Jonathan Mosen. Mosen At Large podcast.

Demo of the Sing my Number Alexa skill

Daniel: Good afternoon, Mosen At Largers. Daniel Semro here. In this recording, I would like to demonstrate a skill for the Amazon smart speaker. This is a skill called Sing My Number. Now, this skill is primarily made for kids, but in my mind, all ages can use it because it’s so darn fun, and the songs it makes are so darn catchy. Without further ado, let’s get on to the demonstration. Open Sing My Number.

Yak: Hi, again, and welcome back. To play the song you’ve already created, say, “Play my song,” or to start over with a new song from scratch, say “Start over.”

Daniel: Start over.

Yak: Hey, everyone. My name is Yak. I hear you’re looking for a way to help your kids learn how to remember your phone number, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s make a song out of it. Say hi to my cousin, Yerik.

Yerik: Hello.

Yak: He’s a musician and he’s pretty talented so I’ve asked him to help us out. You might even recognize him as the one who sings the theme song for my Yak Talk Back skill. I’m going to ask you for the phone number you need to remember. My trusty assistant, Lexa, will repeat it back to confirm it with you. Then we’ll write your song. Go ahead and give me the full phone number you want in the song.

Machine: 864-606-6736.

Yak: Lex, could you read that number back for us, please?

Lexa: 864-606-6736.

Yak: Thank you, Lex. Was that the correct number?

Daniel: Yes.

Yak: One last thing, I heard a zero in the number. We’re pretty flexible. Do you want us to sing it as zero or sing it as O?

Daniel: O.

Yak: Great. Now, my cousin, Yerik, needs a moment to write your song. You can’t rush genius, you know? Let’s see how it’s going.

Yerik: Phone number to call. What about that? A-ha, I think we’re onto something here. Okay.

Yak: Man, he’s good. By the way, when you’re finished with Sing My Number, you should check me out in Yak Talk Back. I ask some family-friendly and fun questions to get the conversation really going at your family’s dinner table. Anytime, just tell Lexa, “Open Yak Talk Back.” All right, parents, do you have your kids there with you and ready to hear your very own Sing My Number song?

Machine: Yes.

Yak: All right then, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, whenever you need to remember this number, just sing the song. Hit it.


This little song will help you know what phone number to call.

But this might be the most important phone number of all.

864-606-6736. 864-606-6736.

So when you’re all alone and you can’t find your mom or dad.

Oh no.

Just remember this little song and then you won’t feel quite so bad.

Here we go.

864-606-6736. 864-606-6736.

864-606-6736. 864-606-6736.


Yak: That was great. If you want to hear it again, say, “Play it again” or if you’re all done, just say, “Goodbye.”

Daniel: Goodbye.

Yak: Before you go, do you want me to email you a copy of the song to keep and play for yourself?

Daniel: Yes.

Yak: No problem. I’ve emailed you a copy of your song. It’s been fun singing with you. Don’t forget to check out my other skill. Just tell Lexa, “Open Yak Talk Back.” Bye.


Yak, I do talk back.


Announcer: This has been a Reel2Media production.

Daniel: There it is, Sing My Number. Jonathan, I hope it’s okay that I use the Mosen At Large number, but I figured for a Mosen At Large-related demo, this was fine. All right, I hope you guys enjoyed. You can invoke it yourself by saying, “Open Sing My Number.”

Grammar checker

Jonathan: Christie says, “Hi, I am Christie, all the way from the sunny state of Florida, US.” I know it, Christie, I’ve been to Florida plenty of time because I used to work for a company that is based in Florida, and it is sunny. My favorite time of the year to go to Florida was January. The ATIA conference takes place in January, and that’s a perfect time to head over to Florida because the rest of the United States can get pretty cold at that time of year, but in Florida, it is not too hot. I have been also in Florida just before a big hurricane has arrived. It’s a really weird feeling. You sense that it’s coming.

Maybe it’s built into our evolution that we know when this bad weather’s coming, but you can feel this closeness in the air. The air’s crackling with, I don’t know, anticipation of a hurricane coming. Scary soup. Christie says, “I wanted to comment on the lady that was speaking about Grammarly. Other than Word, I do believe that Mozilla Thunderbird does have a spell checker within that email program.” Yes, I can’t get on with Thunderbird, Christie. I’ve had a look at it. I’ve been using Outlook for so long. I suppose a lot of it’s second nature, and it’s just what you used to.

I find Thunderbird not a very efficient user experience, but it’s whatever works for people, and it’s free so you can’t complain about that. Christie also says, “I have found your podcasts to be beneficial.” I’m glad to hear that. Thank you very much. She says, “I think we have come a long way with the Eloquence TTS engine coming to iOS. Except for a little bit of stutter in some things, it is great.” The good thing is, Christie, we’re still in the beta period for iOS 16, so maybe if there are those little glitches, they will be sorted out in time for release.

Christie concludes, “Keep the good news of the blind community going. I will, until the end of time, listen to your great knowledge.” Wow. Thank you very much. That’s from Christie and Yashua, who I presume is the guide dog. If it’s Christie’s cane, that’s okay. I decided that I would give my white cane a name when I was seeing on email list and things that people were naming their dogs on their email signatures. I called my cane Henry for a while, but then Heidi turned up with Henry who’s now the son-in-law. That was interesting.

Looking for a microphone

To Canada we go for this question from David Green. He says, “Hi, Jonathan and listeners. I am looking for advice on a multi-directional microphone that can connect to my laptop or iPhone. I want to do an in-person meeting and ZoomIt at the same time. The room is about 12 by 20 feet, average attendance in person would be 15. Ideally, I would set the microphone in the middle of the room on a table and have it pick up voices in the room, realizing that the quality may not be a 100%, but it does need to be reasonable quality. Thanks for any suggestions.”

David, based on my knowledge, the one that comes to mind would be the Blue Yeti. The Blue Yeti is quite a big microphone. You can plug it into the USB port of your computer. I suspect you could use the USB camera adapter kit to plug it into an iPhone as well. You set it in the middle of the table. The thing about the Blue Yeti is that it is essentially multiple microphones in the one mic because there’s a switch on it that allows you to set the pickup pattern of the microphone. If you are doing something like this, a podcast, you want as much room noise removed as possible. You want it to sound nice and direct. You want a very narrow pickup pattern.

In the environment that you are talking about, you want a very wide pickup pattern so it’s essentially broadcasting what’s right in the room. The Blue Yeti does have an option to do exactly this. I think the combination of the Yeti plus the automatic level adjustment that these conferencing tools like Zoom and Teams now have should be okay. I wonder whether the premise of your question is the correct one. I say that because these days, with the pandemic and all, a lot of work has been done on these conferencing-type devices. There are devices that are designed to sit in the center of a table with many microphones around these devices that are designed to bring people in for hybrid meetings.

If you were to plug one of those into your computer and then record on Zoom, so it could be used to actually make sure that people on the Zoom or Teams call are hearing okay, but it could also be used to produce the recording, that may be a better option, some sort of dedicated conferencing tool designed expressly for these hybrid meeting-type situations. There are dedicated products that do this now. Maybe others have knowledge of those as well. Let’s open it up and see what others might think. The Blue Yeti is certainly a contender worthy of your consideration.


Announcer: What’s on your mind? Send an email with a recording of your voice, or just write it down. jonathan@mushroomfm.com. That’s J-O-N-A-T- H-A-N @mushroomfm.com, or phone our listener line. The number in the United States is 864-60Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.


Why does Winamp not stay in focus?,

Chester: Hello, Jonathan. My name is Chester Smalley and I’m in Erie, Pennsylvania. I have a question about Winamp. When I run a file in Winamp and the file ends, Winamp has not maintained the focus. I don’t know why that is. I’m going to go over to my desktop here-

Machine: Full speed.

Chester: -and show you what I mean.

Machine: Windows M. Desktop. Folder view. List view. Great music–

Chester: As you can hear there, there’s a file highlighted on my desktop called “Great Musical Bridge”. It’s just 20 seconds of music. We’re going to play that in Winamp right now here.


Machine: [unintelligible 00:24:21] 20 seconds. [unintelligible 00:24:22]

Chester: Only 20 seconds long.


I use this oftentimes to introduce a newsletter that I produce for my alumni association called Our Treasure Chest. I’m the treasurer.


The file has now ended. You would think that I’d be in Winamp, but I press insert+T.

Machine: Title is D-Alumni OTC. Volume [unintelligible 00:24:50] of 2022 sound effects most useful.

Chester: I’m in the folder. The focus is the folder where that file came from, but it is not in Winamp despite the fact that I opened it in Winamp. Can you explain why that would be the case? I hope so. You do wonderful work, Jonathan. A very good friend of mine met you some 30-odd years ago. There’s no reason that you would remember him, although he remembers you as we all do.

His name is Scott Marshall. He was then with the American Council of the Blind. I always tell him he’s on the dark side, but that’s neither here nor there. He met you when you were a younger man, not a young man necessarily, but a younger man around 1990. We were all younger then, weren’t we? In any event, can you tell me how I can get Winamp to maintain its focus? I sure hope so.

Jonathan: Chester, most important thing first. Once Scott Marshall is met, he is never forgotten. I remember Scott extremely well. I remember that he came out to what was then known as the New Zealand Association of the Blind and Partially Blind in 1989 at our conference, and he was our keynote speaker, and he was a huge hit. I got on with Scott like a house on fire because we were both quite political people. It was great to get to know him. I’ve kept in touch with him on the email over the years and watched his career with great interest and delight. I certainly do remember Scott.

Now, as for this Winamp issue. I get that too. I guess I’ve just come to live with it and not even question it until you raised your email. I went through Winamp’s preferences to see if I could stop it from doing it. When I press enter on a track in File Explorer, the thing starts to play, but you’re right. Focus remains in File Explorer. I don’t know why it does it. I don’t know if there’s a fix. If anybody has the magic fix, let us know. Sorry to let you down on that one, Chester, but at least I remember Scott.

Mantis with multiple devices

This email says, “Hello, Jonathan. This is Scott in Montana.

I have been rocking my new Mantis Q40 for a couple of weeks and am loving it. I have one issue that is probably related to Bluetooth keyboards in general and not the Mantis. I have the Mantis connected to both my laptop and iPhone, but use it with a laptop most of the time. Sometimes I need to use my phone without changing the Mantis to connect to the phone. In this case, I am unable to get the onscreen keyboard to come up on the phone since the phone still has a connection to the Mantis. Do you know of a way to force the virtual keyboard to show up even when the phone thinks an external keyboard is connected?

I can turn off Bluetooth on the phone or turn the Mantis off, but these are very inconvenient solutions. Thanks for any help and keep up the good work.” Thank you, Scott. I hope you continue to enjoy your Mantis Q40. I had this problem when I got my Mantis and the only way that I could solve it at the time was to connect an Apple wireless keyboard to the phone. That keyboard has a button on the top right-hand corner that toggles the visibility of the onscreen keyboard. When I tapped that button and the keyboard came up, it has never gone away since.

I think it must be coming up to two years since I’ve had the Mantis, and I’ve had no problem since I did that initial thing. Another thing you could try is going into voiceover settings and choosing Braille. There’s an option there governing whether the onscreen keyboard is always visible. You might try toggling that on and see if that makes a difference.

I have seen others with this problem. Someone contacted me a few months ago with exactly this problem and I don’t know whether they ever got it resolved. If anyone has some thoughts on this, do let us know.

You might also like to contact APH and see if they have any answers for you. It is a shame that they haven’t included some sort of command that lets you toggle the visibility of the keyboard because it does seem to be a common issue.

What’s up with the Braille letter W?

Here’s a good question from James Scholes. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. A Braille-related conundrum for yourself and all listeners. It seems to me that the English Braille with an uppercase B alphabet mostly follows the same base 10 counting system that we use every day. Once you know the dot combinations for the first 10 letters, A through J, you can construct letters 11 through 20, K through T by adding a dot three.

This pattern continues for letters 21 and 22. You can achieve U and V by adding dot three and six to A and B respectively. However, the pattern is broken by W, which can be perceived as a J plus dot 6. The system resumes with X, Y, and Z, but is technically off by one at that point. I am wondering about the historic context behind this inconsistency, or whether I’m simply reading too much into how English Braille was designed in the first place. Hope this finds you well.” It finds me extremely well. Thank you, James. It’s great to get your email.

I didn’t tweak to this pattern until I was going out with my girlfriend who eventually became my first wife and this was pre-email. I was on email in 1987, but she was not. She taught herself Braille and she would send me letters by using a knitting needle and reversing the patterns on the backside of the page. It was incredibly painstaking and kind of her to do that. Anyway, when she was learning the Braille code, she twigged to this pattern and she said, but why is the letter w not consistent with this pattern? I did some investigation at the time, which was a bit more complex than it is today because Google wasn’t around.

The reason for it is that when Louis Braille invented the Braille code, the letter W wasn’t used in French, and so it was skipped. Therefore when English, people and others who have a letter W started to use the Braille code, they needed to insert a letter W. I wonder whether it might have been a good idea to just move everything over by one, but that’s not what they did. We have the letter W that we do today.

Mental wellness apps

Mike Fair: Hey, Jonathan, it’s Mike Fair. Dawn was asking about mood-tracking apps, and I haven’t yet found one that specifically just does that. It’s always tied in with the larger mental health apps. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren’t free. I do have a couple of ideas. One of which is it’s in the Canadian store. This was something the Canadian government paid for. the development of this mental app. It’s a multifunction care app that helps people to take care of themselves, has articles, resources, and directs you to resources when possible. This could be Zoom groups of your peers. It could be professional counseling.

I know everything is free for Canadians, but I don’t know outside of that. The app is called PocketWell. One of the things it does have is a mood tracker. I’ve successfully checked in, I was able to do it, inform it of my mood and check off activities as to what might have contributed to my good mood. There are negative options too, so you can record all that. I guess it keeps track over time. PocketWell is that app. I don’t know whether that’s even available outside Canada, but it might be worth checking. The only other thought I had was you could use a journaling app to do this.

Day One Journal is one of the journaling apps that is very accessible. You can have one free journal. As long as you don’t need more than that, you have that for free. It does have templates. You could get a template that allowed you to fill in your mood and different things like that. That might be an option. There’s another free one called Personal Diary. I believe it had mood recording. There was a selector to select your moods. That might work. That one, I think, was free.

There’s a few different options that people could use. Then of course, the meditation apps, Calm, Headspace, things like that, the real heavy hitters, they often have things where you can check in and say, this is how I’m feeling now, and put in your moods, take surveys that walk you through that process. Hopefully, someone else out there will know of a good mood tracking app that’s possibly free and does a bit less than some of the big apps that make you pay for a subscription.

Jonathan: Thank you, Michael. Appreciate you stepping forward with some ideas. We’ll talk more about this with Dawn who raised this issue in the first place, but before we do, she’s got some other things to say, because she said she couldn’t keep her mouth shut on this. She says, “I feel yours and Steve’s pain when it comes to wanting to throw Siri out the window. I have been having similar issues. I’ll ask her to open Bluetooth settings and she’ll say, ‘Sorry, something went wrong. Please try again.’ After dealing with it for a while, I finally had enough and called Apple Accessibility.

I gave them a screenshot with the message and dialogue between me and Siri. Plus they asked for logs to be sent, which was another form of irritation in itself because for some reason, the logs did not want to go past a certain percentage point. They have a screenshot though, so that’s a good thing. The weird thing is that it’s only doing it with settings. For me at least, she’s opening apps and otherwise behaving normally. Like Steve, I have power-cycled my iPad 7, which is running the latest version of iPad OS, and also performed a cold restart with no success.

I wish I had a workaround other than going into settings and doing things manually, but sadly I don’t. Let’s hope and pray that Siri is forced back into line in iOS and iPad OS 16. It sounds like Heidi will be showing nickel of the ropes when it comes to being an auntie over the next few months. Next,” says Dawn, “I want to elaborate on my mood tracker question. You asked what a mood tracker is. It’s something you can use to track how you are feeling. Whether you are feeling depressed, happy, or anything in-between, you track this over a period of time. For example, how you felt today, how you felt throughout the day.

Plus yes, you can at least on some apps I’ve tried, also track your activities throughout the day. You also can learn different coping strategies for dealing with those feelings and getting through those bad days, as well as how your mind works, et cetera. They’re usually based on cognitive behavioral therapy or other scientifically-backed therapies. You also have the ability to share reports with your healthcare provider, as well as look at those reports and see, for instance, how you’ve felt over a week. There’s recommendations for things you can do and/or articles, or videos to help better understand and cope with change and negative thought patterns.

I hope this makes a little more sense. Each app does differ and there might be other things included like a gratitude journal or meditation. I’ve heard of people using them a lot over the course of the pandemic.” Thank you, Dawn. I appreciate the explanation. I also appreciate the info you sent me regarding the journey that you’ve been on, and I wish you all the very best with that. There is a book I would recommend. I do recommend it to people who’ve been through the sorts of situations you’ve been in. For some people it really resonates. For some people, it makes no sense at all.

I can’t guarantee what category you might fall into. If you have a mind to, I’d highly recommend checking out A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It’s everywhere. Everywhere. He does his own audiobook version of it. He’s so soothing, it’ll send you to sleep though. That’s the trouble. It’s available on all the usual repositories. As I say, it may or it may not speak to you. I find that there’s no middle ground with this thing. Some people say, “Gosh, it’s the most transformative book I’ve ever read.” Some people say, “What on earth is this? This is just gobbledygook.”

Anyway, if you haven’t read it and you’re of a mind to check it out, you may like it. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I wish you luck. Maybe we’ll get some more comments on mood trackers. We can make transcripts of Mosen At Large available, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Pneuma Solutions. Pneuma Solutions, among other things, other 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. It’s also a no-hassles way of getting into a PC that you might need to access remotely.

I manage the internet radio station, Mushroom FM, and it has a dedicated computer we affectionately call The Mushroom Pot. Sometimes I need to log into that machine to make changes. RIM means I can make those changes simply from anywhere in the world. On the desktop of my ThinkPad, there’s a little shortcut that simply called Mushroom Pot. When I press enter on that shortcut, I’m accessing the Mushroom Pot, and it’s as if I was sitting in front of the computer.

It literally is that simple. If I have to do a Windows update, then after a reboot, RIM can automatically reconnect for me. This is a super tool, and it’s made administering remotely so much simpler than it ever was before. Check out RIM by going to getrim.app. That’s G-E-T-R-I-M.app. The installer’s there, as is the documentation. You can learn all about RIM from Pneuma Solutions.

[music] Mosen At Large podcast.

5% blind

Jonathan: Here’s Gary Crow with this contribution.

Gary: This blind thing is a lot of things, but not all that complicated. First is a condition that ranges from mild to severe, just like most conditions. Wherever we are on the continuum it’s likely to get worse, at least until our condition is severe. That be as it may, there is not much we can do about it other than to whine. Never underestimate the real value in whining. Our condition won’t change, but whining can help us cope. Second blind and blindness are also variables. The condition may be static or getting worse, but how we experience them is far from static.

For example, I am on average about 5% blind. Sometimes I am nearly 0% blind, and once in a while virtually 100% blind. What accounts for the variability? Not the condition for sure. It is what it is. Isn’t changing since the lights are permanently off for me. Here’s the deal. When I am in my house, sitting in my chair, listening to my music on my sound system, I am 0% blind. The condition has no effect and represents no limitation. Alternatively, a while back, I needed to get my state ID renewed. I got an Uber and headed off to the ID updater.

The Uber arrived and I got out, already talking with an Aira agent to help me inside and with finding the ID updater. Still maybe only 20% blind. But, and there are those buts, just as soon as I walked inside and had taken less than a dozen steps, the cell signal dropped. At that moment. I was nearly 100% blind. I didn’t even know how to get back outside. I did manage to recover from the very dark place with the help of a passerby, but for a few minutes, it was pretty grim. I could tell you a thousand stories about just how blind am I right now, but I suspect you get the point.

Yes, blind is a condition, but more importantly, it’s a variable. What matters most is how blind I am right now. FYI, I am sitting at my desk, typing on my computer using my copy of JAWS, and I’m about 2% blind right now. Here’s the challenge, whether blind since birth or new to blindness, and whether the condition is mild or severe, the real issue is not the condition. Rather, the real issue is how effectively we manage blind as a variable. I of course don’t know what your goals and expectations for you may be, but do that my goal is to do whatever I want to do, when and where I want to do it?

My expectation for me is that I will develop and maintain the skills and determination needed to reach my goal. As part of the commitment to me, I will find the technology services, resources, strategies, and advice that can increase my success. Yes, it would often be much easier and safer to be content staying in my house, sitting in my chair, listening to my music on my sound system, but that simply doesn’t cut it for me. I sincerely hope it does not cut it for you. May I invite you to join the 5% blind club. Remember that 5% is only an average.

I was about 10 when I learned that I can’t play baseball, with the bump on my head to punctuate the point. I can do everything I want to do, everywhere I want, as is true for everyone else, blind or not. We are all limited in one way or another. Even so, getting down to 5% blind on average works fine for me and will likely work for you too. Oh, I didn’t know that. You are too old, too lazy, too afraid, too impatient, too tired, and too sure you can’t do it to consider the 5% blind club.

I’m reminded of my advisor in college when I was whining to her that college is just too hard. She told me that with the possible exception of my mother, no one really cares one way or the other whether I graduate. She smiled and added that I would have to handle all of the caring for myself. That’s it. If you were expecting some magical advice or an easier way, you are out of luck, just know that you’re slot in the 5% blind club is there just waiting for you. I sincerely hope I see you the real soon.

Jonathan: Thank you for sharing that, Gary. Obviously we have a range of perspectives on Mosen At Large, and maybe that piece resonated with some people. It did not resonate with me at all, but you might not be surprised about that. I have said on this podcast that I am proud to be blind. I’m proud to say I’m not 5%, not 10%, but a hundred percent blind all the time. I think that we need to continue to spread the message that it’s respectable to be blind. The technology that we use, and the techniques that we develop to get about in the world and to be literate, and to succeed don’t make us less blind. They make us more capable when blind.

When you use the word, “blind” in that negative way, it plays right into the media and wider does society’s negative stereotypes about blind, where they use the word, “blind” in a pejorative sense. I wouldn’t use the word, “blind” in that context myself, but I would use the word, “disabled” in that context in New Zealand, we subscribe to the social model of disability. I’ve talked about that on Mosen At Large before.

That essentially says that it’s society that disables us by not accommodating us. In that regard, I think your commentary is spot on. If you are not getting information about your surroundings that you need in order to function effectively, then you are disabled at that point. That’s why the person first language here is frowned upon in general. We don’t talk about people with disabilities because that’s victim blaming.

We talk about disabled people because society is disabling us. I would agree in that sense that we should try and seek accommodations and solutions, and techniques that disable us as little of the time as possible. If you were talking about being 5% disabled, I’d be right with you. I just am not convinced that blindness is the right word to use there, at least not for the way I think about my blindness, because for me, blindness is an enormous source of pride.

The accessibility of Roku devices needs work

Have you got a Roku device? I have not, but Jeremy has, and he’s not happy. He says, “Hi, Jonathan, for those users of Roku devices, major accessibility improvements are needed. The voice is not the greatest thing in the world at all. Audio description is not easy to access at all, and the sounds are not audible enough even though you turn the volume up in the settings. It’s not enough for those of us who have these devices, whether it be the TV or the various streaming devices such as the Roku Ultra Express Plus and so on. Additional features should be added.

More sounds for the menus, spoken buttons, as well as a better quality voice than the one it has. It sounds like it is tired. If you haven’t heard it before, it sounds very robotic and that’s not good.” Thanks, Jeremy. Not something I’ve used at all. Be interested in others comments on this. 864-60Mosen if you want to chime in on Roku. 864-606-6736. You can email with an audio attachment, or write something down and send it in to jonathan@mushroomfm.com.

More thoughts on self-description

On this quite contentious subject, a visual description of people at meetings, Lena’s writing in and says, “Hello, Jonathan. If you would like to email the vice president, Kamala Harris, and address the visual description, I think it would be great. I have emailed her and I’m going to follow up with a formal letter. It grieves me that she is being treated so badly for doing something good” Good idea, Lena. I hope that she is being thanked for trying to be accommodating.

Here’s David Englebretson who says, “Hey, howdy. I didn’t hear you and Bonnie bring up the topic of being a blind human who doesn’t know what they look like anymore. I’ve always enjoyed people describing themselves during meeting introductions. Then when I realize I need to come up with a description of myself, I can’t because I haven’t seen myself for 30 years. I’m happy to describe what I looked like back then, but that wouldn’t be too honest.

I usually just say that I have he/him pronouns, dark brown hair with gray at the turnbull, and I’m wearing a hoodie. Seeing AI tells me one time I look like I’m 30, and other times that I look like I’m 70. Maybe I’ll just say that Seeing AI says I look like I’m 30.” Thanks, David. You could always give Aira or Be My Eyes a call, and maybe call them on a few occasions over a period every week or two and get a composite description. It is a very good point, isn’t it, that as a blind person, it may well be quite difficult for you to describe yourself.

Announcer: On Twitter, follow Mosen At Large for information about the podcast, the latest tech news and links to things we talk about on the podcast. That’s MosenAtLarge, all one word, on Twitter.

Getting numbers from Pinecast

Jonathan: We proudly host this podcast with a service called Pinecast. We’ve been doing that for a while now, it hasn’t let us down yet. Matt from Pinecast is really committed to accessibility. If you’re thinking about hosting a podcast, it’s a good place to go. If you’re there already, then this tip from Michael Babcock may be able to help you out. By the way, I do have an affiliate code for Pinecast. If you want a bit of a break on the cost for a while, contact me, I’ll give you my Pinecast affiliate code gladly, because it’s also a way to help with the cost of this show.

Michael Babcock: In this content, we’re going to show you how to get basic numbers for the episodes that you’re publishing to your podcast while using Pinecast. If you get any value out of this, or you’re just interested in checking Pinecast out, don’t forget that you have the opportunity to use the referral code that may be in the description of this content. That’ll help me out and get you 40% off the first three months of your use of Pinecast. I’m going to select the podcast that I want to work with today.

Machine: Visit link to DM series.

Michael: We’ll press enter on that. This will then take you to a page where you’ll hear overview followed by the title of the podcast you’re working with.

Machine: Overview- for DM series- Google Chrome. Main reason two for DM series.

Michael: Now, I’ll do a find with ctrl+F.

Machine: JAWS find.

Michael: For–

Machine: Link episode list.

Michael: Episode list. When I find this, I’ll press enter.

Machine: Episode list- for DM series.

Michael: This takes me to a list of all of the episodes that are available in this podcast. If I use the number two-

Machine: Episode list heading level two.

Michael: -that takes me straight to the episode list. I’ll down arrow.

Machine: Combo box, all episodes.

Michael: I can sort by what episodes are shown here.

Machine: Filter episodes. Edit. Link. Remember number episodes.

Michael: Remember my episodes, or when I press it down again, I’ll hear–

Machine: Visiting [unintelligible 00:49:58]

Michael: Which is the latest episode published. If we press down arrow.

Machine: Published 12 days ago- 45 listens.

Michael: You can hear that it was published 12 days ago with 45 listens. We’ll down arrow twice.

Machine: Toggle menu button. [unintelligible 00:50:11]

Michael: That’s the next episode. Again, if you down arrow again.

Machine: Published 26 days ago- 48 listens.

Michael: That is a way you can get the numbers of who’s downloading your episodes. If you down arrow past one of these episodes.

Machine: Toggle menu button.

Michael: We skipped over the toggle menu button, press your space bar.

Machine: List [unintelligible 00:50:32] items. List [unintelligible 00:50:33] Edit 102.

Michael: You can edit the episode, or if you disable your virtual viewer with JAWS key Z and down arrow once

Machine: Delete 202. To move to an item. Press the [crosstalk]

Michael: You have the option to delete the episode, which we’re not going to do. That’s a quick way to get details about how many people are downloading your podcast. If you want more information about this, feel free to reach out. Remember, use the Pinecast referral link in the description for 50% off the first three months of your podcast hosting.

Blind pride

Mich: Hi Jonathan, it’s Mich calling from Ontario, Canada. I’m calling in regards to your topic of Blind pride. I personally am quite proud to be blind myself. I have been blind since I was six. I lost my sight due to having retinopathy of prematurity. I believe that there should be some sort of a historical blind role of honor. This role of honor should be filled with people who were historically important to the blind community.

I don’t know if any such thing exists. However, I believe that the names that come to mind that should be honored are people like Sir James Holman, who was the blind explorer. There is a great book written about him called A Sense of the World by Jason Roberts that is available on Audible. I highly recommend it. Also, people like of course, Helen Keller, Louis Braille of course. People like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and the Canadian musician, Jeff Healy.

Those are a bunch of names that I think historically have made a difference not only in blind people’s lives through their music or other things that they did, such as Helen Keller’s activism, et cetera and James Holman’s remarkable voyage around the world. Just historically I think that they should be recognized. Also, there was the blind doctor, Jacob Bolotin. There was another good book available from the NFB I believe, called The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story. He was a doctor in the States in the early part of the 20th century. He was a heart and lung specialist, I believe.

Jonathan: Yes, there’s so much blind pride that we can take from people who have made contributions, not just to the blindness field, but as you say, to the wider sphere of influence as well. There are also people in our history that are already being forgotten about, and people are trying to preserve those stories, which is so important. Someone who’s doing a lot of amazing work in this area is Peggy Chong in the United States. She’s got this moniker going called the Blind History Lady. She’s unearthing some wonderful stories about blind people who have made contributions in various areas.

Hopefully, this is one thing that the museum project that Mark Riccobono talked about in his NFB presidential report may help us to preserve. I know that that museum is focused more on the organized blind movement, but you’re so right, we should be celebrating all of the gifts that blind people have given the world over the centuries.

We should be pushing harder for audio described ads on TV

Here’s an email from Joe Danowski that I think many of us can relate to. He says, “Hi, Jonathan. High-quality video descriptions such as those on Netflix have been a game changer for blind individuals. These descriptions have made it possible for me to enjoy programming in a way I never could before.

I commend the studios and networks that have made this possible. On the other hand, I have noticed a trend moving in the other direction. So many television commercials today from major advertisers often do not mention the name of the company sponsor. They just put the name or logo silently up on the screen to be seen and not heard. They probably do this to have people affirmatively go and look at the screen, and see who’s sponsoring that commercial. Possibly in this way, they believe they can make their commercial more memorable.

In a world where we are consistently pushing accessibility on the web and in programming, I find this kind of advertisement to be offensive to the visually impaired community. I would be curious to know what you and other listeners think. Thank you, Joe.” This is a longstanding problem. At least in New Zealand, I can remember ads in the 1980s where you’d hear music. Sometimes it was just music maybe a classical piece of music that was quite well known, but you wouldn’t have a clue what it was, or you’re right,

there might be something that you could hear, some audio or other, but the logo, the name of the product would flash up on the screen and you wouldn’t know what it was.

I don’t watch a lot of commercial TV anymore, so I don’t know how bad it is in New Zealand. I guess the way that I’ve thought about this is if they don’t want my business, I won’t give them my business. If they choose to make an inaccessible ad, I’ll do my best not to support the company. It is access to information, you’re absolutely right. Maybe a lot of it just stems from an awareness. Maybe we do need to see if we can raise awareness about this. Should TV commercials come with audio description? Do TV commercials come with audio description anywhere in the world? Your thoughts as always very welcome.

864-60Mosen in the United States is the phone number. Jonathan@mushroomfm.com if you want to be in touch with an audio contribution or a written email.

I’m looking for a new laptop

Owais Patel is thinking about getting a new laptop. He says, “When I purchased my previous Macbook Pro 2015 and installed Windows, oh my, did I have a ton of problems ranging from USB ports to operating system crashes when running Windows through Bootcamp, to turnaways for technical support from Freedom Scientific because I was using a Mac. This time, I have made the decision I am not going for a Mac.

I am planning on purchasing a Lenovo ThinkPad, which version? Which is where I need your assistance. On my laptop, I will be doing tons of audio production, tons of Microsoft Office use, lots of accessories to plug in, and other tasks that consume power. In other words, this will be my laptop for personal, education and productivity level use. Can you please suggest a ThinkPad? Whether it be an X1 Carbon Generation 10, X1 Yoga Generation 7, or an X1 Extreme Generation 5. Thank you very much. I appreciate your help. Thank you for producing very informative podcasts.”

That’s okay Owais, because if I wasn’t doing that, I might be out there stealing hubcaps or doing something destructive like that, so I may as well keep busy. Let’s have a look at this. I think the key decision you need to make is what’s most important to you. Portability or power? Because there are trade-offs. Unfortunately, you don’t have to make those trade-offs with the Mac. The M1 and M2 Silicon on the Mac is absolutely phenomenal. If you’re going to be doing some serious word processing, I completely understand why you are making the decisions that you are.

I couldn’t go all in on a Mac, unfortunately. I don’t think Safari is good enough. I don’t think word processing on the Mac is good enough. If all I was doing was audio production, I would be buying the best Mac I could in a heartbeat. You never know, we might be getting to a point soon where you can run Arm Windows on your Mac. Anyway, you say you don’t want to go there because of your past Bootcamp experience. There are some trade-offs to be made. If you got the Extreme, it’s a slightly larger machine as I understand it, but it goes much faster. It goes like a rocket.

I find for my use case where I don’t use a huge number of plugins, I can really easily do audio production on my X1 Carbon 9th Generation. Of course, if you were buying now, you would get the 10th because that’s what’s out now. I have no doubt that if I started stacking a few plugins in there, I would start to feel it grinding down a little bit. It’s not supposed to be the most powerful machine in the world. It’s powerful enough to get word processing done, doing email. I do a lot of editing sometimes at night. I wake up in the night and I think, I can just sit here and do some editing.

I grab the ThinkPad from my bedside table, and I edit Mosen At Large. That works really well for me. I could do basic recording with it as well. If I were doing major music stuff where I was doing serious, heavy-duty plugins, I don’t think the X1 Carbon would be enough, but the Extreme probably would be. The Carbon’s a wonderful machine to carry around with you though, and it has a beautiful keyboard for word processing. One option that you didn’t mention that you now have the capacity to consider is the Lenovo ThinkPad X13 S. This is brand new from the factory in Lenovo land.

It is an arm-based processor. When JAWS 2023 comes out, there will be a single installer. When you run that installer, it’ll detect the kind of machine you have. If it detects that you have an ARM machine, it will install the brand new shiny ARM version of JAWS onto your machine. Now, the big advantage of this machine, the ThinkPad X13s is that the battery life goes forever. It’ll be interesting to see what the speed is like. I can’t comment on it because I haven’t played with it, but you get phenomenal battery life. That’s one of the big draw cards of the processors, Of course. You can also get built-in 5G and various other specs. It powers up very quickly, so, that should be a contender, I think, now that there is a JAWS for ARM processors.

I think that’s the key thing, matching up the mix of speed, power, and portability. Oh, and by the way, one disadvantage, just thinking about the specs you gave me there of going with the ThinkPad X13S, the lovely new ARM machine from Lenovo, which is probably the best windows ARM laptop out there, for now, is that it doesn’t have many USB ports. It’s so thin and so light, I think it has a couple of USBC ports. That could give you dongle city. The nice thing about the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is that it has, I think it’s two USB-A ports and two USB-C.

I really do enjoy that. I can plug anything into it. I’m not sure what the extreme has. If you can get to a store and just have a play with one, and try and get a feel for how it feels to drive it, that’s what I would do, but certainly, I’m very happy for my use case with the X1 Carbon, if it was my only machine though, because I have a desktop here in the studio where I do serious work. If this is your only machine, I would be inclined to go with the extreme because it will be more powerful.


Mosen at large podcast

my iPhone is full

May Thompson: Hi, Jonathan, this is May Thompson here. One thing I wanted to ask you, and the listeners is about my iPhone memory. I’ve got an iPhone 12 mini, and it’s got 128 gigabytes of memory, and the other day it said memory full. It was so full I wasn’t able to download my emails or anything. I had a look, and I got rid of some apps that I don’t use anymore. Ray had this memory stick that you plug into the iPhone. He actually ordered it, and he took photos off my phone. I had 200 videos of Dawn and the children when they were small, and I didn’t want to get rid of them.

I took them off of it, and there was hardly any memory put back on the phone. I thought the videos and photos would take lots of memory off of there. Now, I’ve got about 111 gigabytes of memory out of the 128 have been used. I haven’t got that much left. I’ve got 111 over the 128 have been used. Then we looked, and the system memory has got loads used up, but we don’t know if there’s any way you can delete some of the system memory because that’s using up loads of memory. I know the only way you could maybe do it is put it back to factory settings, but I don’t really want to do that because I’d have to put in all my apps and everything again. I just wonder if there’s any way you know of being able to free up memory.

Then another thing I wanted to ask you was, I looked at this app, would you get it in New Zealand? It’s an NHS app for over here. It’s an app for insomnia, and it’s called Pzizz. I don’t know how you pronounce that. Some of the features, I didn’t really understand. It’s got sleep, and it’s got nap, and it’s got focus. It plays weird sounds to you, and different bits of music, and voices, and things like that. I wondered if you wanted to, you could maybe have a wee look at it, and do a little review of it. It’s Pzizz anyway. I thought I’d give that a go for insomnia. It seems to have a lot of ratings, and it seems to be quite a good app.

Jonathan: Good to hear from you, May. Let’s take the second one first. That app is in the New Zealand app store, and I downloaded it and deleted it. I don’t know when I did it, but I searched for it in the app store. I found it, and there’s a redownload button, which means I’ve downloaded it before. I don’t remember why I might have deleted it, but there are quite a lot of good apps in this space. It also could be that the app’s accessibility has improved or something since I last looked at it, but there is another app that I use quite a bit called Brain.fm.

You do have to pay for this one. It has a similar thing where you get different sounds for when you want to sleep, different sounds for when you want to focus on something. It’s all supposed to be super duper researched and scientifically proven, and all these good things. It’s good that these apps exist. I think the trick is to find one that works for you and stick with it, and they can have real benefits. Regarding your storage issue with your phone, it reminds me that in 2007, Paul McCartney released an album called Memory Almost Full. When they said, ”Why did you call it that Paul?” He said, ”It keeps coming up on me phone.”

You’re not the only one, even Sir Paul McCartney has got it. Although, hopefully, he’s got a better phone by now. 128 gigabytes of storage is not a lot in this day and age, unfortunately, so I can understand why it’s a frustration. It makes sense to me that deleting all those photos and videos wouldn’t have freed up a lot of storage. The reason for that is that if you have iCloud Photo Library enabled, then the photos will be stored in the cloud anyway, rather than on local storage. Deleting them, if it’s deleting anything at all, will only be deleting a low-resolution version of the photo or the video because the full thing is stored in the cloud.

The iCloud Photo Library is designed exactly for this scenario where you have lower-tier iPhone specs. It could also be that you haven’t truly deleted the material off your phone. When you delete photos and videos, they go into a recently deleted album. They’re not completely off your phone right away. If you haven’t found that recently deleted album and then selected all the photos and videos in the recently deleted album and deleted them, then they may still be taking up storage on your phone. That could be the problem that you’re experiencing.

Another good way of troubleshooting issues like this is to go into Settings, and General, and then choose iPhone Storage. When you go there, you will find all the things that are consuming storage on your phone, with the greatest offender at the top of the list. When you first go there, it might take a while for iPhone to do it, to calculating, to find out what’s there. Then you will see this list with the most space-consuming stuff at the top. You might find, for example, that there is a lot of music on your phone, many gigabytes potentially, and that if you are not often in a place where there’s no WiFi connection, or you don’t mind using your cellular connection for music, you may be able to delete music off your phone, but still have access to it because it’s in the cloud.

Similarly, you might find that a particular app is taking up quite a bit of storage because of the data that it collects. You don’t really use that app very much at all. In which case, you can delete the app and free up a boatload of storage. Now, when you find that system data is consuming a lot of space, some of that data can’t be removed, but quite a bit of it can because it comprises things like Safari caches, things from Apple Music, and WhatsApp, and goodness knows what else. Now, you may be able to go in and manually delete that material.

For example, if you go into Settings and then Safari, you’ll find an option to clear all history and website data. You may also be able to download some sort of cache removal tool that helps with this process. If anybody has any particular apps that they would recommend for this, just tidying up the system storage and getting that space back, then by all means be in touch, and let us know some tips and tricks that work. Certainly, one way of getting rid of the system cache like that would be to restore to factory defaults, but it is a very dramatic step.

Hopefully, others can come up with some hints and tips for you on retrieving some storage. What I would suggest is next time you do update your iPhone, to go for the 256 gig option because 128 gig in this day and age is quite constraining. Best of luck.

Various tech topics

Here’s an informative email from Sabahattin who says, ”Hi, Jonathan and listeners. In answer to the question of why anyone might use Apple Podcasts. Speaking for myself, there are basically two reasons. Firstly, as far as I can tell, it’s the only cross-platform accessible option, including windows, that fully supports synchronizing subscriptions and playback position. If I were just on Mac and iOS, I’d probably go for Downcast. See next point, but ironically, iTunes on Windows still has value for me, and, in fact, is actually superior to the new Apple apps in some respects.” I’ll just break in here and say, I wonder if you’ve tried and discounted Pocket Casts for some reason, which is cross-platform all over the place. He says, “The second reason is that Downcast notwithstanding, all the other options seem to rely on backend services or servers to support their operation, like push notifications and sync.

I appreciate that this is probably not a big deal for everyone, but I do still like being able to manage all my information locally and not have it stored on a distant server somewhere. Yes, in all other respects, I agree with you that Apple Podcasts is really the lowest common denominator or just mediocre in the extreme. Maybe I’m a closet masochist,” he says. “You said that you could never get handoff to work once. Did you try turning off Screen Curtain? No, I have no idea why it works but it does. I have, of course, told Apple but so far nothing has come of it.”

Yes, I did try that, and I think that’s how I finally got it resolved. It was a very fluky thing, but that did get it working. Then, “There is this exciting new remote access product from Pneuma Solutions, RIM. I do hope that Mac is not off the cards as both controller and target in future. In the meantime, I have a working solution using bits and pieces that can be combined together. An audio streamer called SonoBus, a VPN of your choice, a sound driver that loops system output as input called BlackHole, and Apple’s native screen sharing for the case where you just want to remotely control one of your own computers.

The details are definitely too complicated for a few words, but you can find my description on AppleVis. There’s a link to that, and I’ll try and remember to put that in the show notes. Maybe someone else out there finds it useful,” he says. “Last but not least, if you haven’t heard yet, VMware Fusion Tech Preview 22H2 now supports Windows 11 on Apple silicon. Obviously, this is great news for we Mac faithful. I will be trying it out myself very soon on my new MacBook Air M2, but initial reports are quite positive, although there are known issues with the audio support in the Guest.

Hope you can get a chance to play with it yourself on that nice MacBook you have.” Thanks, Sabahattin. Yes, it’s looking very interesting with the JAWS ARM version ramping up. It’s all going to be built into JAWS 2023. I do hope though that there will be a way to do boot camp on the Mac again because I know from years of doing the virtual machine thing, there are just too many latency issues with serious audio work in a virtual machine. I could be very tempted if we can get the ARM version of windows running natively on the Mac. Thank you for your feature-rich contribution to the show.


Mosen at large podcast

Lost focus

Jonathan: This email says, “Hi, Jonathan. I am Brappa, exactly as JAWS pronounces it.” Right, okay. I’ll take JAWS’ word for it. “I started listening to your podcast since April 2020, and I’m enjoying it.” Thank you so much for listening. I appreciate that. “I have been a JAWS user since 1997 when I moved from Sri Lanka to Toronto Canada and using JAWS for my job and personal use. The issue with JAWS lost focus, press Alt-Tab message has not been resolved for this long. Have you or anyone brought it up with Freedom Scientific or Vispero to get resolution to this issue?

This affects my productivity, especially with my job. Keep up your great work.” I’m not sure if we can blame JAWS for this one. If something is stealing the focus away from a particular app, JAWS is simply telling you what has happened. I don’t think JAWS is causing it. It would be important to try and drill down and work out what is it that is causing focus to move away from the application that you’re using. It could be something that the application is doing. It could be some Windows-based system process that is misbehaving, but JAWS is simply being the messenger here.

Don’t shoot the messenger, so, maybe you could Tandem in if that’s possible, with someone at Vispero who can take a look and see when it happens, especially if you can make it happen on demand, and try and get to the bottom of what’s going on. Typically, day to day, this is not something that I experience. When no application does have focus, I do appreciate JAWS telling me that. Another way that you could verify that JAWS isn’t playing a part in this is to run the rater for a while and see if the problems happen without JAWS in the mix.

Looking for web accessibility resources

Christopher Wright says, “Hi, Jonathan, this is for you and/or your listeners who may be more knowledgeable in this area. I’ve heard of being an accessibility tester to test and suggest improvements for websites. They’re more compliant with accessibility guidelines like WCAG. I’m not well versed in WCAG, but I consider myself to be an advanced screen reader user, and I’d be willing to learn. Do you or your listeners have any resources you can direct me to so I can learn more and try to make some money while making the web a better place?

Win win eh? I have a lot of time on my hands, and this, and/or the potential of RIM might be a better use for said time than applying for places that clearly aren’t interested and don’t even want to try starting a conversation. I admit the idea of remote work has always appealed to me for many reasons, not the least of which are the headaches associated with travel and office politics, I simply don’t care about. Any information and/or contacts are very much appreciated.” Thanks, Christopher. I’m a little bit out of the loop these days because it’s been a while since I’ve played in the space, but one place you might like to look up is the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, and they have a website there that you can check out.

Others may have some resources on how you get started in this space. I know there’s a lot of interest in this area, and it sure beats having these machines put a line of code on a website and make people think that it’s all done, and dusted, and taken care of.


Haya Simkin writes, “Dear Jonathan, whenever you talk about abuse or blindisms, I always think of what I am about to write about. I hope I can explain myself clearly. I really don’t want to trivialize true abuse, but in my own life, I have noticed a problematic issue in the blind adjacent community, such as TVIs.

I think that’s the right term. I mean, teachers who work on Braille skills, et cetera, with blind or low vision students, mobility teachers, or social workers who work with blind adults. They tend to be over-didactic and over-interpret anything and everything you do or don’t do. Here are a few examples from my own life. For maybe two years, ever since I first heard you discuss blindisms, I have considered sharing this in case it has happened to others and decided against it, but I will share some of my experiences now. When I was in early elementary school, I lived in Canada in the middle ’90s.

I was in a program where I attended a typical public school, and I was in a classroom that focused on blindness-related skills like Braille and cane usage. A classroom of sighted students was just through the double doors at the end of the room. We would have activities with them once a day. I think this is or was the standard model in Canada, but I’m not sure. The teachers that worked with us would nitpick every behavior we exhibited and blame most of it on the assumption that our parents were spoiling us and holding us back from being independent.

Did I take my hands off the Braille while writing? Did I space out while changing from my snow boots into my shoes? Did I walk slower than they wanted me to? It must be because my parents are spoiling me and expect less of me. I remember getting sick once during the school day. It came over me after lunchtime, I lay down on a mattress and my six-year-old flu brain worried about them getting mad at me when I would have to walk to the school bus at the end of the day, slower than usual. The worst is that I have a learning disability, and they blamed that on bad parenting.

I’m deliberately leaving out identifying details. I would get in trouble for singing or humming to myself between tasks. I had a teacher who used to work with blind high school students, and she would keep us in for exhibiting blindisms. The more blindisms exhibited, the fewer minutes you could go out for recess. I could understand why I might get in trouble for being rude, and I could understand why I might get in trouble for lying or not doing my homework, but for something that was only weird and not violent or offensive, I couldn’t understand why I was being punished for that, and it made me defiant.

I would tell my parents that they could say a certain code word to get me to stop and deliberately break that promise. That’s not okay, but I was a little kid. The teachers would tell us that the rationale was that sighted people would think that we were more disabled than we were, and that we had cognitive issues, and that all blind people were like that. I believe this to be true even now, but there was also a double standard. Nobody makes assumptions about people who chew their nails or pick their nose but flapping your hands, that’s too much, even though it has no hygiene-related implications. Think about that. Sit with that a little. This is why I’m of two minds when it comes to blindisms.

As a young adult, I told my mother about my experiences, and she explained that the philosophy was that blind children should be like the average sighted child. The thing is that I don’t think the average sighted child or adult exists. Maybe I was like the average sighted child, with the learning disabilities that I have, who sometimes spaces out while changing their shoes or working, who wants to walk at the pace that’s comfortable for them, who chews their fingernails or picks their nose instead of actual blindisms. Maybe you could interview the average sighted child or the average sighted adult because I’ve never even seen them.

I want to know what they’re like. If they cook for themselves, if they can shower themselves, especially when there’s a blackout. Fast forward to my adult life. I have finished a BA, I am an underemployed translator. I started an ineffective vocational rehab program and a Master’s degree. During the beginning of the first year of the degree, I was still under the impression that I would have tutors, which I never got even though the local head of the center for blind students promised me that she would find me some.

Even though I didn’t manage to get the government support that I had during the BA, and I was still working out my participation in a program where students tutor kids or adult students while working. I thought everything would be sorted out quickly, and so I took a small hiatus from translating until I knew what my schedule would be like. I was also dealing with a teacher who used PDFs that were in such horrible shape that even sighted students couldn’t read them. Needless to say, those PDFs could not be mediated. I had a lot on my plate, and my caseworker at the VAC rehab program got it into her head that I was doing too many things at once.

It didn’t matter what I said or how I tried to explain my predicament, she wouldn’t change her mind. What’s worse, she planted that idea in the head of my social worker at the Ministry of Welfare. I no longer work with that case manager, but I do work with that social worker. The last time I saw her was a year ago and a week after burying my first and only guide dog. Somehow, this tendency of mine to not focus came up again, and she said to me, “It’s important to me that you learn to focus.” I wanted to scream at her. Instead, I tried to explain to her that she should meet my brother, the med student, and his wife, the nursing student.

They have to study immense amounts of difficult material largely on their own while working all kinds of shifts. My brother even has a job supervising young adults with cognitive issues in a community-based group home during the night shift. They have a four-year-old and a two-year-old. Nobody is telling them they need to focus even though they are a bit flighty by nature. Needless to say, it didn’t help. My mother has internalized a bit of the Canadian philosophy mentioned above. If I’m with a sighted person, sometimes I will ask them if they can do something for me that I could do for myself that I either have tried to do several times without succeeding or know that I may not succeed doing, like looking for something.

I could spend valuable minutes or hours looking for something and being right next to it, but it just so happens that I missed it. I know I’m not likely to find something I’ve lost. When I’m by myself, I might continue searching a bit longer, or I might skip it and get something similar, or do something that doesn’t require whatever it is I’ve lost this time. If I’m with a sighted person, such as my mother, I might ask her to find it. I have to tell her that I have already tried to find it and can’t. Sometimes she’ll look for it, but sometimes she’ll say, “Keep looking,” several times.

The worst is when she decides that I’m not independent enough and that I used to do this for myself, but I’ve given up. I’ve given up because I hardly ever find what I’m looking for by myself, and since I would rather not chase my tail trying to find something that would turn out to be right next to where I was looking all along, I choose not to do that if I can possibly avoid it. She just says, “You use it, you lose it.” If you don’t know, this refers to the brain’s tendency to prune unused memories in favor of ones that are often used. My brothers often ask my mother if she’s seen something or rather that they are looking for when they come by, and if she can find it, she’s more than happy to do so.

There’s no sense that they are less independent just because they rely on her for something they’ve tried to do and didn’t succeed at. Have you or the listeners had similar experiences? Do you find that your behavior is, or has been over-interpreted like that? Where do these double standards come from? I told my mobility teacher some of the stories that I mentioned in the first section about being in school. I said to her, it’s not that the teachers were demanding perfection from us, and she said that’s exactly what they were demanding. I don’t think it qualifies as abuse, but I don’t know what to call it exactly. I know that I still have these nagging voices and my mother’s nagging voice in my head.

You would think that after being so careful in how I represent the community, and so guarded about what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate, that I would be gainfully employed, but guess what? I’m not, and I still get treated like I have cognitive issues. I guess it doesn’t matter so much what we do or don’t do, they don’t want to hire us and that’s the truth. Flap away good hands,” concludes Haya.

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-Asolutions.com.

Victor Reader Stream

A follow-up to our Victor Reader Stream piece from Jan in Episode 192, she writes in and says, “Thank you for contacting HumanWare about my Victor Reader situation. After a couple of emails and calls to my HumanWare distributor, I got the refund for my error-filled new Victor Reader which never worked. I contacted Dale Campbell at Blind Mice Mart, in Houston, and learned that one of the stores at his Blind Mice Mega Mall called Ultimate Tech Mods fixes the kind of problem I had with the Victor power switch for a small fee.

My Victor is on its way home fixed for now anyhow. However, because this experience with HumanWare was so awful, I’m going to buy an iPad mini and start using it as my reading device. I have always been an iPad mini fan anyway because it fits in the purse and is easy to operate, and has good audio. Well, pretty good. When my Victor finally dies, I will already have many books ready to go on my new little iPad. Loved your story about Waymap. I use public transit far less than I did during my working years, but it would be wonderful to know where the next bus is and which of the several is coming next.

Again, thanks for your many podcasts over the years and decades.” Oh yes, been around a while. Thank you, Jan. Glad you found a solution.

Fixing ears at home

Matthew Bullis writes, “Hello. This will hopefully help Stan at home with ear problems. I’ll personally vouch for this product, which I’ve used for years. You fill this syringe with water in the shower, then place it in your ear and run the water through. I believe the term is lavage, L-A-V-A-G-E. The website is www.earclear.com. That’s E-A-R-C-L-E-A-R.com, and it only ships within the United States. It’s about $40.

Also, the substance you buy to soften the ear wax can be found at most pharmacies, and it’s called Debrox, D-E-B-R-O-X. You could use it a day or two before using this ear clear device for best results. These two products I’ve mentioned have allowed me to deal with build-up at home instead of booking a doctor’s visit for that purpose. I can hear this podcast much clearer now. Yes, you do get those high frequencies back, ones you didn’t know you were missing, once your ears are clear.” “Enjoy better hearing,” says Matthew.

A WhatsApp tip

Scott: Good day, Jonathan and listeners. Scott from Sydney again here. Got a very awesome WhatsApp tip. I don’t know why this tip only just came about, but I wanted to share it with everybody on the podcast because when I found it, I was blown away, and I was like, “I have to share this with the podcast.” Everybody would know when you have a large voice message on WhatsApp that goes on for say 20 minutes, possibly even longer, and there’s no easy way to move backwards and forwards through the actual voice message while listening to it on WhatsApp.

Yes, you can use the Skip Back and Forward options when you flick up and down on the actual message, but that’s so time-consuming, takes forever, and you can only go back 10 seconds or forward 10 seconds at a time. I’ve just discovered that if you go to the lock screen while the message is actually playing, you can use the track navigation option where you can use the slider to slide up and down with one finger. Like other options in other apps, on the iPhone, you can actually go backwards and forwards faster this way via the lock screen than within WhatsApp itself.

I just wanted to pass the tip on. While the message is playing, just go to your lock screen, and flick up and down on the track navigation bar, and you’ll be able to move a hell of a lot faster, backwards and forwards through the playing voice message.

Comments on Aira

Jonathan: Jenine Stanley is writing in, in her Aira capacity. She says, “Hi, Jonathan. I wanted to thank the gentleman from South Africa,” that was Brant, “Who noted that he can indeed use Aira there with a US VoIP number. Anyone around the world can use Aira as long as they have a phone number from one of our service areas, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, and the UK. Our service is available primarily in English, but Spanish and French agents are available on a limited basis. I also enjoyed your interview with the gentlemen from Waymap and other posts, noting how using Aira could possibly stand in for O&M lessons that familiarize people with places.

Of course, Aira agents can’t instruct on basic things like cane arc and such, but many people do use our agents to learn new routes or get the layout of places like complex train stations. Just having someone tell you when you are veering during a street crossing can be very helpful in correcting that issue and giving you more confidence in travel. I’ve sadly heard some blind people say that they don’t recommend Aira or other services because they don’t want people becoming dependent on technology or sighted people, and hence, lose, or never develop blindness skills.

This to me is internalized ableism and is very troubling. When I first started using Aira, I had similar feelings based on what people posted that they did using agents. Wow, can’t you do that yourself using X, Y, or Z blindness skill? I thought. Then I realized that many people don’t have access to training, or for whatever physical or developmental reason, simply cannot do the same thing using a blindness skill. Then again, maybe they just want the convenience of the visual info right away with the ability to ask questions about it. Guilty.

Maybe their confidence has been eroded by trauma.

Some of which may have come from within the blind community. It’s not my business how other people do things or if they use sighted assistance. That’s a tough one to realize and act upon in one’s personal thought process, but if we want the rest of the world to view us as a spectrum of capabilities and talents, we have to start doing it internally. The truth is that many people start out doing a lot of blindness skill type things using either friends, family, sighted people via smartphone, or other assistance, but once they gain more confidence that they can, in fact, do it themselves, they do.

This is especially the case with travel. We’ve experienced it at AIRA. Someone starts out having an agent with them for the entire trip. As they learn the area and feel more confidence in their own travel skills. They may call an agent to verify something along the way. That’s it. I’ve encountered so many people throughout the years who have been so anxious about travel or being around other blind people because their skills are seemingly always being called into question. It’s sad. Let’s all try to do better when it comes to assessing someone’s motivation and capabilities.

That could also be said for Braille. As soon as I lost the remainder of my reading vision, I pushed to learn Braille so I could communicate, take notes, and jot down ideas. It was hard, but luckily, I had the ability to stick with it, and the finger sensitivity to learn. Am I a “good” reader? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but I use Braille, with an uppercase B, every day. I think I’m only a passable reader, especially aloud because I simply don’t have the patience to practice. What really did get me reading more though, was the refreshable Braille display.

For some reason, that felt better to me than paper. After a time, I was better able to read even paper-based Braille. It’s good for me, anyway, to remember how difficult learning was and how many times I wanted to give up.” Thanks, Jenine, very much, for the great email, much appreciated.

Online accessibility advocacy

A former guest on the show is writing in. It’s Rebecca Blaevoet, who says, “Hello there? I just listened to the episode from June the 25th.” Better late than never, I suppose, Rebecca. “I was looking for the segment about the blind shell, but in the process, I heard you discuss your arduous entanglement with RNZ and the accessibility piece.

I have never been shy about confronting government and the public sector when they fail to take equal access for blind people into consideration. This about Twitter and images, made me realize just how sweeping this kind of advocacy could be. My tussles with government have been fairly major dogs on public transport, stupidness with passport offices. There’s always something, but your journey got me thinking about web accessibility. Service New Brunswick, the website of this province of Canada has instituted captures for just about everything.

I’m the administrative type in our household, so I’m the one who pays the property taxes, schedules COVID-19 tests, takes care of the farm vet bills, and renews the vehicle registration stickers.” As long as you don’t drive them, Rebecca, we’re all good. “With the capture though, there is no audio alternative. Nowhere on Service New Brunswick is there an audio capture that I can find. Not only that, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of accessibility statement or policy, and no one to contact for concerns. After hearing the podcast, I’m apoplectic about this.

Somehow, I felt my hands were tied before, but having heard the protracted process you had to undergo to get RNZ to take your concerns seriously or be made to take it seriously rather, I see now I have to do something. The only recourse I think I have as a first step is to talk to my MLA, my member of the provincial legislature who was a member of the Select Committee on Accessibility, I understand. I’m not sure yet what that means, but I just got off the phone with his assistant, with whom I have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning.

You did a vast amount of research for your submissions regarding RNZ. I’m dreading the answer to this question, but I have to ask it. What’s the best way of being prepared for this, and how on earth do I do it? Thanks for reading.” That does sound like a frustrating situation, Rebecca, and easily remedied because if they switch to a new version of Google CAPTCHA, they have a screen reader detecting mode there. When you’re running a screen reader and Google CAPTCHA detects that, it comes up with a simple checkbox that says I’m not a robot.

You check that box, and normally, that’s all there is to it. That’s a very accessible approach because, of course, audio CAPTCHA can be difficult for deaf-blind people. Even some with a mild hearing impairment can have trouble with the audio CAPTCHA. I think the best way to prepare for it if you don’t feel you have the solution is to reach out and ask people, perhaps on assistive technology email lists, or Facebook groups, or whatever, and come equipped as best you can with constructive solutions. What I would say is get them to check what version of Google CAPTCHA they’re using.

If they’re not using Google CAPTCHA, if they’re using something else, maybe it’s time they switched in order to be fully accessible. Do keep us appraised of how you get on with this advocacy. I’m glad that the podcast motivated you not to accept second-class treatment,

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A problem with Backpack Studio

Thomas Upton: Hello, Jonathan. It’s Thomas Upton, and I’m bringing to not only your attention but also, to the Mosen At Large listener’s attention on one bug that I had somehow discovered on the Backpack Studio app. You see, I had been testing out the Backpack Live subscription for a couple of months. one of the features I was trying out with a single-click Icecast streaming server where you don’t have to connect to any Icecast or SHOUTcast radio server, you can just have Backpack Live, generate a generic single click Icecast streaming server, and you can send a link to the stream to share with your friends and family.

You see, I was trying to make sure to see if the stream is received fine via the Backpack Live web player page online, but the problem is I couldn’t get it to play on some web browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, which I get the feeling that some of my friends and family members, they don’t want to just hear it on their phones and tablets. They want to hear it on their Windows PCs and Macintosh computers. Basically, the bug I found was, I somehow pushed the Play button, I pushed it, and it wouldn’t change to a Stop button, meaning it wouldn’t connect to the actual stream itself.

It wouldn’t play online. Now, I had tried this on my own iPhone, but it somehow stopped the stream when I pushed the Play button. It had connected, but then, all of a sudden, the live broadcast transmission stopped. I had emailed Ed Filowat, among the developer team at Backpack Studio about this, and I didn’t get a response yet. This is a very weird issue for me.

Jonathan: Thanks, Thomas. I haven’t had a look recently at the way that Ed has the Icecast servers configured, but it sounds like what might be happening is that they are an HTTP stream, and now, with Firefox, and Chrome, and Edge, you need to have an HTTPS stream for them to stream content. This is for security reasons. There are a couple of ways around this that Ed might implement if that is indeed what is going on. One is that simply the SHOUTcast server that’s involved here is set up in a secure way. The other is that there might be some secure proxy that routes data to the Icecast stream, and that would make those browsers happy.

A review of the ARX Vision Headset

If you were listening to the podcast when Jenine Stanley was last on, she talked about Aira coming to the ARxVision headset. Now, this is a product that I had not heard of before, and it does integrate quite closely with Android devices. They’re still working on how much might be possible on iOS. Now, if you listen to Mushroom FM, and who doesn’t, you will know that one of the stars of the station is Damo McMorrow, who’s a Mushroom FM fun guy from way back, and he’s on with a show called Damo’s All-Day Breakfast. Most of the time, it comes live from Australia on a Friday afternoon at 4:00 PM US Eastern time.

That’s nice and early on a Saturday morning in Australia itself. Damo likes to dabble in a bit of tech, and in his show recently, I tuned in and he was having a good chat about this ARxVision headset because he’s got one to try, and he seems quite pleased with it. I’m going to play you an extract now from that Damo’s All-Day Breakfast show on Mushroom FM where Damo describes his experience with the ARxVision headset.

Damo McMorrow: I’ve been looking for a little while at wearable technology, some of these devices that allow you to be able to read text and get a description of the environment and that kind of thing from a wearable device. There’s a few of them around. There’s the Envision Glasses, there’s the OrCam, but I’ve not really found anything that particularly piqued my interest until recently. Some of you might be familiar with the Aira service, which puts you through to a trained agent who can give you descriptions of what’s around your environment, and that sort of stuff.

I am a fairly heavy user of Aira, particularly when I’m traveling. For a long time, we haven’t had a wearable option for that. I did have the old Aira glasses when they first came out, but they discontinued support for those, unfortunately. I understand it was a bit of a headache, but still, it’s a bit of a miss. When they announced that Aira would be coming to Envision and ARx, I had a bit closer look at it and got interested in the ARxVision product because it’s quite a bit cheaper than the alternatives, and I liked the idea of it. If you’re familiar with bone conduction headphones, it’s like that.

The headband goes around the back of your head, the earpiece is set on your cheekbones, and the sound is conducted through the bones of your skull. That means your ears are not covered, so you can wear them and still listen for traffic, and approaching pedestrians, and cyclists, and all of those other hazards. On the right-hand arm if you like, or the right-hand earpiece, I suppose you might call it, is a camera module, which is about the size of two matchboxes stacked end-to-end. There’s two cameras in the end of that module, and on the side of it, there’s three buttons.

A triangle, a square, and a circle. They provide your control. It’s both an advantage and a disadvantage, I guess, is that the ARx is a wide solution. You have to connect it to an Android phone. There isn’t any iOS compatibility at this stage. That didn’t worry me because I’ve got an Android phone anyway for demo purposes, for training, and that kind of thing. I’ve got a couple of other Android devices for, including my network radios and things. I wasn’t too put off by that, and I did manage to get fairly cheap, a little Samsung A23 Android phone with a USB-C connector.

Now, when I say it’s an advantage and a disadvantage, the advantages are that being a wired connection, it’s able to process video quite quickly. I’ve definitely seen the benefits of that, and I’ll talk about that in a sec. The disadvantage is if you’re not an Android user, you either need to become one and get yourself a second phone or find a different product, but the cable is not bothering me, the Android phone isn’t bothering me. For me, it’s not really a problem. There is a cable coming out of the bottom of the camera module, which has a USB-C connector on the end.

The cable is long enough that while wearing the headset, I can have the phone in my trouser pocket, and the cable doesn’t get in my way at all. You use an app called ARx on your Android phone, and they call the headset ARxWear. You can set it so that as soon as you plug the headset in, it launches the app, and starts the application up on the phone. From there, all of the phone sound will come through the headset. The only drawback I’ve found with the headset itself is that the volume is a little bit low. They have gotten around by allowing you to also have the sound come through your phone, as well as the headset.

If you had any kind of a hearing impairment, I don’t think this would be the solution for you unless you were to Bluetooth the phone to your hearing aids, but there’s probably more elegant solutions for that. For what I want, it works quite well. It comes up speaking, and you’ve got, the triangle button is used to cycle through a number of different modes, so you have short text mode, which just recognizes whatever it can see in front of the camera, document mode, which takes a snapshot, sends it off to the cloud and processes it. You have a face recognition mode, a object find, a type mode where you can specify a particular object, and there’s a list of about 30 of them.

There’s things like backpack, suitcase, car. Yes, I do have a car so that one is useful. There’s a scene detection mode where it’ll just describe whatever it can see, and there’s a QR code mode. So far, I’ve tested most of them and found them to be pretty good. The text recognition was good. I didn’t have any problem with that, and the accuracy was better than a couple of other things that I had tried. The object detection works quite well. When you select the object detection mode, you then use the circle button to cycle through which object you want to look for.

If you specify toilet as one of the ones, if it can see that object in the view, it’ll beep. The closer you get to it, the more earnestly it beeps at you. The QR code works, so what that does, it’ll detect a QR code, and then it’ll say, “Press the Circle button to open the relevant web page on your phone,” and then it hands off to your phone to do that. The one that’s really impressed me though is the scene detection mode. Now, as a comparison, I did try the Envision Glasses as a side-by-side comparison, and the Envisions, when I walked out my front door, did their best impression of a crow.

The only thing they would see was car, so it just looked around and just kept saying, “Car, car.” That’s why I say it gives best impression of a crow. You’ll understand that if you’ve ever heard a crow. [chuckles] Anyway, I digress. The ARx did quite a good job. It said things like, “A street with cars parked.” It was bin data. It was identifying a number of rubbish bins or trash cans. I turned around and looked from the road up towards the house, and it said, “A brick house, a car parked in a driveway,” that sort of thing. There were some workmen doing some stuff over at the neighbor’s place, and I looked over in that direction, and it said, “A man up a ladder.”

They were definitely up on the roof, so that would make sense. I thought, “Well, that’s pretty good.” Then I decided I would take it for a bit of a walk up to one of our favorite cafes. We just had it running in the background, and we’re getting a pretty good commentary. I think this is the advantage of the wired connection, to be honest, was getting a pretty good commentary of what was around. It was telling me about bushes, and houses, and trees, and sunlight through the trees, and some quite descriptive stuff. At one stage, it said, “Man riding a bicycle along a sidewalk,” and I thought, “Yes, no, I don’t think so.

About five seconds later, I heard the bike go past, so, oh, okay, it is there. What really got me interested was when walking along the block of shops towards the cafe, and it started to read things. It’d say things like, “A building with text that says Floss Family Dental, phone 382-23303.” Then it said, “A shop front with a rectangular sign and text saying Pizza Capers, www.petercapers.com.au.” It was really doing quite a good job of reading the signage. I was a bit surprised by that because I thought that you’d have to identify the sign, then switch it into OCR mode and have it do that, but it was actually picking up the text as I was walking.

It gave me a pretty good idea of where things were, and I know that block of shops. The positioning was quite accurate, so it read the pizza thing as I was standing in front of Pizza Capers. It’s definitely pretty close to real-time. I was crossing a street, it’s a three-way intersection, but it’s a roundabout. There was a truck stopped at the roundabout, so that I could cross, and it said, “A large white truck parked on a road.” For artificial intelligence, I’ve got to say I was pretty impressed with its scene detection mode, and the fact that I could operate the thing hands-free.

I didn’t have to intervene or touch the phone. It was just in my pocket. It probably chews a bit of data, but that’s all right. Data is relatively cheap, at least in this country anyway. The fact that it was giving me a pretty good real-time running commentary of everything that was around was actually quite exciting. I know Marian was quite pleased because she has had vision in the past. She said, “Yes, I actually kind of miss that.” This is the problem with AI, it did give me some interesting results. One of which was, I was walking past a building with a color bond fence.

Color bond is corrugated shiny metal. The sun was obviously hitting the fence, and it said, “A metal fence with smoke coming out of it.” [laughs]. I couldn’t smell any, so I’m pretty sure it was just the way the sunlight was hitting the thing. Also, our house has a big bay window on the front, and I was looking at that. Again, the afternoon sun was streaming in through the window, and it said, “A small brick house with windows and a fire burning.” We don’t have a fireplace. That was a little disconcerting, but I would say it was probably 70% accurate.

Overall, quite pleased with it. Looking forward to getting Aira when that’s released and available on that platform. In the meantime, looking forward to doing a bit more testing, so I’ll keep you posted over the next little while. I want to see if it’ll read the LCD displays on my amateur radio equipment and things. I’m not particularly hopeful on that one, but I’m going to try over the weekend and put it through its paces a little bit more and see what happens. That gives you a bit of an idea, anyway, of my first impressions of the ARxVision headset.

If you want to have a look at it yourself, www.arx.vision is the website. It is a product that’s in its infancy. I’m being an early adopter, which I’m normally not. I’m normally pretty conservative, but anyway, we’ll see what happens. I think it has a lot of potential to develop further, so, overall, I’m pretty excited by it.


Mosen at large podcast

Looking for an accessible Twitter scheduler

Jonathan: Heidi is writing in with her first contribution. She says, “Hello, Jonathan and listeners. I hope you all are doing well. I have recently started posting on Twitter to build my personal brand since most things are online now. Does anyone know of an accessible Twitter scheduler? I have tested various schedulers to no success. I found Buffer, which is very accessible for my needs. Unfortunately, it only allows me to schedule tweets and not threads. I need a tool that would allow me to schedule tweets and threads. The scheduler would have to be accessed on Windows or iOS.

Any help would be appreciated. I am planning to reach out, to see if they would be willing to make them accessible. I was curious to see if any tools that exist were already screen reader-friendly. I have never worked with developers to make something accessible. Are there any resources or tips I can get to start? Thank you. PS. Love the podcast, have learned a lot, and I’m exposed to technology that I would otherwise not be aware of, PSS,” okay, “On a side note about visual descriptions, I see the value of descriptions, but don’t really think about them.

However, I would never deprive someone of that information. If a sighted person described how they looked like to me, I would simply thank them and move on. Every visually impaired person is going to be different on the descriptions debate, but we shouldn’t force one’s views on another. I’m glad that sighted people are trying to be more inclusive regardless of our differing opinions.” First of all, Heidi, welcome. Thank you so much for listening and also for taking the time to contribute to the podcast. Hopefully, it’s the first of many contributions that we receive.

I think I do have an answer for you because I have similar requirements, and I use a service called Chirr.App, it’s C-H-I-R-R. A-P-P. You do have to pay for it to get the full functionality. The plan that I have does not have the scheduling option. It’s not something that I’m using, so I can’t absolutely confirm that it’s accessible. What I can say is that the rest of it is very accessible. I use it mainly to do Twitter threads on my personal Twitter account, @JonathanMosen because sometimes I do tweet about New Zealand’s political issues, and sometimes I need to tweet a thread that could be six or seven tweets long.

Of course, you can go to the Twitter website and type in each tweet. I find that very distracting and time-consuming. With this Chirr.App thing, I just write my tweet in Word and make sure it’s spell-checked and everything. I paste it into the box, and it does a couple of things. It splits the tweets in logical places, and it also numbers them, so people can keep track of the Twitter thread, and then you just hit the Send button. It is a really cool service. The other thing it does, that’s also important, is it allows you to schedule retweets of a tweet or a thread that you have tweeted.

This is useful. For example, not everybody, because of Twitter’s algorithms, sees a tweet the first time you post it. You can schedule a retweet at a certain time later, probably at a different time of day, for example, and Chirr.App will retweet it for you. Pretty cool service. I recommend checking it out. Hopefully, it will meet your needs. Let me know how you get on. C-H-I-R-R. A-P-P.

Closing and contact info

I love to hear from you, so if you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down, or with an audio attachment, to Jonathan, J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener line number in the United States, 864-606-6736.


Mosen at large podcast

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