Podcast transcript, Mosen at large episode 201, Casting a secret ballot shouldn’t be this hard, VoiceOver quiet when on phone calls, and is it time Aira ditched its free calls?
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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. On the show this week, it shouldn’t be this hard to cast a secret ballot. Is AIRA doing its paid customers a disservice by continuing to offer free calls, voiceover being quiet on a call, and more.
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast.
Welcome New Jersey
Jonathan Mosen: Wonderful to have you back at Episode 201 today. Did you know that 201 is also the area code for bits of New Jersey? It covers many places in New Jersey, including Hoboken, where Frank Sinatra was born in 1915, but I seriously doubt that area Code 201 was being used in Hoboken in 1915 when Ol’ Blue Eyes, the chairman of the board was born. It’s interesting because Frank Sinatra has those multiple names, doesn’t he? You’ve got Elvis, he’s the king of rock and roll, and you’ve got Louis Armstrong, Louis he was Satchmo [sings], but Frank Sinatra, he was called Ol’ Blue Eyes and the chairman of the board. I guess he was just so impactful that he had two names. He was probably called a lot of other things as well, good and bad. Interesting colorful character was Frank Sinatra. All this comes to mind because it’s Episode 201. How about that?
Unacceptable, inaccessible voting process
It has been an interesting old week, so I’ve got quite a bit to tell you about before we get into your interesting contributions this week. I’ll start with the fact that we have been voting in New Zealand. We’ve just concluded our local government elections. These happen every three years for our local councils, local territorial authorities, and various other bits and bobs, and for a long time, voter turnout has been a bit dodgy. Somebody came up with a bright idea many moons ago now, that one way to increase voter turnout would be to switch the whole thing to postal voting so that you could vote from the comfort of your own home, but voter turnout has continued to decline at an alarming rate.
What that also means is we have a major accessibility problem with local government elections. When it comes to our national elections or referenda, a few years ago, Blind Citizens New Zealand, the Blindness Advocacy Organization in New Zealand in conjunction with the Electoral Commission who administer national elections here, devised a pretty cool scheme. It’s not perfect because if you can’t use the telephone, there are some issues for deaf-blind people for example, but it does provide for the casting of a secret ballot. There are various checks and balances in place.
What happens is, before a national election, you register the fact that you are a print-impaired voter. You call a number and you do this. When you do it, you are texted a code or they email it to you or you write it down, whatever works for you, and then you also select from a number of preset secret questions and you provide your answer. When it’s time to vote, you call this number that is available just for this purpose. You give your unique identifier that you’ve been issued and the answer to your secret question, and then you vote. When you voted. Your ballot paper is handed to a third party who reads the ballot paper back to you to confirm that the person has completed it according to your instructions. That is how it’s done.
Just because I could just for the fun of it, at the last election I slept in on Saturday morning, and at 9:00 AM when the polls opened, I phoned up and I voted from the comfort of bed. How luxurious is this? Now that’s a pretty civilized approach, but none of it is available in local government elections. They are getting better at making candidate information available in accessible formats. Hard copy Braille was available this year in some parts of the country. I absolutely applaud that. There was quite a lot of accessible material online, but it did remind me of the old joke about the Braille on the drive-through ATMs because it’s all very well having this accessible information. But you can’t cast a secret ballot in these elections because you have to have someone complete the postal ballot for you. Then you either drop it in one of the many drop boxes around the town, or you mail it off in time but it is not an accessible secret process.
I’ve just decided I’ve had enough of this. This has gone on long enough. This is 2022. New Zealand has been a signatory to the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities for some time, and of course, it has a specific section on the right of disabled people to cast a secret ballot. I think there are other parts of the convention that also cover this. It is just not acceptable. I’ve started a formal complaints process now. I’ve started with my local returning officer, which is where the process needs to start. I’ve actually already got a reply back from the returning officer, who was quite sympathetic to what I was saying, but he claims that their hands are tied because of the current local government legislation. He says they can’t provide a similar system to the one that is offered in national elections because the legislation is different.
Now I’m going on to the Ombudsman and various other government entities, but I am going to take this one all the way to the United Nations if I have to. I am determined that this is the last local election where I am not accorded the fundamental dignity and human right of a secret ballot. Damn it, people fought and died for the right to participate in a democracy. That was everybody. Not everybody excluding disabled people, but everybody. It’s not as if there aren’t ways to get this done as all the good infomercials say but wait, there’s more. I’ve been advocating on something else this week. I’ve been submitting to the Economic Development Science and Innovation Select Committee. Now they are hearing submissions at the moment on the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill.
The Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill
You may remember if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, that I made a submission to the Radio New Zealand Charter Review. I included that submission on this podcast so you could hear what it’s like when you submit to a select committee orally in New Zealand. In that charter review, I talked about all of the hassles that I had getting our public broadcaster Radio New Zealand, RNZ for short, to do basic things that a public broadcaster should do. Like, make sure that every tweet they send with a photo attached has an alt text description attached to the photos. Ensuring that disabled people are respected by refraining from the use of ableist language. Something that there’s an awful lot of on RNZ.
Making sure that disabled people are heard on the airwaves with programming from our public broadcaster covering disability issues.
My submission must have been persuasive because the committee recommended that a clause on disability be added to the RNZ charter. This is its governing document, the things against which the organization is measured. Then the government came along and decided, we are actually going to merge our radio broadcaster and our TV broadcaster, to form one new public entity. All of that work that I had done on that submission, and putting that research together was moot. I was very disappointed that having made that case and having that case accepted by the select committee when the government put this bill together for Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media, they did not specifically include disabled people in a clause in the charter, nor did they make sure that content could be consumed by disabled people on the same terms as the sighted.
When you’re building a new organization, that is the perfect time to get these sorts of foundations right. I have talked about some of the operational issues that demonstrate that this is necessary. One of them is, we have had some audio-described content on our TV screens for quite some time now, but it is not available on demand. All the way back in, I think late 2013, I took a complaint to the Human Rights Commission about this. Because it is discrimination if sighted people can watch a program on demand, but a blind person can only watch the audio-described version of that program at the time that TVNZ chooses to screen it. Unless they have some means of recording the contents themselves. Then that is less favorable treatments. That’s what discrimination is, less favorable treatment.
I talked about that and a few other issues. I have to say I’ve got a really favorable reception from that select committee, I am quietly confident, I am hopeful, that there will be a clause in this new charter for this new public entity that covers disabled people. Watch this space, I know I will be.
My Sonos PORT died on the same day as the Queen
The final thing I wanted to tell you about was this extraordinary thing that’s been happening for some time. It actually began on the day that the Queen died. My Sonos PORT died on the day the Queen did. Isn’t that sad? It was obviously traumatized by the whole thing. The Sonos PORT, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a device that has RCA inputs and outputs I think it also has some optical connections as well, it has airplay, and it allows you to connect external peripherals into or out of a Sonos network. We are heavily steeped in the Sonos ecosystem at Mosen Towers as you probably know if you’ve listened to the show for any period of time.
The use that I put this to is a cool one. I’ve got an Oticon TV adapter, which is compatible with the Oticon Opn S1 Hearing Aids that I use. The Oticon TV adapter is a great product. The audio it produces is super cool. It’s got very wide coverage. I can walk around the house and tune in via my hearing aids to whatever that Oticon TV adapter is playing. By plugging the TV adapter from Oticon into the Sonos PORT, it essentially turns my hearing aids into a Sonos device. I can send anything that Sonos can play directly to my hearing aids. It’s groovy, man.
Robotic Voice: Groovy.
Jonathan: On the day that the Queen died, I was going to Nickola’s graduation. That’s my youngest daughter. She was graduating with a diploma in fashion design. It involved getting on a plane because she studied some distance from here. While I was preparing to do all of that, I wanted to hear the coverage. I do what I normally do. Just tuned into BBC Radio 4. We had that playing throughout the house on various Sonos devices. I wanted to send that audio to the Sonos PORT, so it would come through the TV adapter as I busied myself around the house. Obviously, this is one of the biggest breaking news stories of the century. It led me down, it didn’t work.
Normally, this thing is just a flawless process. I don’t even have to think about it, but it wasn’t working. I found myself getting sucked into the vortex of trying to troubleshoot this because if there’s one thing that frustrates me it’s when technology gets the better of me. I feel like I’m in a battle of wits or something to try and sort something out. The first thing I had to work out is where does the problem lie? Is it the TV adapter bit from Oticon that plugs into the Sonos PORT, or is it the Sonos PORT? I fixed that pretty quickly by unplugging the RCAs from the Sonos PORT and just tapping them with my finger and over my hearing aids. When it was tuned into the right program, I could hear the brrr brrr
of me touching the RCAs. I knew that the TV adapter was picking up the signal. That at least told me that the Sonos PORT was the culprit.
I unplugged it, and I plugged it back in again and did all sorts of things and it was just not producing any sound. I gave up. I had to get in an Uber and get on my plane. Later that day, I decided to have another go. When I got back from Nickola’s graduation which was a festive and happy time. Her mother and I were both there for that. I got back and I thought, “Let’s have another go at this.” The next step when you have an issue like this with a Sonos product, and you don’t have to do it too often, is that you do a hard reset. In the case of the Sonos PORT, there’s a little round button on the back of the port, and you hold that down while you’re plugging it in. It essentially sets up the device as new.
Well, I had forgotten. I don’t know why I had forgotten this, that the Sonos PORT is one of the few Sonos devices with a really inaccessible process. Normally, you just tap the button on the back of a Sonos device, and it plays a little tune, and you are set up. In this case, you have to connect to a Wi-Fi network which is created temporarily by the Sonos PORT. You have to type in an eight-digit number which is printed in small friendly letters on the back of the device. Not so friendly, actually, because it was quite difficult to get that in the camera view. I used AIRA. I think in the end, I asked Heidi to help. We finally got the eight-digit number. I typed in the eight-digit number, and then it said, “Push the round button, and we’ll complete the setup.” I pushed the round button again. Nothing happened. Nothing, not a sausage.
Jonathan: When I got Heidi over here to have a look, she said it’s not even flashing like it’s supposed to. It’s like this thing is not well. We were heading off to Europe. I left it alone mindful that when I got back from Europe with the rona, I would have to have another crack at this. I got back had another go. Heidi kindly tried a few times and attempted to make it go, but it just would not go. In the end, I contacted Sonos via online chat. It was not easy as a blind person using a screen reader to get into that online chat, I have to say. That was very disappointing.
By the end of the conversation with the Sonos guy, I was really paranoid. We’ve got 15 Sonos devices around Mosen Towers and they’ve all been rocking my UniFi network for some time without any glitch at all. Our Sonos devices, up until this point anyway, are rock solid on our UniFi thing but then he started taking me down this rabbit warren of or, “Maybe you need to check this setting in the setting on your UniFi network.” I’m thinking this cannot be right because they’re all working fine. They’ve been working fine for years. Then I had this epiphany. I thought, “This guy is just leading me up the garden path here.” This is classic buck passing where they blame everything else except their product for a problem. He’s trying to deflect because I realized the problem is happening before I even make a connection to our UniFi network. It’s not joining the network, because when I press the button it doesn’t join the network. I decided I’d give it a go setting it up via Ethernet because it’s got a couple of Ethernet ports in the back. I tried hardwiring it and then setting it up. It wouldn’t even turn on at that point. It didn’t even come up in the Sonos app.
I said to Bonnie, I think this Sonos PORT is defunct. It is kaput. It has ceased to be. If we hadn’t nailed it to the perch, it’d be pushing up the daisies. I said, “I think I need to get another one.” Now, that’s a pretty expensive potential mistake to make because if I bought another one, and it didn’t work then clearly it would be my network because I couldn’t possibly work out how it could be. Then I’d have to throw myself on the mercy of the vendor to get my money refunded, but I was pretty confident. I ordered it online. It’s pretty hard to find Sonos products at a discount in New Zealand, but I did find one at a slight discount. Waited for it to arrive. Then I had to get the eight-digit PIN for this new one which of course was different from the other one. Thank you, AIRA for your help with that. It turns out, I was absolutely right.
Female Speaker: Absolutely right, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Yes, absolutely right. It came up, it’s working fine. Knock on the wood it is still working fine. Who knows what it was that caused that Sonos PORT to give up the ghost except perhaps out of sympathy for the queen. It is great to have my Sonos PORT back. It is a very handy gadget. You can also use it to plug things in, of course. If you’re into turntables, [chuckles] it astounds me how many people are, you could plug a turntable into a Sonos system this way. Even something like a Victor Reader stream if you’re playing books, and they can be blasted over your Sonos. It really is a handy little gadget. I’m very pleased to have resolved the issue of the Sonos PORT.
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When the time is right, take that person to one side, or maybe talk to the IT manager in your organization and tell them there’s a fix for this. It’s called Scribe for Meetings. It seems such a simple solution but there’s a lot of incredible magic going on under the hood. All someone has to do is upload their slides as little as five minutes before the presentation is due to run. Pneuma solutions will do the magic behind the scenes and provide a fully accessible version that you can follow along with. There’s no need for you to be excluded from these presentations any longer. Scribe for Meetings provides the answer. To learn more, head on over to pneumasolutions.com. That’s P-N-E-U-M-A, solutions.com.
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast.
Eloquence works a bit differently in iOS 16 compared to JAWS
Feras: Jonathan, this is Feras. First I just want to say congrats on 200 episodes. I’ve been there ever since. I’ve been loving the podcast ever since he started producing it. Yes, I’ve been there since The Blindside, and yes, FS cast days if you recall I’ve been sending in FS cast contributions quite frequently. I want to give my quick thoughts on iOS 16 and yes, I am using Eloquence. This is a dream come true for me. This is a dream come true.
I remember even on a tech talk presentation. Especially you, Jonathan, one time you had a tech talk presentation on Accessible World and one time even five, six years ago I remember saying well– Is Eloquence ever coming to iOS? Several people that I’ve talked to. Everyone was like, no, no, no, that’s never happening due to licensing issues due to all of that problems. Well, of course never say never just because this was a big surprise not only to me but to the entire blindness community.
Now, the one thing that I needed to ask you, and I don’t know if you’ve experienced it is, why is Eloquence pretty fast? In the betas when you did the demonstration of the new voices in the first beta, it was perfect, it sounded pretty much the JAWS rate, but whenever I slow it down, it’s the equivalent of the slowest I can get it to actually JAWS level like 35%. Then it drops down to like– I don’t know how to explain it. It goes pretty slow. It’s not the JAWS equivalent. You can’t really speed it up like the JAWS equivalent, or at least that I know of. Maybe you have some tips or advice on this. I would like your feedback on this.
Also, why is it that punctuations, they’re announced pretty weirdly, they’re not exactly JAWS-like? For example, when there’s a 0.0 of something, Eloquence says, for example, iOS 16.0 while on the iPhone it says iOS 16.0, like the traditional voiceover mechanism.
Jonathan: Good to hear from you, Feras. Thanks for suffering through so many podcasts over the years. I think it’s important that we don’t confuse text-to-speech engines with the screen reader. Voiceover obviously has its own characteristics and its own implementation of Eloquence, so it isn’t going to behave exactly the same way that it does on JAWS just because it’s Eloquence. It’s just like, for example, if you use one of the Vocalizer voices, there are some slightly different characteristics of those voices in terms of how they voice punctuation available speech rates on JAWS or NVDA or narrator for that matter, and voiceover and talk back, they will all be different.
If people are finding particular show stoppers, then by all means contact Apple support. I know they did make some changes to the way that Eloquence was working during the Beta cycle in response to that feedback.
Notifications in iOS 16
Michael Chopra: Good afternoon, Jonathan and all Mosen At Large listeners. I was just listening to the episode that you have just released. That is episode 200 at the time of this recording and congratulations on such a milestone as well it’s an incredible thing. I really enjoy the podcast and thank you for producing it. I want to answer someone’s question regarding the notifications and double tapping. What I have noticed is now running iOS 16.0.2 on an iPhone 13 pro. What I’ve noticed is that I double tap, it doesn’t work, and then if I double tap again on the same notification, it will work just fine. This is either from the notification center or also in my experience from the lock screen as well.
Jonathan: Thank you very much, Michael. That’s Michael Chopra with that little hint. Things do seem a lot more stable with notifications in iOS 16.1. It’s fascinating to me every time that a new major release of iOS comes out, notifications seem to go through a rocky period.
VoiceOver quiet on phone calls
Angus McKinnon: Greetings, Mr. Jonathan, I had a real problem with a scene sound issue that’s going from one iOS version to the next. It was fine in 15, I think it was kind of quiet in 13 and then it was fine and 14, fine in 15 quite again 16 and then I just– oh, it was so bad this time that I couldn’t even use the earpiece on my phone. I had to use the speaker and just so they can hear things. I went into settings of the phone and I turned off noise cancellation and that seems to be fine. I’ve got my full volume back. I can lower or increase a volume and all sorts of stuff and now it’s not so quiet.
Also, I was finding that I used to go from home screen one to home screen two or whatever by touching the thing just above the dots, the pages, and that was not working when– I thought, well, I just can drive this and I got my hand and had four fingers extended and I put it on the left margin, dragged it from the right margin over and dragged it over to the left and that seemed to change the pages for me. I wish you guys would talk a little bit more about the Eclipse. I wonder how Eclipse enjoyed the whole trip, the big long-time plane ride and being in London and all those kind of stuff.
Jonathan: That’s Angus McKinnon. Good to hear from you, Angus. The reason why we didn’t talk about Eclipse on the trip was because Eclipse didn’t go on the trip. It takes six months of paperwork to get a dog into New Zealand and six months before we left, we didn’t know we were going. Apart from that, there was a grueling amount of travel and I don’t think it would’ve been particularly humane to Eclipse to take her with us. Eclipse didn’t go with us, she was babysat by Heidi and Henry the wonder son-in-law.
A number of people are experiencing the issue that Jana brought to our attention in Episode 200 regarding voiceover audio being extremely quiet. The moment you initiate a phone call or anything it seems that is using the phone API. Now in Jenna’s case, and in my case, this involves using made-for-iPhone hearing aids. If you are having trouble doing this with the earpiece of your phone, which is something that I never used, you can give this tip of Angus’s a go. Keep in mind though, that if you use made-for-iPhone hearing aids and you have hearing aid compatibility turned on, noise cancellation is going to be off anyway because you can’t have them both on. You can’t have noise cancellation on and hearing aid compatibility mode on.
For me, that one has made no difference at all, but it might make a difference to you depending on your settings. I think this is one of those things where some people are experiencing it and being incredibly impacted by it and others who are not think that somebody’s doing something wrong or doesn’t know something or making it up. An example of this actually was in the 16.1 Beta cycle where when Beta 2 came out for a bunch of people, the magic tap stopped working, myself included. The magic tap would only actually work to answer a call and end a call, but playing and pausing audio starting and stopping dictation, probably some other functions just completely stopped working and there was nothing that you could do. For those who were not affected by this, whose magic tap was going on fine, everybody was saying, well, what’s the matter with you? It’s working fine, go away. Stop being a complainer, but it’s pretty debilitating when the magic tap stops.
I think this is one of those settings– actually, another one is the inversion of the colors that stop the App Switcher working. A lot of people were complaining about the App Switcher being completely inaccessible, and people were saying, what are you talking about? It’s fine. For those with invert colors turned on, it was not fine. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the iPhone, there is something that is causing audio to go really quiet for some people, the moment that a call is initiated, and if you’re not experiencing it, great, but it’s pretty impactful for those who it’s affecting. One of whom is Mary Ellen Earls and she says, an answer to something you put out in Podcast 200.
“Voiceover’s volume is almost not existent when I wear my AirPods Pro Maxes on any Zoom call. I have recently switched to the PC so I can hear where the mute and raise hand controls are. It is most frustrating because I too have hearing aids which play voiceover directly into them. I am surprised Apple has not made this issue a priority.” Hopefully, we can assist with that by reporting this to Apple by sending logs. To be fair, I have not done that. I don’t really even know why. I’ve just thought, maybe it’s something unique to my setup. I guess this is one of the beauties of Mosen At Large that we can compare notes and we can be encouraged to report what is a very serious issue in the hopes that it might be resolved.
Louis Mayer says, “In your Mosen At Large Podcast number 200, a listener wrote that they had problems with low voiceover volume during calls and Zoom meetings. I used to have this issue, but it has not occurred lately. I have an SE 2020 and I’m using iOS 16.02 and I use iCloud backups. During the call or Zoom meeting, a way to bring up the voiceover volume is to turn voiceover off and then back on using a triple tap on your home button. This is not a permanent fix, but it seemed to fix my immediate issue during the call or Zoom meeting. I very much enjoy your show.”
Well, thank you, Louis.
“When I’m in my office I often have my iPhone connected to my mixer through a cable that’s got a 3.5-millimeter jack at the end and of course, it has to have the lightning adapter at the end of that. If voiceover is faint on a call I do find that you are right in my case because I don’t have a home button, I triple-tap the side button and I turn voiceover off.
I triple-tap it again and it’s on. That does often seem to help when there’s something plugged into the lightning port. Sadly it never helps me if I’m using my made-for-iPhone hearing aids and voiceovers dropped way low on a call, I can toggle voiceover off and back on again until the cows come home and it still doesn’t make any difference to the volume.”
Here’s Marissa who says, “To the listener who made the possible suggestion about having a way to reset voiceover to factory defaults without having to reset the phone, I wholeheartedly agree and would advocate for this. I think this should have been implemented a long time ago because there is nothing more frustrating than having to reset the phone just to see if that fixes it. I will say that I have experienced the issue she was talking about related to voiceover volume being very low on a call.”
Dave: Hi, Jonathan, this is Dave from Oregon. I ran across something that might be of an impact for folks with either using headphones on their iPhone or like you and I using hearing devices with MFI connection. I stumbled on it, it under sounds and haptics and it’s called headphone audio. It has to do with the audio level where it cuts back the audio level. It’s the first item there under sounds and haptics. To go in there I had mine on and I heard a certain level of voiceover, when it turned it off, voiceover dropped which doesn’t make sense, but you can actually set that. I’m just wondering if that has an effect on the loudness of what we might be experiencing in phone calls when they override voiceover, et cetera.
Jonathan: Thank you very much, Dave. I gave this a try because it’s something that had not occurred to me. I’ve played with all kinds of settings with respect to this and I thought maybe this is the magic bullet for me at least it didn’t fix it, but I’m including it here just in case it’s something that someone can try in case it does. I had mine switched off. I don’t like settings that mess with volumes and things out of my control, but I did turn it on and tried making a call and then I turned it off again and it seemed to have no effect with respect to the voiceover volume when the call was in progress.
Powering on an iPhone isn’t as straightforward as it used to be, and a problem with my audio mixer
Chester Smalley: Hello, Jonathan, this is Chester Smalley. I’m here in Erie, Pennsylvania. I have a couple of questions for you about my iPhone. It’s a 2020 SE that I’ve had since December of 2020 and I’ve just installed iOS 16.2. Before I do any of that I should thank you for the hard work that you do and the very enjoyable presentations that you make, all the books you’ve written, and the work that you’ve done for blind people around the globe. I can’t say that I agree with everything that you have ever said. You might not even agree with everything you’ve ever said by now because I know as we age or as we grow we sometimes change. However, none of that is my point. You do excellent work and I thank you for it. I enjoy it and I will continue to listen.
All right. The problems I’m having with my 2020 SE in combination with 16.2 specifically is that when I turn the phone off, power it down completely, the power-up process is nowhere near as blind-friendly. I hate the word accessible incidentally. It’s nowhere near as blind-friendly as it used to be. It used to be when I’d power my phone down and bring the power back up, I would eventually hear, and it was always very quick actually about 10 seconds, I’d say. May only be 20 seconds. I would hear that the screen curtain was off. That’s what voiceover would tell me. Put in my passcode and away we go now. Now it’s very inconsistent.
One thing I’ve noticed when I turn the phone off the home button is completely locked, and I press the power button on the right side to bring up the screen and it seems as though I have to do it a number of times. Eventually, I suddenly find that I’m invited to put in my passcode, but I have to actually gain access to it, I have to interact with the screen by swiping around and what have you. I’ve shown it to my sighted wife a couple of times and she looks at it and she first, there’s no Apple sign then, and suddenly there is, and that’s when I can put in the id. Anyway, so there’s that. I wonder if you’ve heard anything about that kind of difficulty with other people.
A couple of friends of mine, a couple of gentlemen who live nearby installed iOS 16 before I did, three people actually talked about this. Two said that voiceover didn’t come up at all which I didn’t find to be true. It does come up, but they were encountering that when they had not upgraded to 16.2. They were finding that when they power their phone down and then brought it back up, voiceover didn’t come up at all and they needed sighted assistance. I have a feeling that maybe they weren’t quite patient enough because I think they were experiencing the same thing I’m experiencing, but I’d just like to hear your take on it.
That’s the first thing. Here’s the second thing. Since March of this year, I have been playing with a mixer attached to my old desktop computer. My wife and son collaborated or conspired, depending on how you look at it to see to it that I have a mixer. I’m a frustrated broadcaster. I’m not that good at it, but I always enjoy it and I really enjoy the production side of it. I’m still I’m using GoldWave, I haven’t graduated to REAPER yet. I will eventually. I’ve got this nice little mixer. It’s a Behringer 12-4, I believe is the model number or at least part of the model number. My real problem is that when I plug my phone into the mixer, attach it through the various cords and cables, and adapters that I have, it works for a while. For an example now.
“Messages 100, message sports folder, four apps, messages, edit mode.”
See, so that’s my phone you’re hearing. You’re hearing my phone. I’m using Eloquence for the fun of it on my phone just to see how it sounds and see if I want to work with it. We’ll see. I may not continue to use it. As you can hear, it’s there. Now I unplug it. Detach the plug from the phone. It’s a lightning connector on one end and I’ve got the 1/4-inch plugs on the other that are plugged into the mixer. Plug the lightning back into the phone and you won’t hear it through the mixer anymore.
The way I got the phone to work through the mixer was by turning it off, by powering it down which is why I wanted also to mention the power-up problem I’m having. I powered the phone down, brought it back up, put in my passcode, there’s voiceover, plug the phone into the mixer, works great. Unplug the phone, plug it back in, no phone on the mixer.
Jonathan: Thanks for your audio message, Chester. Appreciate that. I have not experienced any issues myself with starting up the phone, but I do have a different phone from you at the time of putting this together. I’m still rocking the iPhone 12 pending the arrival of my iPhone 14. I’m going to throw this one open and see if others have had the same experience that you have with respect to booting the phone and reliably determining that voiceover is on.
I don’t know what’s going on with your mixer except to say that if you unplug the lightning adapter and then you plug it back in and yet audio is coming from the iPhone’s speaker, even when you’ve got audio plugged in that is very unusual to me just to speed up the contribution a bit so it doesn’t consume too much time. I edited out references that you made to a soup drinker device, partly because you didn’t talk about the soup drinker and so it would’ve set everybody’s devices off. It sounds like there is some electronic mechanism in the mixer that is affecting this potentially, that somehow it’s shutting off the channel and that is happening for some specific reason.
I’m not familiar with this mixer. I don’t know anything about Baringer products and I don’t know whether this mixer is completely analog or partly electronic or fully electronic. If it’s a fully electronic digital mixer I think it’s probably something that’s worth contacting, bearing a tech support about, particularly given that we heard the demonstration with the phone, but you also did mention that you have some soup drinker issues as well. When you’ve got two devices going into the mixer and they don’t constantly operate reliably, that suggests to me there’s some setting or issue with the mixer that Baringer should be able to help you address.
Maybe somebody has the same mixer as you and I’m sure that others have the same phone as you and may be able to chime in with some comments. If you would like to do just that. 86460 Mosen is my number. 864-606-6736. That number is in the United States. You can also do what Chester did and attach an audio message and send it in to Jonathan@ mushroomfm.com or you can just write the email down.
Singers: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Some TV ads are audio described in the UK
Jonathan: To Sunny Chessington we go in the UK I’m being an optimist and Brian Gaff is writing in he said, “I listened to the item in which you talked about audio description and mentioned adverts, well, yes, here in the UK we do have these. Not everyone has it and it’s put out on a channel which does not use audio description at all this goes away as well. At the moment, the main ones seem to be Procter & Gamble products, such as fairy washing pods and softener as there is action showing somebody using the products with just sound and no talking. Although towards the end, you can hear what it’s for, then there is predictably guide dogs appealing for money.
We have also seen Waitrose supermarkets on their food products, where they show Old English pastoral scenes of making cheese and harvesting crops and the ad tells you how natural their products are and they come from the UK. I don’t believe a word of it myself but otherwise, you get music and captions. Virgin Media O2 tends to audio described their longer commercials, which tends to tell a story, such as how a rapper can collaborate with musicians over the fast broadband, et cetera, but the shorter versions tend to be just voiced over on normal sound at a very garbled rate to fit it all in.
There are others like beauty products, other shops and services, and some government campaigns but by no means all. We will see on the run-up to Christmas shops like John Lewis doing it on their very long adverts I’m sure. As for audio description, generally on the TV, it’s all a bit hit-and-miss like it is on DVDs. It seems that often the audio description is made by the broadcaster and when another channel shows it, it does not go with it if the company which made the show is a different one to the broadcaster. Also, some channels not on the main multiplex feed, do not have to put it out by law, as it’s considered their viewing figures will be lower.
However, with online feeds, in my view, this is less relevant these days. It’s a scandal that many of these internet feeds have no audio description version, even if it had it in the cinema or on the original channel. Indeed, some just don’t have the option at all. I noticed we get a New Zealand show called The Brokenwood Mysteries and by the sound of the audio description, it sounds like it’s made here in the UK and I wondered if you get the benefit from that there. It’s another place I would not want to live. A bit like Midsommar where they seem to kill off half the community every week.”
Thanks, Brian. Audio description is wonderful, isn’t it, but it is a bit of a minefield and soon I’ll be speaking with Joel Schneider, who is one of the pioneers of audio description and he’s still actively involved and it’s a really fascinating chat, which we’ve already recorded and you’ll hear that in Mosen At Large quite soon. I do make the point that there is a lot of audio description, which has been made, say, by a British network, and yet when we get it here in New Zealand, as you rightly say the audio description hasn’t come with it and New Zealand audio describers have to do the describing all over again, which seems an incredible waste of a precious and scarce resource. I’m not familiar with the show you mentioned I don’t watch a lot of TV in New Zealand but if it’s audio described here, it’ll be audio described locally but that is super intriguing that you have some ads that are audio described in the UK.
Fantastical issues, and Amazon Echo inquiry
Time to go to Canada for this email from Kelly Sapergia who writes, “Hi, Jonathan. I hope you and all the Mosen At Large listeners are doing well. We’ve had a hot summer here in Moose Jaw with temperatures staying at around the 30° Celsius mark most days. I have a couple of questions I hope you and the listeners can help me with. One, I’m experiencing a problem with Fantastical and iOS. When going through my appointments, the majority of which are recurring, I sometimes find that the year has jumped to 2024. I’m assuming this is the app’s way of saying that 2023 is possibly going to be a bad year. I have to press the Today button to get back to 2022. I find this behavior annoying, to say the least, and was wondering if you know of a way to get Fantastical to stay at the current year.”
I don’t think I’ve seen that one, Kelly, I’m not much help. One thing I can say is that Fantastical tech support is absolutely outstanding. I’ve not had to use it often but on I think two occasions I’ve had to use it they’ve been diligent, their responses have been timely and thorough, they do seem to care and they care, particularly if you’ve got some sort of accessibility issue there. Do get in touch with Flexibits support and I’d be interested to know how you get on.
“Two, I was interested in the comments given in Episode 192 regarding e-readers like the Kindle. I had thought about getting a Kindle at one point, but decided against it, as I already have the app on my iPhone, and I am not certain if there’s any point in getting a device that pretty much does the same thing as the app.” I agree with you, Kelly, I got a Kindle to play with when Kindles became accessible and I’m one of those people that just does most things on my smartphone, it’s one device to carry around, one device to charge. Of course, people would argue it’s also one device that if you lose it, you’re really kind of down the creek because you’ve lost everything but I have not done so in years.
For me, having multiple devices is a bit tedious. Some people would also argue that the good thing about having a dedicated device is that you can read on your Kindle and leave your iPhone free. I think that focus modes have helped on the iPhone a lot. I’ve got an autofocus mode when I go into Kindle– it’s a focus that I’ve created called DND with VIP.
I can be disturbed by important apps, and important people in my life but other than that notifications are muted until I check them manually or I come out of the Kindle app. They’re not too expensive and they’ve done a nice job with the accessibility.
Kelly continues, “At the same time, though, I’ve been considering purchasing a soup drinker device, such as the Echo Dot, however, I keep feeling conflicted. I have the soup drinker app installed on my iPhone and enjoy asking it various questions similar to what I would ask Siri when she’s in a cooperative mood. The question I’m posing here is, do I really need a device that basically does the same thing, or are there things it can do that the app and the iPhone, for that matter, Cannot?”
Good question, Kelly. I think this will come down to personal preference to some degree. If you don’t mind opening the app and summoning the assistant that way, then I guess you’re happy the way you are. We’ve got Mosen Towers set up now so that we can yell at the soup drinker from anywhere. I mean, we literally can say a wake word anywhere in this house, and it will respond. Of all the digital assistants I like the soup drinker the best. I find that it is responsive. It says sensible things when you ask it questions. I’m interested that I feel this way because I did get a google home it was given to me and I expected that because of Google’s search engine the way that they can pass information, I would get better information from Google than the soup drinker, it just made sense to me but actually, sometimes I find the soup drinker is just giving sensible, clear concise answers.
We also have many more devices in this part of the world that can work with the Amazon Echo system then work with Apple’s HomeKit. I think the whole complexion of this is going to change significantly when Matter comes on stream. This is this new universal home automation standard and it can’t come a moment too soon but it will take a while for Matter to filter through.
For example, with the Amazon Echo, we can control the heat in our house, we’ve got the ring video doorbell, and that doesn’t work with Apple HomeKit either at the moment, despite repeated promises that it will. We can control our Samsung TV, turn it on and off that kind of thing. We can’t do that with Siri either. For us, it really does work to have yelling access to the soup drinker anywhere that we are because it does so much.
This is another thing that you can do with an actual Amazon Echo device, you can set up routines. At the moment, it’s pretty cold and horrible as I put this together and we have a routine that I’ve set up in the app, which the Amazon Echo devices need to be around to look after and that is that at 4:30 in the morning because we get up at 5 AM we have the heat pumps turn on. You can set a routine to come on at a particular time. We also have other devices coming on at different times for different reasons.
You can also give routines a command. For example, we have one that says heat the upstairs it turns on the two heat pumps upstairs at Mosen Towers. We have heat the house which turns heat pumps on upstairs and downstairs and we just say these things anywhere that we are and they happen. For us, if I had to pick one digital assistant that I would not want to be without, it would definitely be the soup drinker on the Amazon Echo devices. Some of the Sonos devices also have it built in, you can add that if you want to and even my new Sony noise-canceling headphones have it built in. I think it’s a really great tool and I’m very glad that we’re so ensconced in the Amazon Echo system for virtual assistants. Others may well like to comment on why they liked to have Amazon Echo devices, as opposed to just using the app.
Male Speaker 2: On Twitter. Follow Mosen At Large for information about the podcast, the latest tech news, and links to things we talked about on the podcast. That’s Mosen At Large all one word on Twitter.
The dreaded high school reunion
Stan Warren Luttrell: Greetings Mosen At Large. My name is Stan Warren Luttrell. I recently attended my 50, count them 50-year high school reunion. The nifty 50 and because of that, I managed to go down to the inland East Bay Area in the town of Pittsburg, California. That is where I went to school. There were some interesting things that I noticed and of course, having graduated 50 years ago, I decided to go down there and visit with many of my friends and it was very interesting. How do I say this? Because I was the only blind individual in my graduating class.
Now there were people that I knew that graduated before me. Now the interesting thing was there was a woman who came over to me and talked about how she knew me, but I don’t know we must have been in a parallel universe because she mentioned that I played the accordion. No, I was not interested in accordion playing but one of my blind friends who graduated earlier than I did play the accordion. I noticed, yes, friends, I’m going to say this. I have a theory that all blind people look alike [laughs] because I’ve had a series of events happen that it had nothing to do with me or anything to do with what I would do.
Let’s go back in the Wayback Machine and go back years ago, and one of the people that I knew had a tendency to beat up on women. I don’t do that. I would never do that but one day, a friend that my dad worked with saw me and said, “I saw you beating up on some woman.” “No, that did not happen.” There’s nothing that I could say, to change his mind, or what passed for her mind. Then, fast forward in time, a friend of my nephews claimed that he saw me sitting on a railroad track. No, that is something that I would never do. I am a chicken. I don’t want to do that. I love being here.
That’s number two. Then there was a third individual who used to repair cars in the town in which I used to live. One day, a woman came over to me and thanked me for repairing her car. Trust me, you don’t want me working on your car, even if it’s a self-driving one. No. These are just a few of the experiences that I had. Let’s add a fourth one that has nothing to do with anything. There was another woman who came over to me at the reunion and said she wanted to take my picture. I said, “Okay, there’s nothing wrong with that but I have an affliction where my eyes are normally closed. It’s hard for me to open them.” She said, “Oh, Stan, can you open your eyes?” Now, there was something I wanted to say but I really endeavored to be nice, because there’s nothing I could say. These are just a few of the things that represent my experiences.
Jonathan: I’m sitting here laughing, Stan. There’s a serious side to this, especially if you’re being accused of something like beating someone up. That’s horrible but Bonnie has had very similar experiences. I don’t recall having as many experiences like this, but Bonnie gets them. She talks about how people think that she was located somewhere or did a certain thing and she looks nothing like the blind person that they’re talking about. Bonnie is quite short of stature. In one case, the woman that they were talking about is very tall, completely different complexion.
I think even a different race from Bonnie if I’m remembering correctly. This stuff happens, I guess, because people just see and remember the blindness, and they don’t remember anything else extraordinary. Perhaps others have experiences like this 86460 Mosen if you want to be in touch. 864-606-6736, that’s the phone number of course. You can attach an audio clip to an email or write the email down. Jonathan@mushroomfm.com.
JAM jingles and StationPlaylist questions
Chad Beach: Hi, Jonathan. My name is Chad Beach. I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I actually just found out about you at least, I don’t think I’ve heard of you before this. Maybe three weeks ago, a good friend of mine named Monty, who actually runs his own internet radio station that I actually do a live show at once a month, who I’ve known for about three and a half decades played an opening part of your podcast Mosen At Large. What really piqued my interest is you use jam jingles even on your podcast. Very interesting choice of new day, the package for KBK in Pittsburgh. Very, very cool and it works beautifully with your podcast and with of course the name Mosen At Large podcast just so cool like that.
Quite a long time before then I have heard of Mushroom FM, because of one of the two cool package IDs that you had done for it that was played on the jam personal cuts montage on their personal cuts page, not knowing that was you. Well, now I put two and two together. First of all, I’m curious. When was your first exposure specifically about jam jingles? I’m curious. Did you work at a station that use them? Or were you just looking maybe when you were thinking of starting Mushroom FM and happened to stumble on them on the web and it went from there? I’m curious about that. I love the concept of Mushroom FM. I love the way the hosts do their thing and so on.
I also wanted to ask you a couple of things about station playlist. When I do a live show, I notice from when I hit the button to when the track starts whenever I play, when I’m in manual mode, of course, there’s about a one-second or so delay, as Monty put it like the old turntable days. I have heard your presumably voice tracks through the voice tracker on your shows. I remember one, in particular, you were going into Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, you said something about queen. You went right into it and I heard you hit the button and it started virtually right away.
I’m curious, one, do you just use the voice tracker when you put together your shows? The station playlist voice tracker? I assume you do because I heard your demo from a few years ago, just recently on your Mushroom FM site. If you do, is there a way as far as you know, to control how quickly when you’re in live mode or unassisted or manual? How quickly attract plays after you hit the button to start, in this case, the enter or even turning on the A, the automation again, over that track doing it that way too. I’m curious if there’s a way to set that.
Also on your demo, which I think was like from 2016, you were just doing the SPL recorder and you were just doing drive tracks. I know in more recent versions of the voice tracker you can actually hear the intros and outros now. I’m curious if that’s how you do that now because I noticed you hardly ever talk over an intro. In fact, usually, you have a jingle or some other thing even before [unintelligible 01:00:00] Assam most of the time with you, I think, and even if it does start right away, you don’t usually, I don’t think, talk over an intro. Some do, some don’t. I’m curious, is that how you do that now? Or do you perhaps do it through REAPER using the voice tracker and doing the external audio editing through your DAW, which I believe you use REAPER? I use Audacity, which of course, means you can’t hear the intros or outros. I’m told, you can just basically spacebar through everything from starting the recording/playback of the outro, to turning your mic on, to when you hit the next intro, or whatever else you’ve inserted, and then turning your mic off and then turning the recording off. I’m told that’s how it works, so I’m curious about that.
Then, do you also, sometimes like–? Because I know a lot of the shows, including yours will play like twice in a day, like 12 hours apart, but I heard you on one actually say, “Coming up at 4:00 PM Eastern time,” and it was in the what, two or three o’clock hour that I heard it, so I knew you were using US time, which made me wonder, “Man, does he use two internet feeds for the same station, one for the US and one for like Australia and New Zealand all that?”
My guess is that you actually went in and left most of the show alone, but redid a particular track to promote the afternoon version, if you will, because normally, that show would play, I guess, way overnight, early in the morning, which would be afternoon your time. I’m curious if I’m hearing you right that you sometimes redo voice tracks or certain voice tracks for a repeat of your show to further customize it for that time of the day. Are you by chance, an amateur radio operator? Do you have a ham license? Do you get on the air very much? I haven’t heard you talk about it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t do it. I’m just kind of curious about that.
[unintelligible 01:01:55] me curious about how your licensing as far as internet licensing and all that works there where you are. Did you subscribe by chance to like Live365 so you could stream here in the US, or pay your BMI, SoundExchange, although separately? How did you do that?
Jonathan: It’s good to hear from you, Chad. I know all about Fort Wayne, Indiana because I’m pretty sure that that was where GW Micro got started a long time ago. Now, this is the ultimate how the sausage is made contribution. [laughs] Let’s see if I can remember most of those questions. When did I first encounter JAM jingles? When I was a child we had radio stations here in New Zealand who would play JAM jingles, and in fact, I think, in those days, that would have been PAMS jingles in the early 1970s.
We had an offshore radio station called Radio Hauraki, and it broke the government monopoly. It was a very similar situation to the one that was endured in the UK where they also had offshore radio, but the outcome was very different here. The offshore radio station in New Zealand got a license to broadcast on land, whereas, the BBC really kept their monopoly after the big offshore boom finished in the UK because of quite draconian legislation. Commercial radio didn’t come to the UK until 1973, but that Marine Offences Act was passed in 1967.
Anyway, Radio Hauraki when they came ashore, ahoy, ahoy, when they came ashore, they had an amazing PAMS jingle package and there were a number of radio stations in New Zealand that did JAM later. Yes, when I worked in commercial radio, we also had on some radio stations, JAM jingle packages. I’m a radio geek, I’ve collected this sort of stuff all my life, pretty much, and so I decided, when I reached the grand old age of 40, actually, and The Mosen Explosion had been going a long time by then, that I would treat myself to a PAMS jingle package.
I used to listen to a website called reelradio.com, I think it might still be around, but when Reel Audio first came to the internet in the mid-1990s, this Uncle Ricky’s reelradio.com was amazing. It allowed me to catch up with a lot of American radio airchecks from the golden age of pop radio, and I fell in love with those older PAMS jingles then. When I decided to treat myself to this PAMS jingle package for The Mosen Explosion, I decided I would just pick some of the ones that I really liked.
You’re right, the package we use for Mushroom FM is called Too Cool, and it’s that kind of oldies format as well, and well spotted on the Mosen At Large jingles. You don’t often hear podcasts with jingles, and so when I started Mosen At Large, I thought, “That will be a really nice way to distinguish it and just give it a bit of a classy sound.” We qualify because we don’t make any money from the podcast or for Mushroom FM. In fact, that costs me lots of money. We qualify for the personal cuts package. You can submit whatever you like and ask if they can re-sing those for you. Plenty of fun.
All right, now in terms of StationPlaylist questions, yes, I’ve been using StationPlaylist for a very long time. I was the first blind person to use StationPlaylist and introduce it to the blind community, largely through the fact that back then in 2001 or 2002, I think it was, I was directing ACB Radio, and I also had the Main Menu show, and so we featured it there. I demonstrated it to colleagues on ACB Radio Interactive, in particular.
My serial number is like two. Literally two with a whole bunch of zeros before it, so I go way back with StationPlaylist long before they had creator, just the studio package and a little thing that you could put in your system tray to do basic scheduling. I’ve seen it come a long way over the last 20-ish years that I’ve been using it. He’s continually done great work for the blind community and accessibility with respect to their package, so too of course has Brian Hartgen with his phenomenal JAWS scripts for StationPlaylist Studio.
Before Studio, I was using a package called Ots Juke, which was later renamed, I think, to Ots DJ. Now, that thing had phenomenal latency. I do know what you’re talking about. With Ots DJ, if you pressed a key to start a track playing, it was instant. It felt fantastic. I think what’s happened over time, is that I’ve just become used to working with the latency. That said, I wouldn’t say that it takes a second or more for tracks to start playing for me.
There could be a number of reasons for this, it could be that the tracks haven’t been scanned, because they can often help with the automatic crossfading engine. It could be relating to where the tracks are stored. If you have tracks stored on a network attached storage drive or a slower drive, it might be taking a while to access them, but I find that in the normal course of events, it might be about, I don’t know, half a second maybe maximum, when you press the key to start playing the track before it starts playing. I have my tracks stored on a solid-state storage device. I make sure that there’s no huge gap at the beginning of the track. All those things are important, but I haven’t seen the kind of latency you’re talking about, so there are a number of things that you could look into there.
The Mosen Explosion used to air every week, and I used to do it live before my most recent job change. That was a really great experience, it was a fun show. I’ve done a lot of live stuff with Studio. In fact, Brian Hartgen and I have produced a tutorial on StationPlaylist Studio called Broadcast It. Brian has subsequently done addendums to it as StationPlaylist Studio has developed. Yes, these days, The Mosen Explosion is voice-tracked. I had forgotten that I did that demo back in 2016. The technology has moved along a lot since then. I use a combination of techniques when I’m voice-tracking The Mosen Explosion.
Typically, the way the playlist is organized is that every second track has a jingle before it, and every other track, I do talk up to the intro. I try and mix it up a bit, and I use a combination of techniques. Sometimes I will go through the full thing. I prefer to use the Enter key rather than the spacebar, that’s just a personal preference, to cycle through, hear the last about 15 seconds of the song, and then talk after the song, start playing the next song, and talk to the song ramp. Sometimes I do use the automated mode because when we add tracks to the Mushroom FM library, every single intro in the library is timed, and so we can talk right up to the vocals just by using the automatic technique as well.
There’s a series of radio buttons. Using Brian’s scripts, it’s really easy to select the radio button that you want and use it accordingly, depending on how you want to work with the track. I use it in a range of ways. Though I don’t go back and re-voice track anything. I have a pretty busy day job here as a chief executive of a national organization in New Zealand, so I tend to do my show quite early in the morning before my workday starts and I don’t have time to go back, but there are shows on Mushroom FM that only air once. The regular weekday lineup repeats on a 12-hour cycle, but other specialist shows do not.
Even if you’re listening at 2:00 in the morning, it’s still appropriate for me to say that it’s coming up at 4:00 Eastern. Yet, Mushroom FM had to pick a time zone, and so we picked Eastern US time. Amateur Radio was always something I meant to get around to doing. I haven’t done it yet. Technology got in the way. Just as I was thinking about getting my ham license, I got my 300 baud modem and never looked back, but you never know, it may not be too late for me.
In terms of licensing of internet radio in New Zealand, we have a completely different system. Obviously, we are not subject to US legislation, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and all those good things. It’s a very simple process here in New Zealand to license an internet radio station. They want to know whether you’re making any money off it. If you’re not, you pay a flat fee every year that they invoice you for, and that covers all of your licensing. It’s not even necessary to maintain logs. It’s not necessary to adhere to any kind of issues relating to how many songs from the same artist you can play or anything like that. It’s a really straightforward process, and I’m so grateful that we can license Mushroom FM in New Zealand because it makes things much simpler.
Phew. I think I’ve covered most of them, Chad. Thank you very much for all the questions and for discovering the podcast and Mushroom FM. Good luck, of course, with your own internet radio initiatives
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast.
Nuphy Air75 keyboard review
Mike: Hey everyone, it’s Mike Feir. I just thought I’d review a keyboard I have. I’ve had it for about a month now, and I really like it. I think it’s ideal for blind users for a number of reasons. It’s called the NuPhy Air75. NuPhy is N-U-P-H-Y. N as in Nancy. It’s manufactured in China, but designed in the US. It has different keycaps, it’s that basically, this has been designed as a really versatile travel keyboard. 75% is the size of the keyboard. That means you’re missing the number pad essentially. You have the function keys, you have escape keys, you have arrow keys, home, end, page up, page down. There’s an Fn key, which is a extra function kind of thing. You hold it down like you would a control key and you hit other keys to do things related to the keyboard.
One of those things is connecting. You hit the Fn key and then numbers one through four to switch between connections, and you can hold in Fn and then 1, 2, 3, or 4 to put it into pairing mode for that slot. Then, you connect what you want to. You can then switch between them with Fn and then 1, 2, 3, or 4. You can also hit Fn up arrow and down arrow to adjust the lighting level. Of course, you can use that to just turn it right down, the RGB lights, which are useless to blind people and gain battery life doing that.
The keyboard is about 30 centimeters, a little over that in width, probably 32 or 33. It is a good size for the lap. It’s a bit bigger than the Keychron K3, which was my previous really favorite board. This surpasses the Keychron K3 in a number of ways. One of them is that it reports the battery level of the keyboard to the battery widget on your iPhone. If you are using that battery widget and you have the keyboard connected by Bluetooth, it will tell you how charged it is. That’s a really nice detail to know.
You also have tactile switches on the back, so on the very back, there’s the port that you can connect to USB-C cable to charge or directly plug to a computer. There’s also two switches on the very back, one of which is for wired and off. Completely off is all the way to the right on my keyboard, with it facing away from me. Then, wired is the middle setting. Then wireless is the farthest over to the left. It comes with a 2.4 gigahertz dongle. If Bluetooth isn’t quite reliable enough for you, you can plug that into a USB-A port on your computer, and then you have a wireless connection that’s a bit better, some say, than Bluetooth.
I have had no Bluetooth issues with this keyboard pairing it with my phone. One of the reasons for that is that the top of the keyboard is aluminum. It’s all aluminum all the way around, except near to the bottom of the keyboard. On the bottom, it’s covered with plastic with a metal plate in the center that protects the battery. The battery is 2500 milliamps, and that lasts quite awhile. You can get about 30 something hours using a reasonable amount of RBG light, and it’s even longer if you have it disabled, with the lighting disabled, which you can do.
The switches, you can choose between red, blue, or brown switches. It defaults, at least on Amazon, it defaults with the brown. Brown is the mid-range. It’s tactile, so there’s a quiet bump that you feel. It doesn’t make any extra noise, but you feel it when you press down on the key. Red switches are linear. You press down and it’s a smooth press all the way down. Blue switches have a click to them, so if you want that extra tactile sonic feedback of that click as you press a key, you can have that.
I am glad I went with the brown switches. I did get the reds and I’ve used some to replace for my arrow and command keys. I’ve used about 34 of those switches are now red because I replaced them. They’re hot swappable, so you can remove the switches you don’t want and replace them with other switches, either three or five pin. Doing that is pretty easy. It comes with a little tool that you can use to pull off the keycap, which is also quite easy. You can get different colored keycaps for this and replace the keycaps with other ones, so that’s nice. That is also a pointed favor of this keyboard over the Keychron because it’s a lot more easy to find a keycap set that will fit this keyboard.
It’s a low-profile keyboard, so it comes with low profile switches, Gateron switches. That is a pretty well-known company that makes these switches. The keycaps are PBT keycaps, which have a texture to them. It’s not smooth, it’s more like, if you remember, buttons from arcade games, for example. It’s kind of that texture. There’s a bit of roughness to it. I quite like that. Apparently, it’s much more durable than the ABS keycaps, so I feel very good about the keys. It’s a nice feel to type on this board. The keys are of a good size and of course, you can replace them if you like.
Sound-wise, I can give you a little sound test. [typing] See, that’s I’m hitting fairly hard, and that is what it sounds like. I can’t hear any ping from the aluminum. It’s a nice very smooth press and quite good to type on. Everything’s tactile, like the switch to turn it to the different positions on, off and wired, wireless is tactile. It’s on the outside. You can feel it. You can feel the position it’s in. There’s also a switch to choose between Mac. If you have it all the way to the left, it’s Apple Mac. To the right, it’s Windows. You can choose between those two operating systems.
Then, it’ll also pair with iOS and Android devices. That is done with Bluetooth, and it just switches to that device, and the function keys still behave as if it’s a Microsoft or Mac setting, depending on which one you set it to. You want to choose the closest to your device that you’re going to be using this with. I find it really, really nice. It’s good to know the battery level. It’s good to feel where the switches are. You can make sure it’s off. None of this leaving it on accidentally.
You can get it with a case, and that case is an extra $39. The keyboard in Canadian dollars, I’m in Canada so, is $169 for the keyboard. If you want the case that you can get for it, that’s an additional $39. The case is a portfolio style case that you can fold over. You can fold it back and it makes a good lap comforter. You can have it folded back on itself. Or, it can fold over, wrap the keyboard completely, protect it. There’s a little snap that can snap in place and hold it. There’s a magnet in the case that is in the bottom where the keyboard goes and it secures to the metal plate in the keyboard. It’s specially positioned to do that. Holds it really nicely. It’s not very strong in terms of magnetic pull, but it’s sufficient to do what it needs to and it gives you a nice secure feeling as you’re typing with this thing on your lap.
Or if you’re on a desk, you can fold the Folio case back and have it be a stand for a phone or tablet. That’s another option that you can do and have somewhere just to stick your tablet or phone where it’s easy to get at and held at a good viewing angle for sighted people, and a fairly good angle for us as well.
All in all, I’m really happy with this purchase. It turned out better than I had even hoped that it would. I had a pretty good idea from the reviews I had heard of it what I was in for, but this even surpassed that, just in terms of ease of getting it going and having everything be so tactile. Really good feeling for this keyboard. It’s going to serve me well for years, it’s durable. I feel very good about this. Hopefully, that’ll help some people in the market for a mechanical keyboard. Apparently, the pricing people seem to think it is reasonably priced for what you’re getting with this keyboard, and I would tend to agree. It’s really well built, the parts are are really good, it’s a solid thing, and it’s behaving marvelously.
Jonathan: Marvelous. That’s marvelous. Thank you, Mike. If you weren’t paying attention at the beginning, but by the time you heard that review, you were paying attention. I reminded that the name of that keyboard, which does sound great, is the NuPhy Air75. That’s N-U-P-H-Y Air75.
More comments on the Optacon
The Opticon, which is old technology now keeps coming up because nothing has really replaced it. A real power Opticon user is Petra. She writes in, her Opticon use is actually legendary out there. She says, “As you said, there is still a very active group of Opticon users. There are actually people who are actively working on either a new Opticon or modernizing those that are still around. I know of at least two and I am directly in touch with one of them. I may even have the chance to help test his adaptation myself. In my opinion, the Opticon as it is, is still amazing. It doesn’t need to be updated with new apps for new languages or symbols, it just takes your brain.”
She also continues, “Your Episode 194 with the Envision Glasses interview was great. Now, I just have to save up the funds to get a pair. I’m waiting with bated breath for your experiences with them.”
Transcripts of Mosen At Large are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at pneumasolutions.com. That’s P-N-E-U-M-A solutions.com.
Dictation in Microsoft Office
Now, if I were to boldly say on the Mosen at Large podcast that Scott Rutkowski is a dictator, you would think, “How over the top is this? I hope he’s sued for such an assertion,” but it’s true. Scott Rutkowski is a dictator and I can prove it
Scott: Good day, Jonathan and everyone. Wanted to pass on some information here about a new feature. At least, I don’t know if it’s totally new or has been in Word for some time if you’re in Office 365 subscriber. Today, I was just playing around with the ribbons in Word, and I happened to just press the alt key and do a shift, tab a few times, and I found this checkbox that said, voice dictation checkbox not checked. I pressed the checkbox or hit the space bar on the checkbox, and it said, dictation toolbar, hit F6. Okay, I hit F6. Then you get options, such as, start voice dictation settings, help and close dictation toolbar. I played around with it, did some dictating, absolutely accurate. I was really impressed with the accuracy of the dictation.
One feature I did enable under the settings was auto-punctuation. It’ll listen for your inflection in your voice and put in the appropriate punctuation there. I thought, there has to be a faster way of getting to this feature if you’re in the middle of a document and want to dictate. I wasn’t able to locate a hotkey, so I rang up the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk and after holding on the on the phone with them for a bit, they advised me that the alt and the grave accent key to the left of number one on the top of your keyboard, indeed will bring up the toolbar for the dictation.
Anywhere in Word, you can hit alt and the grave accent key, and then hit F6. When you hear the little sound, then you can hit the space bar on start voice dictation, do your dictation, and then press a space bar to stop. Then you can hit escape to get rid of the toolbar and this is added to your documents.
Jonathan: See? See? Told you he was a dictator. Told you. Thank you very much for that useful tip, Scott. Cloud-based dictation in these Microsoft apps really has come a long way. Actually, if you’re using Windows 11, you can use dictation by holding down the Windows key and pressing the letter H from anywhere that there’s an edit box. I find sometimes, it does some trippy things, but a lot of the time, it works really well.
I guess that must be eating into the revenue of companies like Dragon because if all you want Dragon for is dictation into edit fields, then it’s getting pretty marginal now in terms of the difference. You can obviously train Dragon to recognize certain vocabulary, other things like that, so there are still some advantages in specific situations. If you want full control over the computer, Microsoft does now have a voice dictation feature in Windows 11, but I suspect that Dragon is more comprehensive and more programmable, but it’s getting much more marginal.
In the end of course, it doesn’t matter, does it? It doesn’t matter because Nuance, which manufacturers Dragon these days is owned by Microsoft anyway, so six of one, half a dozen of the other, as they say. If you use the Office cloud-based service, I do know that there’s a way there that you can upload an audio file, for example, this podcast, and get it transcribed. It doesn’t work for us because we have so many different voices and various accents. We really need humans to do it accurately enough. If you are just a single person and you want a transcript of something, then you can use the Microsoft Office cloud-based feature to send it an audio file and get reasonable content back. I guess that is competing in a similar space to services like Otter, so definitely worth checking out.
I guess I have been typing for so long that I find it’s a different part of my brain, I think, that composes text, to that which composes things like this one. I’m just talking into the microphone. I find it hard to change the mindset, so I don’t use dictation as much as I thought I would, but certainly for quick emails, that kind of thing, it’s really handy.
iPhones and coffee cups
Perhaps grab a cup of coffee while I read you this email from Debee Armstrong, and if you’re quick enough and you finish the cup of coffee before I finish the email, you may have another use for the cup.
Debee writes as follows, “You probably won’t want to dunk your iPhone into your coffee, but did you know, an empty coffee cup is one of the best free accessories your iPhone works with? There are two tasks for which my clean cup is essential. Firstly, it acts as a stand when I wish to call Aira or Be My Eyes. It’s also great if I’m doing FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom since I often get the camera positioned exactly where needed, simply by tilting the phone in the right direction while it is inside the cup. Try different cups, and also try putting a bit of cardboard in the bottom of the cup if the phone needs to be a bit higher.
When I need to use Seeing AI to look at a computer monitor in my job, I often prop the coffee cup atop a stack of books. While on vacation at a relative’s house, I used this trick to read the television to find out what channel I was on and where the closed captioning was on for my father-in-law who was very hard of hearing. If you were like me, you probably have a kitchen cabinet full of cups you rarely use. Put one on your desk, nightstand, and counter, wherever you need to access your phone hands free.
The second use for a coffee cup is as an amplifier. Try it, start some music playing and insert your phone into a clean cup, and listen how the ceramic or metal sides of the cup increase the volume and improve the sound. Experimenting with different cups will help you decide which gives you the best results. While cooking, I often place my phone into a cup to protect it from a wet counter while I listen to a podcast.” There you go.
This is Mosen At Large, coming out of a coffee cup near you.
How can I stay straighter when crossing the street?
“Hello, Jonathan and all Mosen At Largers. This is Tom from Italy. I’ve been listening to your show for over a year now, as well as following you since the very early days on Main Menu and then FSCast. I enjoy your content wholeheartedly, and let me inaugurate my first contribution with a question to the whole community of Mosen At Large regarding mobility.
I consider myself a rather skilled cane user. I’ve been traveling independently since I was 18 and have founded a challenging, yet extremely rewarding endeavor. However, there’s one aspect which does pose a challenge, which on some occasions is nearly insurmountable, how to walk straight during street crossings, especially if you live in a big city where extra wide streets with multiple lanes are the norm. I know that in many cities, especially in the US, the two traffic light poles at either side produce a distinct sound, so that it’s easy to follow and get straight across. However, here in Milan, lights do play the exact same sound at the exact same time, thus making following the sound extremely difficult to hear and follow, provided they play any at all. Do any Mosen At Large listeners have any suggestion? I’d love that.”
Thank you for writing in after a year, Tom. I hope we will hear from you regularly. Let’s open this up. Keeping in line as you cross the streets, does it just take practice? Are there techniques you can employ to improve your straightness? Let’s see what expert travelers have to say. 864-60 Mosen is my number. If you want a phone in in the United States, you can attach an audio clip or write something down. Send that in by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast.
Accessibility issues with the KFC New Zealand website
Jonathan: Let’s go to New Zealand for another contribution from David Harvey. Hi, David.
David: Hope you’re doing well. I’m having issues with our KFC website and app. When I go to reset my password, I get a message saying, email and/or password not valid, even though I’ve reset my password. Tried to do this over 50 times already. Getting to their customer service is an absolute accessibility nightmare for one particular part. When there’s a set of menus that you’ve got to select, when I go to select Complaint and Website with JAWS, I can go to the menu, select Complaint tab over to the website option, check that box, but pressing the tab key does nothing. I’ve told the people with their messenger about my problem and what’s happened.
I said to them, “Look, I’m having issues with your customer service desk. It’s not very friendly through parts of it.” Why can’t we take action against American companies who aren’t meeting their ADA and 508 obligations? The American companies, we should be able to go– Because they’re franchise outside the US– The American companies, we should be able to do something regarding ADA and 508 compliance because this is annoying and it’s frustrating.
Jonathan: Yes, it does sound very frustrating. In terms of remedies that are available to you, in the case of a brand like KFC, there’s a New Zealand organization that has a license to use the KFC brand. They are a New Zealand entity who are using a brand under license. Plus, a company has to comply with the laws in any country that it’s operating within. As a non-US citizen not living in the United States, you have no recourse under another country’s piece of legislation.
There are several things you can do. Obviously, you could use the Human Rights Act and see how far you get with that. You could potentially try and contact KFC’s parent company in the United States, and just simply tell them that if they care about accessibility, they might be quite interested to know that their franchisee in New Zealand appears not to and it could be that that company would put some pressure on the New Zealand entity. I think it’s unlikely, but it is a strategy that you could possibly attempt. I suspect, given where we are at the moment, your best option is to see if you can do some mediation under the Human Rights Act.
The Castro podcast client for iOS
John: Hi Jonathan, John Lipsey here. Quick question for you. Haven’t really been catching the podcast for a while, got busy. I started a YouTube channel. Just a lot going on in my life at the moment. You mentioned something very interesting last week in the podcast where you were talking about Castro, and I really hope that they can get their issues resolved between themselves and Pinecast I think you said, because I love Castro and I don’t want to have to switch apps. I don’t relish that idea at all, but you had mentioned an ability that I did not know Castro had and I think I would love this ability if you could give me a little bit more context as to how it works.
Yes, I suppose I could poke around and figure it out probably, but I’m here and I’m just curious. You said that Castro, you can take a YouTube video and put it into Castro so you can take it with you and pause and fast forward and rewind and do all the things in a Castro experience, instead of dealing with the YouTube experience and whatever iteration it chooses to be. How do I do this? Do I just share, like go on YouTube, go through the share sheet and have Castro be there as an option? Or is there a more work around-y way to do it?
Jonathan: That is exactly how you do it, John. When you are playing a YouTube clip, go into the share sheet in the YouTube app, and you will find an option there called Sideload to Castro. When you choose that option, it will download the YouTube clip and put it in Castro.
Just an update on this, a few weeks ago, I started to receive messages from Castro users who hither to in iOS 16, were experiencing issues getting Pinecast related podcast and some others, like Mosen At Large and various other things, who said, “It’s fixed now for me. It’s working again.” I was delighted to hear it and I have to say, I was disappointed to note, it was not working for me, but just in the last week or so, it has started to work for me. I don’t listen to my own podcast, but I do subscribe for monitoring purposes. Now, I can play Mosen At large again.
I don’t know whether there’s some sort of fix that is being progressively rolled out, but it does now work for me and several other people again, whereas, initially, with iOS 16 it was not working. That is very encouraging indeed.
Very odd problem with Skype
Here’s an inquiry from Eden who says, “I know not many people use Skype anymore. I had to use it because someone I needed to communicate with insisted on Skype. It froze up my phone and it overheated my phone. Voice-over wouldn’t work and we couldn’t shut the phone off. It was burning up.” This is a new SE 2022. I also noticed that Skype doesn’t even seem to work well with my Windows computer. I had to just delete Skype from my phone before another message came in. That’s very frustrating. I just wonder if it was just me.”
Wow, Eden, I haven’t used Skype for a very long time, but that sounds pretty dramatic. I’ll wait and see whether anybody else has any thoughts on this. 864-60 Mosen is the number. 864-606-6736 in the United States and email@example.com is the email address if you want to attach an audio clip or just write something down.
My cochlea implant experience
Tony: Hi Jonathan, this is Tony. I thought I would tell you about my cochlear implant experience. I had bilateral lateral cochlear implant surgery on December 6th of 2021, and a week later, I went in for activation of my cochlear implants. As far as what they sounded like, when I was activated, it’s very difficult to describe, but I remember having this toy when I was a kid, you’d had a microphone, but at the other end of the toy was this, it had this cup that you could extend out, but you could turn this knob or something and you could make your voice have different effects. One of them was a robot and sounded like a robot in a tunnel, I guess.
It was extremely difficult to describe. If I heard, it’d be like, “Oh, I know it when I hear it,” or something. Those YouTube videos where audiologists were trying to give people an idea of what cochlear implants sound like through the simulations, now, I listen to a few of those, and no they don’t sound like those simulations really, to me anyway. I ended up getting cochlear implants from Advanced Bionics and I have the Naída M90 sound processors. The Advanced Bionics, I think they’re like ultra high res or something like that.
I can’t believe it’s in December, it’s going to be a year since I’ve had cochlear implants. It’s just like, wow, what a difference at being able to hear reasonably well again. I can actually determine the location from where sound is coming from, even more so than when I had hearing aids. I had to get cochlear implant because I had– My hearing aids were no longer working for me. Back in 2021, I had some sudden hearing loss episode one day as you know, how fun Norrie disease is. I just was like, “I got to wait two or three days for this to clear up.”
Then the next day, I had another episode, and that’s very unusual because I know I’ve never had two of those episodes happening consecutively. Usually, they’re like months or maybe a year apart or– I had Unitron hearing aids when I was using hearing aids. They were okay I guess. Before that, I had the Starkey Halo i110s, and they were made for iPhone hearing aids. I must say that more often than not, audio when streaming to them would not be that great. It would just degrade. When that happened, I would have to stop streaming and then restart the stream again.
These Naída M90s connect directly in the Bluetooth settings on the iPhone, the Mac, whatever that has Bluetooth. You can pair up to two devices with them, but you can only use one device at a time. When you pair, when you decide, “Oh, let’s say, I have my Naída M90s paired with, let’s say, my iPhone and my Mac, and then I go, “You know what? I want to listen to something on my Apple watch,” and I pair my Apple watch to the sound processors. What happens is the sound processors forget one of the pairings, so you want to do, I either have to re-pair my Mac or re-pair my iPhone? Depending on which one it forgets. I think it forgets the device that was paired prior to the device that just got paired currently or something. You have to take the batteries off the processors when you put them in pairing mode and they’re in pairing mode for about two minutes or something.
I have the headpieces on the back of my head on the left and the right side. That’s where those are. I can actually use headphones with my cochlear implants. I liked it to extend the headphones all the way down because I don’t like a lot of pressure being placed on my ears because I get sore ears. That’s one of the main reasons I hated wearing headphones when I was wearing hearing aids, as my ears would often get sore.
One of the things I used to do was when I had hearing aids was I had the EarPods, so I would put the wires behind the hearing aids and let the EarPods rest on the microphones. With these cochlear implants, I actually have microphones on the tops of the sound processors themselves, as well as two microphones called T-Mics, which are resting just above my ear canal. My ear canals are open. No molds. It’s great.
I also have the TV adapter, which is great. I’ve actually tested out on a soup drinker, and I went to Best Buy and I tested it out on a Chromebook. With the TV adapters for the Advanced Bionics Naída M90s, the TV adapter has no battery so you have to plug it into a USB port or a power supply of some kind to give it power. As far as latency goes, I would say that these sound processors have a little more latency than my made for iPhone hearing aids did. Especially, you know what, when you’re playing audio games because when you do an action or something, like saying you’re fighting a boss or something in an audio game, you have to time it before you actually hear the audio queue in the processor.
That’s when you really notice the effect, and when you’re typing in stuff. I wouldn’t say the latency’s horrible, but I don’t think it’s that great either. I’ve experienced worse latency with Bluetooth devices. I remember when I got a headset like, oh, 14 years ago or something. The latency with that thing was terrible. I think they’re the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time. Just know that things are going to sound a little strange for quite awhile, and you have to be very patient with cochlear implants.
I remember listening to drums and stuff, like that was one of the first musical things I listened to when I– I would say, I did that a few days after being activated because things sounded like robot in a tunnel, for a lack of a better description, for about two or three days. Then they gradually started sounding normal. Then I remember listening to one of my brothers or a few people, and it’s weird because you’d hear this, grrr, grrr, but I would hear this, mmm, being superimposed on sounded like on his voice or something. It was weird, but when I listened to drums, they sounded like somebody beating on one of those clay pots or something, but they definitely sound better now.
Music actually sounds really good for being streamed through a sound processor and everything because these Naída M90 sound processor are great. They also have an iOS app which has a couple of unlabeled buttons, but I would say, for the most part, it’s accessible, but I had to actually label one of the buttons. You can actually adjust how much environmental noise you want to hear. I found that I had to drag my finger either to the left or the right on the iPhone. Like double tap and hold, and then just drag, and then I could adjust the audio balance, or the environmental sensitivity that way.
I also have the remote where I can adjust that, and I can also adjust it right on the processors themselves. When I’m listening to things and I want to cut out a lot of environmental noise, I just– I had my audiologist set it up so I could press the bottom of the multifunction button on the processor themselves, and for about a second and that would reduce the environmental sound sensitivity.
Singers: Jonathan Mosen. Mosen At Large podcast.
The Braille letter W
Jonathan: Here’s Jason White writing in. White starts with the letter W and that’s kind of fitting, because we are going to be talking about the Braille letter W in more detail. Jason says, “Dear Jonathan, your historical explanation of the history of the letter W in Louis Braille system is of course accurate, but I thought a little more detail might be of interest. If one reads a French document that describes the Braille code, then one finds that the sequence of Braille signs follows the expected order. That is, on the third line, we have A to J with dots-36 added. I,E,U,V,X,Y,Z, followed by signs that represent French accented letters. Namely C with cedilla, E with acute accent, et cetera.
The fourth line consists of letters A to J with dot-6 added. All of the signs represent French accented letters until we reach dots-246, which is the OE digraph symbol. Then, of course, J with dot-s6 is W added for use in foreign words from Louis Braille’s perspective. Interestingly, the punctuation signs follow the same order. They have dropped letters A through J, specifically comma, semicolon, colon, full stop, question mark, exclamation mark, parenthesis, open quotation mark, asterisk, and closed quotation mark. It is notable that dots-26 is the question mark and a single dot-35 is the asterisk.
In addition, capital letters are preceded by dots-46, rather than by dot-6 as in English. Dots-3456 is the number sign as is familiar. I hope I have the details right. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to any historical documents, so I don’t know to what extent the modern uncontracted French code differs from Braille’s original. Thank you once again for a very high-quality podcast.” Thank you very much for writing in, Jason. It’s all fascinating stuff.
Aira needs to ditch the free calls and look after paying customers
Vaughan: Hi Jonathan, this is Vaughan Roles from Australia. Love your podcast. Just sending a message in to raise this issue. When is Aira going to get some commercial sensibility and pragmatism into their business model and realize that five-minute calls are just not sustainable and not profitable and not helpful to the blindness community? People will say that I say this as a person who can afford to use Aira and that I’m taking away from those who can’t. That is not true, but when you pay as I do, $280 a month for the service and are waiting sometimes up to 20 minutes to be able to connect with an agent, those delays are simply unacceptable.
It’s a matter where there are free alternatives, such as Be My Eyes for those that can’t afford the service, but for those who can, they need to be able to get through efficiently and effectively to an agent. Aira needs to make some smart business decisions about where their business model is at. Is their business model being Santa Claus to everybody, or are they there for a select core group of blind professionals and other blind people who can afford their service and who are willing to pay for same?
Jonathan: I know there’s been mounting frustration about this issue, Vaughan, and I understand Aira has tried to deploy some contingencies now to prioritize paying customers at points where there is considerable demand for agents. If you’re paying for it, I understand why you need it to be there, particularly if you’re a professional and you’re trying to use it in a professional context, so it is a dilemma. It does feel to me like this five-minute free call thing is from another era, but perhaps the PR consequences of ditching it are just too great for Aira to contemplate. Who knows where it will go in future.
“You are a wealth of information,” says Steph. “Firstly, I’d like your opinion on whether Aira could do more for deaf-blind users of the service. I guess it is about whether a deaf-blind person can successfully use a phone or not. The agency I work for is open to allowing contractors to have a subscription, so want to ensure that all deaf-blind can access it. The contractors I’m referring to are all deaf-blind, so has to include them all.”
You do have the messaging facility in Aira, Steph. In theory, if you’ve got a deaf-blind person with a Braille display and they’re patient enough to do the messaging, then there is quite a lot that can be achieved with an Aira agent. I’m not sure what else might be done that Aira isn’t already doing because that messaging service does exist. I suppose one other option is the integration of the messaging service in the web version of Aira, which I am really enjoying using. I’m using their web version all the time.
My only disappointment is that it doesn’t integrate with RIM yet. RIM is just so much more accessible than TeamViewer. It’s developed by our community, predominantly for our community. I would love to see Aira embracing RIM rather than inflicting TeamViewer on us. I’m not sure if the messaging features are available in that web application yet, so that could be something that they could add in the future.
Steph continues, “I’d also like to thank you for such interesting podcasts, discussing Braille and keeping the use of Braille alive, giving your honest opinion on all that Apple comes out with. I look forward to each episode. I love hearing from New Zealand as well.” That is from Steph who says, she is still a kiwi.
Eileen is also writing in about Aira. She says “Hi Jonathan, this is my first time writing to you.” Well, welcome. Good to have you writing in.” I know you have discussed the issue regarding Aira and wait times. With Aira recently adding more devices that can access the service, the wait times for a paying explorer have increased and are unacceptable. I have been a paid subscriber to the service since the get-go and believe in the quality of the service to the blind. However, today’s incident is frowned upon me in having to wait at least five minutes to be connected to an agent.
I remembered that a few months ago, those individuals that had a paid subscription would be given priority in regards to procuring an agent, but this didn’t occur, and I needed to call back a second time and wait. I requested to speak with a supervisor, which I needed to call back into Aira to make my complaint heard. Finally asked if I was using my minutes to register the issue at hand, excessive wait times for explorers, which have since been placed back into my account. The supervisor’s explanation was on how many agents would be necessary to staff for each given day, but with the expansion of Aira into new devices and a comparison on the percentages of explorers to non-paying free five-minute calls could not be answered by the supervisor, which would affect the amount of agents that would need to be staffed for a particular time of day.
I am sorry to ramble on, but as a paying explorer, I was angered by the fact that I needed to wait, attempt connection with an agent twice and not have the priority policy enforced. In the last few weeks when I wanted to use Aira, I have basically disconnected and opened up Be My Eyes for simple tasks. Fortunately, I have other choices when the apps on the phone will not perform the task at hand.”
Thanks, Eileen. Yes, I had a situation recently where I was charging a bunch of batteries. I’ve got a battery charger that has an LCD display, and it’s just intuitive for me to give Aira a call. It’s not something that an AI app tends to be able to help with reliably, and I could not get an agent. For the first time, in a very long time, I just called Be My Eyes. They picked up right away, and I was able to get my query answered, but it is really frustrating to pay this bill every month and find that increasingly, you can’t get an agent when you need an agent.
Of course, this is one of the challenges of running a service like Aira when you have agents who are trained and who are on the clock, Aira’s paying those agents, so it’s a really difficult balancing act. If you’ve got agents sitting there twiddling their thumbs because Aira has overbudgeted for the number of agents that are required at any given time, that’s not a sustainable business model. On the other hand, something might happen, it just could be a fluke, that you have a whole lot of people using Aira at a given time, and that’s not expected.
I’m sure that there are all sorts of algorithms that are doing these predictions now, given how long Aira has been around, and they will be able to look at past call patterns and do some extrapolation of demand. I’m sure that it is something Aira gives considerable thought to. You are always going to have unpredictable spikes occasionally, but it just does seem that maybe the five-minute thing has had its day.
Eileen continues, “On another note, congratulations on becoming grandparents.” Thank you so much, Eileen. We’re nearly there. Baby’s due in January. “My granddaughter will be one next month,” she says, “and it’s been a blast. Have fun and enjoy your travels. We were gone for almost six weeks to Italy between May and June. Here are some of my tips for you and Bonnie. One, we placed an empty duffel bag folder up in one of our check bags for all of our purchases. It came in handy. Two, I use the Pack-It organizer,” that’s a capital P and then a capital I for it, all one word, “organizer bags to keep everything straight and easy to find. Three, I brought laundry detergent and Tide hand wash packets to do hand- washing. I prefer the laundry sheets, and they were easy to pack.
Three,” but I think we’re up to four now, “I have a travel clothesline, which can come in handy for drying in hotels. Four,” which I actually think is now five, [chuckles] “make sure to have plenty of snack food for the long plane ride. Our flight only served us two meals and I was hangry when that cold vegetable sandwich came around for the breakfast meal. Not appetizing.”
That’s an interesting one, Eileen. To get back from the UK to our house, door to door, it was about 38 hours of travel. There were two long-haul flights of about 12 hours duration. One was Air New Zealand and the other was Lufthansa. Lufthansa had great Wi-Fi, by the way. You could pay for the premium Wi-Fi, and actually do some sensible stuff with it. Air New Zealand’s Wi-Fi was so bad that they don’t even charge for it anymore. It’s abysmal.
However, on the food department, the reverse is true. Lufthansa just gave you what they decided to give you. You could eat anything you wanted, as long as it was that one choice.[laughs] This is us back in economy. Air New Zealand, on the other hand, gave you two choices with every meal, even an economy. You could choose the chicken curry or the roast thing only for your evening meal, and a cooked breakfast versus a continental breakfast towards the end of the flight. It was nice to have that choice, but you didn’t get that choice on Lufthansa, with the food was pretty average actually.
“Five,” which I think is six, but hey, who’s counting? “pack an empty water bottle that you can get through TSA, and then fill it before boarding. Six/seven Rick Stevens has an app that you can download before leaving home, all sorts of walking tours and interesting information on where you will be traveling. We enjoyed them immensely. Seven/eight, the question regarding checking luggage is a tough one. On our departure in May, we checked one bag and carry-on one that was placed in the overhead bin. I had my jazz backpack which went under the seat in front of me. However, on the return trip, we checked both bags because we used the duffel bag as a carry-on.”
Thanks very much, Eileen. We were pretty lucky with our bags. The only thing that happened was that Nichola’s bag got badly damaged by one KLM flight that we were on, and we had to replace that bag, but other than that, everything actually turned up when and where it was supposed to. We did have AirTags and everything, and that was just wonderful because it gave us peace of mind in terms of being able to determine where everything was.
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 number in the United States 864-606-6736.
Singers: Mosen At Large podcast.
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