Podcast transcript: Mosen at Large episode 211, there’s an all too common problem with some Lenovo ThinkPads, unboxing an Apple Watch Ultra, and the audio game Evidence 111

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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen. This is the final Mosen At Large for 2022, the show that’s got the blind community talking. There’s a serious flaw affecting a good number of ThinkPad X1 carbon 9th Gen machines. Unboxing and setting up an Apple Watch Ultra, and lose yourself in the audio game, Evidence 111.

[music: Mosen At Large Podcast]

Welcome to the final show for 2022

Welcome to this, the final Mosen At Large episode of 2022. We are taking a break after this week to recharge, and I’m having my nice long summer break as is my tradition and the tradition of many in this part of the world. That means that the next episode, area code [chuckles] episode– [laughs] I’m fixated with this area code thing. Episode 212, because that’s a pretty big area code actually, that’ll happen on the 29th of January, 2023.

Thank you so much for all of your support over the last year. I’ve appreciated your contributions. That’s one of the things that makes this podcast special, is all of the engagement that we get. I hear from so many podcasters in various forums that I frequent that they feel sad that they seldom here from their listeners. I am delighted to say that that is not a problem that I have here at Mosen At Large. You are the best listener ever. Thank you very much for all your support.

Giving you the info on 211

Now, speaking of this area code thing, this is interesting because this is episode 211, and 211 is not an area code. 211 is one of those interesting numbers, like a lot of things in America that end in 11 on the telephone. Let’s ask the Siri thing. It’ll probably say I found something on the web, but we try to be an equal deployer of virtual assistance on this show, and we asked the soup drinker last week. Let’s ask Siri if it knows. What is area code 211?

Automated voice: 21-1 is a special abbreviated telephone number reserved in the North American numbering plan as an easy-to-remember three-digit code to reach information, and referral services to health, human, and social service organizations. Would you like to hear more?

Jonathan: Yes, please.

Automated voice: Like the emergency telephone number 9, 1121-1 is one of the 8 and 11 codes of the North American numbering plan.

Jonathan: It’s fitting in a sad way that this is episode 211, and that 211 is a number that you can call for essential community services, because while the holiday season is a very happy time of year for many people, it’s also a difficult time of year for others. There are many who miss people who are special to them, who aren’t with them for various reasons. Maybe they have died, maybe there has been a breakup. Loneliness, sadness is real.

Sometimes substance abuse can rear its ugly head at Christmas time. A lot of things going on. Maybe that number, 211, could be useful to people in the US, I don’t know whether it works in Canada as well, it may do, to navigate the labyrinths of community services that are out there. There’s certainly no shame in reaching out for help.

Plenty of great holiday programming on Mushroom FM

While I’m talking about company over the holiday season, I do want to give a shout out to the amazing volunteers, the fun guys at Mushroom FM. No one gets paid for this, but they do enjoy entertaining you. They enjoy all the feedback that listeners provide.

We know that we do have a special place at Christmas, not just with the countdown, which is taking place as this podcast is published, so by the time you hear it, it may well have concluded, but around the holiday season, Christmas Day, that kind of period. Some people want good music to have in the background. I suspect if that’s the case, then people will use the streaming music services and perhaps assemble a playlist, and that’s great.

Other people want some company. That’s where Mushroom FM really excels. Do check out the schedule. The fun guys are doing some great things over the Christmas holiday season to keep you company and provide you with some great entertainment. Merry Christmas, happy holidays to everybody involved in Mushroom FM. Very proud of the work that we are doing.

[music: Mosen At Large Podcast]

There is a fault affecting a good number of Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 9th gen machines

Jonathan: I tend to get quite enthusiastic about technology. I love the difference that it makes, and so sometimes when I use a product that I really like, I get enthusiastic about that. Very occasionally, somebody says to me, “Are you saying this because you genuinely believe it, or are you saying it because somebody pays you to say it?” Of course this has become an issue just in recent times. Over in the States, a bunch of broadcasters were pinged for praising Google products. Even when they were using phones of I, they were praising Google products because they were being paid to do that.

There’s a lot of it about, and it’s right to be skeptical. We do now of course have sponsorship on the show. Internet NZ were sponsoring our transcripts. Now, the good people at Pneuma Solutions are doing it. Happy Christmas to Mike and Matt. When we have sponsorship, we say so. Even just to be transparent about it, if I get a demo unit of something, and the manufacturer or the developer suggests I keep the demo unit around in case there are updates that I can report on, I say that to. Everything else, I pay for. I do not allow myself to be paid for opinions.

That is just absolutely abhorrent to me. I get that it’s easy for me to say, and easy for me to do because I have a good job, and I don’t need the money right now. If I get enthusiastic at you about a product, then it’s because I genuinely believe, that’s my opinion. Even if I’m reviewing a product that someone has sent me, and I’m not enthusiastic about it, or I can see some pitfalls in it, then I’ll tell you. Like for example, I got sent, but didn’t keep, a demo unit of the Envision smart glasses. I talked about the need for a mode where you could have multiple accounts on the same device for blind couples who want to purchase a set.

I talked about what I thought was great about them as well. I’m explaining this as a preamble because I have been talking enthusiastically for the last year, since I had it, about my Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Because that’s my opinion, that’s my experience, my opinion and experience can change, and it has changed a little bit. I go way back with ThinkPads, way back to the IBM days. I was thinking about this the other day. How did I get into ThinkPads in the first place? Actually, that’s because of dear Marlaina Lieerg. You may remember Marlaina from ACB Radio.

We did a tribute to her on The Blind Side Podcast when Marlaina died, she was a character. She also enjoyed her technology and her Chardonnay, and was just a larger than life kind of person. The world is just a bit less exciting because Marlaina is no longer in it. When Marlaina was doing her first show, which was called The Blind Spot, and she would also call into my show, which was called Blind Line, and we’d talk about all sorts of things, and Marlaina would give that amazing laugh of hers. She actually got me into two things of significance.

One was the ThinkPad, and the other was George Foreman grills. She was talking about how easy it is for blind people to use George Foreman grills. I got one of those as well on her recommendation. I got my first ThinkPad, it was probably about 2000 or 2001, and they were made by IBM in those days. When I eventually went to work for Pulse Data International, which ultimately became HumanWare, they supplied me with a ThinkPad for work, and they were great. The service was good as well. They were pretty rock solid, reliable machines.

Like the ThinkPads of today, the keyboard was brilliant on them. I remember I got Dr Pepper spilled on my ThinkPad on a Southwest flight. I was in the United States. IBM took care of me. They overnighted me a new machine. It was incredible service. Hopefully you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this when something catastrophic happens, and a brand just really looks after you. They go above and beyond, and you think this was such a good experience, I will be loyal to this brand. That’s what good customer service means. It breeds loyalty.

I use ThinkPads for quite a while. I don’t know why I eventually got a Toshiba laptop, I think they’re called Dynabook now. They were also very good, very light, and sleek. Then I got my Mac. I moved away from ThinkPads. When Bonnie was looking for a good quality laptop when she was doing journalism, I thought we should go back to ThinkPads. Of course ThinkPads are made by Lenovo now. I think we purchased this in about 2016 or so, might have been 2017. When she got her ThinkPad, the keyboard was as delicious as ever. It seems to work well for a while.

Then something odd started to happen. When she was using it at journalism school, and it would be plugged in, she would find that even though it was plugged in and charging, and you use the JAWS command, the JAWS key with shift and B, it would speak the battery status, but the battery would start to decline. Even though it would say “AC connected”, the battery percentage would actually start to decrease. Of course, this is the thing, when you’re the tech support person in your family and something like this happens, it’s like people hold you personally responsible.

Why is it doing this, and can you fix it? It was clear to me there was some sort of issue well beyond my meager ability to fix. We bought that ThinkPad from a commercial vendor in this case. Lesson learned, because they essentially said, this is an Australian model, we’ll have to send this away to be fixed. Bonnie was quite dependent on this laptop. We sent it away to be fixed. It took a long time to come back. When it came back, it was working for a while, but then exactly the same thing happened. Now that made me quite nervous. It was not an experience that I thought of as typical though, because many people swear by their ThinkPads. ThinkPads have a very strong brand loyalty.

Perhaps some of that is a legacy from the IBM days, but eventually Bonnie concluded, I cannot rely on this thing, and so we bought her an HP Spectre. That machine has been rock solid. It’s got a nice keyboard. I don’t think it’s quite as nice as the ThinkPad keyboard, but it’s subjective, isn’t it? It is slightly heavier than the ThinkPad, but it’s a different kind of shape. It’s a very good machine. No 5G or even 4G built-in though, which is something that I really like in a laptop because you don’t have to tether your phone and use your phone’s energy.

Then when you get a phone call, some odd things can happen depending on where you are and whether you’ve got voice over LTE in the area that you are at. Built-in cellular in a laptop is a feature that I value highly. I have to say that when I got my last Toshiba, now Dynabook, and it was called the Z30-C, I believe, it had built-in cellular, it was a pretty lightweight machine, I never had any issue with the hardware whatsoever. When I got my new job in 2019, the HP Spectre Folio was on special. I bought this. It’s a really cool looking leather-clad laptop.

Very stylish looking, and it had the built-in 4G, so I was happy about that. Good battery life. Okay performance for the size of the device. I was happy. In 2020 though, when the pandemic hit, and we were doing a lot more Zooming and use of Teams from home, that kind of thing, I discovered to my surprise that the audio level on the built-in microphone was extremely low. It was so low that if you recorded in studio recorder or REAPER, something like that, you could barely hear it, you’d have to boost it significantly.

Even the automatic gain controls of apps like Zoom were having trouble boosting it enough. Eventually, I contacted HP and they took a long time to believe me, but finally, they realized that actually there was a legitimate problem here. I had to send that away or take it into a service center. They changed some board or other, and it was all right. Then I kind of thought, I’m going to get a more reliable laptop. I don’t like unreliable laptops. My Dynabook was rock solid, and the struggle I had actually getting them to take me seriously put me off, so I got the Dell XPS 15.

That was a beast of a machine. It was very, very fast. The speakers on it were almost Mac-like. Of course, it is a larger machine than some of these ultra-portables, so you’ve got more specs to play with, and a faster processor. I did not like how you had to get to the home and end key on that particular model. It was really convoluted. They didn’t have the normal function left and right arrow. People complained about that because apparently that was something that they changed. They may well have changed it back again in more recent iterations of the Dell XPS 15.

Then last year, two things happened at once. The first thing that happened was the machine was taking a very long time to boot. You will remember this if you were listening to Mosen At Large then. When I got some sighted assistance, I first called Aira, and then Aira was having difficulty, so I got Heidi to come over. It turned out that the display had completely stopped working. It was just this awful blurry weirdness and no one could work out what was going on. Now, the Dell Support in that instance was absolutely fantastic. They sent somebody over here and did an onsite swap-out of the display.

They said that I had to re-image the system. I did re-image the system and everything was working peachy. I thought, at least that’s behind me. I attributed the long boot times to the fact that the display wasn’t working, but it turned out the two things were unrelated. After the Dell man went away, Heidi and Henry kindly agreed to put all sorts of software on the computer for me while I went back to my meetings in my day job. I wrote them a little list and they kindly agreed to do this. When I got out of one meeting, Henry rather sheepishly said, “Dad, it’s taking a long time to boot again.”

They painstakingly retraced their steps and they found that somewhere along the line, with the automatic updates that Dell does, they had introduced a new Realtek driver that caused the system to take a very long time to boot. They did a bit of Googling and found that a lot of people, with this particular iteration of the Dell XPS 15, were having this problem. Some people fixed it temporarily by reverting to the official Microsoft drivers. It sounded terrible on the speakers when you did this, but at least it didn’t take over two minutes to boot.

Then the Dell drivers would ultimately reinstall themselves, and you were back to this very long boot time. Now, talk to any number of people at Vispero, and they will tell you that Dell and bad audio issues tend to go together like love and marriage. I didn’t actually know this when I bought my Dell XPS 15, so I sold that at a reasonable price as well. At that point, I decided I’ll go back to ThinkPads, because any issue that I have had with ThinkPads has been related to people spilling drinks on them. I actually lost two ThinkPads in quick succession, because just after the Dr Pepper incident with the one that was replaced, I then had somebody spill beer all over my ThinkPad in the frequent flyer lounge.

I could not believe it. I felt the beer trickling all over the laptop and I said, “Oh God, not again.” I had to get that one replaced as well. That’s the only trouble I’ve ever had with ThinkPads. That is a very long preamble to tell you about what is happening to me as I put this podcast together. I was doing a quick skim of the transcript as I usually do for Mosen At Large on Saturday. I pressed my JAWS key with shift and B, and it said, “AC connected, battery, 85% charging.” I thought, that’s a bit strange, because this has been connected for quite some time. It should be well and truly on 100%.

A few minutes later, I pressed it again, I have a terrible habit of pressing that key, and it was going down. It was down to about 83%. I thought, how can it be plugged in and allegedly charging, and the battery percentage is going down? I uninstalled the latest Windows insider build. I checked with the Lenovo Provantage software, where you can update your ThinkPad, and I saw there was a buyer’s update. I installed that, and nothing was making any difference. I was getting quite concerned cause I thought, what happens if it goes down to 0% and I can’t charge the thing?

I used my GaN charger to try and charge it and that didn’t work. Finally, I plugged my official ThinkPad charger into the other USB-C port, because there are two USB-C ports on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. You can use both for charging, even though I’m not sure you are supposed to. They recommend you use the one closest to the hinge to charge the device. This did charge it, and I was somewhat relieved. Having averted the immediate crisis, I did a Google and I found the most extraordinary and disheartening 33-page thread, it may well even be longer now, by the time you hear this, in the Lenovo community forum, with people who own ThinkPad X1 Carbons having exactly this issue.

They can be merely using the device for a while and then suddenly it stops charging with one of the ports. What then happens apparently is that soon after, often the second USB port starts exhibiting the same behavior, and then you are really in Soup Creek because you can’t charge your laptop. When people call Lenovo, they get a response that’s similar to, “Yes, we know about this. We’ll do a system board replacement for you.” Now, those who know my background know that I have done quite a bit of hardware product management, and I know that you can get a bad batch, and that sometimes these things happen.

If you do a replacement of a defective system board, all should be good again. That is not what has happened to many customers. Many people have had their system board replaced, and got their ThinkPad charging again only to find that within a few months, the same problem occurs. There are some people who are now onto their third replacement. There’s a couple of people in this forum who say they are IT professionals and have bought large batches of the 9th generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. One guy said he bought 50 units and around 20 of them have failed with this problem, which is an extraordinarily high failure rate for such a critical issue.

One person, after having, I think, three board replacements, went into full-blown rant mode and insisted that they replace his X1 Carbon 9th generation with an X1 Carbon 10th generation. I guess we have to assume that that will fix the problem. So far, the problem hasn’t recurred since he’s upgraded to the 10th generation. I have got the big contract. When I bought the ThinkPad, I had so much confidence in ThinkPad products that I thought this laptop really should last me a good long while. I paid extra for the onsite service contract so that if anything did go wrong, they would come over here and fix it.

You are supposed to get that done next business day, so you’re down for as little time as possible. That contract also includes one free battery replacement because those batteries, the lithium ion ones, deteriorate over time. That contract has a little under three years to run. I called the premier support number for Lenovo, for ThinkPad customers who have this high-end servicing contract. You can speak to someone 24/7. I called on a Saturday morning. In this part of the world, they were closed, but I got talking to somebody in the UK and he was really friendly.

I said to him, “Look, as long as we don’t talk about the Cricket World Cup from 2019, we’re going to get on fine.” He laughed and agreed we wouldn’t talk about that. I said to him, “Look, we’ve got law in New Zealand called the Consumer Guarantees Act. Under that legislation, a product has to be fit for purpose.” I said, “When I look at that 33-page screed on the Lenovo community forum and I see how many people have had X1 Carbon 9th generation devices that have eventually failed,” and bear in mind, I’ve been using mine for a little over a year now and this has just happened to me now, I said, “It’s not really fit for purpose. You’ve got some sort of defect there.

If I could have some assurance that replacing the system board was going to be the end of the matter, I would definitely live with that. I am not assured about this because I’m seeing so many people who are having multiple board replacements just so they can charge their computer. This is an expensive high-end business device. It’s right that people should be able to depend on them. I don’t want to get into a pattern of multiple board replacements for the next however long I’ve got to go in my contract, so would you consider replacing the 9th generation with a 10th generation device?”

He said, “That’s well beyond my ability to authorize, but I’ll make a note that that’s what you’re asking for. Somebody will get back to you.” I let Monday go by, and by 5:00 PM New Zealand time, I hadn’t heard from anyone. Remember, they’re supposed to do next-day servicing with the contracts that I have. I call the Lenovo premier support number back and I quote my ticket number. I say, this is the conversation that we’ve had. They said, “Sorry about that. Because you called after hours and got somebody in the UK, that’s why it hasn’t been picked up yet.”

I thought, that’s pretty dodgy. It’s supposed to be an international tech support system. You’re supposed to be able to call 24/7. You shouldn’t be penalizing me for having called on a Saturday, which is what I pay the money to be able to do. Anyway, he got all my deets and he said, “No, we can’t replace, or we won’t replace the device with a 10th generation one. What we will do is a system board replacement.” I said, “I have no confidence that that’s going to fix the problem long-term.” He said, “It could be that some people who’ve had the problem recurring got refurb system board replacements.

We are confident that we’ve got to the bottom of this issue. As long as you have your BIOS up to date, and as long as you have the board we’re going to give you, you should be okay.” I really can’t do anything more than accept that assurance and play the game, at least for a little while. We organized for a technician to come next day, so only one day later according to my contract, and replace the system board. I had meetings all morning, and so I said, “Can you come between 1:00 and 5:00?” He said, “Absolutely. We’ll send you a text message or give you a call to confirm when the technician is nearly on their way, just to make sure you’re available to see the technician.” I said, “Great.”

We’re now onto Tuesday. We get to 5:00 PM, and I haven’t heard from anybody. Once again, I call the Lenovo so-called premier support number. I talk to the person and he says, “I’m just looking at your ticket. They don’t have the part in stock. They’re not going to get the part probably until 10:00 PM on Wednesday night.” I thought, “Wow, how dedicated to have somebody to be there at 10:00 PM on a Wednesday night to receive my system board for this ThinkPad.” He said, “I’m sorry for the delay.” I said, “Actually, I don’t mind the delay because I’ve got a working ThinkPad.

What I do mind is that nobody had the courtesy to call me while I’ve been here expecting a technician, to tell me that no technician was coming, that I had to follow up. That’s not premier support to me.” I always say to these guys, I realize it’s not your fault. I’m reminded of the album by Elton John, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, but this is not premier support to me. It doesn’t feel like we matter as customers when they can’t even be bothered to tell you that there’s been a delay. I did subsequently learn about a bit of the Lenovo website you can go to where you can enter your ticket number and get all of that information, so that’s good.

Nobody actually told me that that existed before. I did a bit of Googling and discovered it myself. On Thursday afternoon, I got a call from the technician, he came over here at 3:00 armed with a new system board, at least I hope it’s a new one and not a refurb, and he put that board in. Of course, then we had the fun and games of setting everything up. Again, because of course, you’ve got a new board, and that means that there’s a new TPM, Trusted Platform Module, and so all the security stuff has to be set up again. It also wanted the BitLocker key.

I regret now not having just disabled BitLocker, but I had my BitLocker key on my phone, and I handed it over to him. He very kindly typed it in. When we got to the part where I needed to enter a PIN because I needed to set all that security stuff up again, I found that I had no JAWS talking and I thought, that’s no problem, I will run Narrator. Pressed Control and Windows, and Enter, no Narrator. In the end, he was like a human screen reader, this technician. I give him a lot of credit because he didn’t leave until I said I was satisfied and that I felt I was good to go.

That’s great service that he was willing to stick around. He appreciated that without speech, I was kind of up Soup Creek. He stayed with me and he read me the prompts, and I thought, why isn’t this working? Then of course, something clicked in my brain and I realized something. That is that on ThinkPads, by default, you have the Function key on the very far left, and then the Control key is the second key in. Now I used to live with that when I owned ThinkPads before, but I’ve used so many laptops subsequently that it just felt odd. There’s a BIOS setting now where you can flip them round so that the Control key is on the left like it is on most other laptops.

Of course, in all the panic in the setup and everything, it didn’t click with me that because this is a new board, there’s a new BIOS on that board, and all those settings are gone. I was pressing Function and Windows and Enter, and not Control and Windows and Enter. That’s why I had no Narrator. Duh. We eventually got to the desktop. Of course, JAWS wanted reauthorizing, and until it was reauthorized and JAWS was restarted, Leasey was complaining about how it wasn’t a registered copy. OneDrive was signed out, iCloud was signed out, all that kind of stuff.

I did all of that and then I did a restart. I’m so glad that I did a restart because when I did the restart, the technician told me, “It’s prompting on the screen for the BitLocker key again.” He did go into the BIOS for me and switched the Control and Function keys, and do a couple of other things I asked him to do, but the BitLocker key would not take, and so in the end, we disabled BitLocker. I haven’t re-enabled it yet and I must do that soon. I presume that when I re-enable it, it will be fine again, but it’s no fun to be prompted for that big long BitLocker string every time you reboot the computer and before you have speech. Not good.

It does seem like things are back to normal subject to me getting BitLocker working again, the charge port is operating again. When I spoke to the Lenovo guy on the phone when I first reported this, he said, “When we put a new board in your machine, there’s going to be a BIOS update, and it’s really important that you install that BIOS update as soon as possible,” so I’ve done that as well. Now I guess we hold our breath and see how long this lasts. I’m telling you this because I was so enthusiastic about it before, and now I’m not so much. I know some people have got ThinkPad X1 Carbon 9th gen machines.

You should look out for this because it seems to be a particularly serious problem with this generation of ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Hardware can fail, of course, and I’m not overly worried about that. If this had just happened to me in isolation, I would have thought oh well, stuff happens. Seeing that 33-page thread and wondering if it is this bad, which it clearly is, why hasn’t there been a recall of this machine so that people could get their boards replaced if they really have fixed this in some sort of systemic way before they are inconvenienced?

This is much more than just an occasional glitch. I’m really disappointed.

I’m underwhelmed by the response that I’ve received in terms of valuing me as a customer who has paid for this high priced service contract. Unfortunately for me, the jury is now out on whether my next laptop will be another ThinkPad. It may be, because they have a lot to recommend them, but this experience has hardly endeared them to me. Then I ask, where else would I go, because this is the third consecutive Windows laptop where I’ve had some sort of hardware issue?

It does make me wonder, am I jinxed, or is there something cheap and nasty about the manufacturer of Windows laptops at the moment? I’ve got a desktop here built by Henry the Wonder Son-in-law, and it just goes and goes. Yet I have these issues now with Windows laptops possibly manufactured in the same factory, because while you have brands who build these things to spec, there is a set of factories that builds these things. It just doesn’t feel like things are built to last in the Windows laptop space, or maybe I am just having a really bad run and that it’s now over, because they say things come in threes, don’t they? Let’s hope this is all behind us.

I want to say happy Holidays and thank you to everybody who reads the transcripts that we produce every week. It’s really important to me that we continue to, if at all possible, find ways to help the deaf-blind community in particular engage. This is an example of where accessibility is a win for us all. Just the other day actually, I was doing a search for something in my own podcast because I knew that a listener had talked about some software, and I needed that particular kind of software. Actually, it was software for creating a disk image of my ThinkPad in case it needed to be wiped and I just wanted an image I could restore from. I was able to search the transcript.

I do this primarily because of the deaf-blind community, but as I say, we all benefit when things are universally accessible. Thank you for supporting the transcripts and for engaging in that way. Thank you to InternetNZ who sponsored them for quite some time, and a special thank you to our current sponsors, Pneuma Solutions, who are doing some fantastic stuff. I do appreciate your support. I also am a huge enthusiast for RIM. I’ve talked about the way that it benefits me personally. It’s great to see RIM being adopted and supported by a wide range of organizations that are respected in our community

Organizations like the Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center, Perkins School for the Blind, the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Vision Australia. Struth! Happy Christmas to you over there. The CNIB, RIMs in use at the National Federation of the Blinds National Office, the Iowa Department for the Blind. The list goes on and on. RIM is a phenomenon because it’s accessible, it’s useful, it works, and it’s affordable. If you want to find out more about RIM, that’s remote incident manager, and give it a spin for yourself, head on over to getrim.app.

Because we all know that over the holiday season, if we know a little bit about technology, we’re going to be bothered by friends and family when we all get together who want you to fix their tech issues. If you have a laptop and they have a laptop that doesn’t have a screen reader on it, you can even remote in and get things sorted for them, and get an extra slice of turkey in appreciation. Head on over there now. getrim, that’s G-E-T-R-I-M.app from Pneuma Solutions.

Apple Watch Ultra unboxing and setup


I want a brand new Apple Watch for Christmas,

Only a brand new Apple Watch will do.

Mechanical voice: Don’t be a bozo.

Jonathan: It is indeed Apple Watch time for Christmas, and to help with this process is the unboxing ninja, Heidi Taylor.

Heidi: Hello. Hello.

Jonathan: Merry Christmas.

Heidi: Merry Christmas.

Jonathan: What are you hoping for for Christmas?

Heidi: I don’t know.

Jonathan: That makes it easy. We can get you as many “I don’t knows” as you like.

Heidi: Awesome.

Jonathan: That is epic. We’re going to have turducken at Mosen Towers for Christmas.

Heidi: That’ll be exciting.

Jonathan: It will be exciting. Do you know why we are doing this?

Heidi: Because the people like unboxings?

Jonathan: Apparently so. I did a poll on Mastodon, there are polls features that are quite accessible on Mastodon, for creating and completing. I said, “I don’t know about these unboxing things. Some people seem to like them when I’m a listener, I’m not a fan. Do people want me to spend time on this or not?” Of those who voted, a whopping 66% said, “Yes, we want to hear the unboxing of the Apple Watch Ultra.” Now, when you were on here for the WWDC thing– no, it was the other one. The one in September.

We were thinking, who’s going to buy this Apple Watch Ultra? Everybody on the panel said, “I’m not going to buy an Apple Watch Ultra,” including me. Then I just kept hearing about the amazing battery life, how much better the speaker sounded. and the mics, and we will try and put some of that to the test. Here we are. Shall we do the unboxing? What have we got actually? It’s the Apple Watch Ultra with what loop?

Heidi: The Black/Gray Trail Loop, was it?

Jonathan: Trail Loop. Yes, that’s right.

Heidi: The one that has the Velcro.

Jonathan: Reminds me of the trail mix. That’s what we’ve got. is that going to look as nice as my current band on my current Apple Watch?

Heidi: I can’t guarantee that, but you had to pick one of the ultra bands to come with it. You couldn’t pick a different band. This one had the least funky-looking clasp.

Jonathan: I must say that I have, for most of my Apple Watch existence, just bought knockoff bands from Amazon, and they’ve been perfectly fine, good quality. Like this one that I’ve got on now, it’s the equivalent of the Melanie’s loop, isn’t it?

Heidi: Yes it is.

Jonathan: That’s really expensive from Apple, but I bought this and it’s, to me, equivalent. It’s no different at all and it was way cheap.

Heidi: Supposedly, the bands are compatible, so if you don’t like the one you got with the Ultra, you could just put that one on.

Jonathan: Is Henry inheriting this Apple Watch.

Heidi: He would like to inherit it if it’s on offer.

Jonathan: It is on offer. I guess he could inherit his band from his– on and on it goes. Because his Apple watch is a Series 3 and that’s definitely seen better days. Hasn’t it started coming to bits or something?

Heidi: The glass on the back where the sensors are and it charges from, has got a nasty crack in it.

Jonathan: Oh dear.

Heidi: It used to just be cosmetic, but now he can actually feel it on his wrist. We were actually in the process of looking at buying him a new Apple watch anyway.

Jonathan: This is good timing. Good timing. Let’s get it out of the box.

Heidi: All right. First we have the shipping box.

Jonathan: That’s nice. I should say that while iPhones are in short supply, particularly the Pro and Pro Max at the moment because of a issue with the factory in China, this I ordered less than 48 hours ago and it came here. We’re into it.

Heidi: Ooh. It’s a nice Apple box, but they always are nice.

Jonathan: Let’s have a little look at this.

Heidi: It’s embossed on the top.

Jonathan: Oh my goodness. That is so classy. Wow. The top of the box is quite rough in texture, but you can feel the embossing, but it feels like engraving.

Heidi: Yes. That’s probably the better word.

Jonathan: What does it say?

Heidi: It’s the Apple logo and then it says, “Watch.”

Jonathan: You can feel the shape of the Apple logo, can’t you?

Heidi: Yes.

Jonathan: The watch in there.

Heidi: Yes.

Jonathan: It doesn’t say, “Ultra” on it,

Heidi: It doesn’t say Ultra on the front. No.

Jonathan: How do you open this?

Heidi: If you turn it upside down, you’ve got little flaps, like little–

Jonathan: Oh gosh. I have been told that Apple has a department where they spend time researching the unboxing experience. That’s amazing. The flap opens up. It’s a delicious new technology smell. Then here we’ve got this– is this the band? This thick piece of cardboard? No, it’s not the band. The band is somewhere else.

Heidi: It is a booklet all about the Apple Watch Ultra, showing you what all the buttons are, and warranty information or something similar.

Jonathan: Does it say anything interesting we should read to the world?

Heidi: It shows off pictures of the three different kinds of loops. The Alpine, Ocean, and Trail Loops, and then it’s got nice pictures showing you how to slot the band into place and how the charger attaches to the back. Then it’s just showing off all the little buttons on the side. It’s got a new button this one, doesn’t it?

Jonathan: The Yes, it does.

Heidi: The action button.

Jonathan: On the opposite side, isn’t it? Of where the digital crown and the side buttons are, you’ve got a button. That’s called the action button and that’s programmable.

Heidi: Yes.

Jonathan: How do we get into this box? I don’t want to break it. Feel like I’m doing something sacrilegious.

Heidi: There’s some tape on the bottom that has little pull tips.

Jonathan: Then in a separate package is the band, which we’ll, I guess get to in a second. I’m quite keen to feel the Apple Watch Ultra and just work out how much bigger it really feels compared with my Series 6, which is the 44-millimeter. Now I’m going to open the box.

Heidi: I’ve taken the tape off so it should just– the lid should slide off like with an iPhone box.

Jonathan: Yes. It’s not that bad. It definitely is bigger. It’s chunky. I remember when I got my first plus-sized phone, they called it in those days. I thought, oh my God, this is way too big. I’m used to it now, and all the other phones feel small. It’s not like that. This is definitely a bigger watch. It is encased in paper, isn’t it? Is it just a paper material?

Heidi: Yes, it looks papery.

Jonathan: Environmentally friendly paper. I’m just peeling that off. Wow, this is really rugged. I mean it just feel this Heidi.

Heidi: Wow. Yes, it’s more sharp edges. It’s weighty.

Jonathan: You definitely notice the difference of the weight of this on your wrist. Now, as I just feel around the watch, the digital crown feels different. It’s got something on the sides of it. See what I mean? It’s got a lip around the digital crown that the other ones don’t have.

Heidi: In case the digital crown and the side button in their own protruded housing.


I suck at this.

Jonathan: I’m not even going to edit that. [laughs]

Heidi: Thank you. You can only really touch the top and the bottom of the crown. You can’t do the sides as well. The crown itself has bigger gaps in the grippiness of it. Wider teeth, you could say.

Jonathan: Then opposite, you’ve got the action button, which is quite recessed. It almost feels like if you were thinking of this as some normal accessory, it could even be mistaken actually, I think, for a little USB port because of the way it feels. If you imagine that you might think of this as a USB-C port or something like that. Can you see what I’m saying? It feels recessed enough. that it feels like something might plug into it. Then you press and there’s a button there actually instead. I guess we should fit the band now. Hold this nice Apple watch Ultra. It’s very heavy.

Heidi: It is very heavy.

Jonathan: It’ll give you a good exercise, I’ll give you the other package in the box, which is the band. The trail loop band. You’re going to unbox the band.

Heidi: Yes. It unfolds, it’s like an envelope almost.

Jonathan: The winner is–

Heidi: The black and gray trail loop. Do you want to look at it before I take it out of its card?

Jonathan: Yes. It’s slotted in, it feels quite synthetic. One side’s rigid, almost like a place mat. Don’t you think it feels like a place mat?

Heidi: I can see tha, yest. [laughs] It’s stretchy. Which wrist do you wear your watch on?

Jonathan: On my right wrist.

Heidi: Right wrist.

Jonathan: It feels more athletic than dressy to me. Would it look nice if you wore it out to the ball?

Heidi: I maybe wouldn’t wear it to a ball but I don’t think it’d be out of place just at work for example. Definitely is more sporty, but I think that’s the whole target market of this watch.

Jonathan: Do you think that the Melanie’s loop knockoff I’ve got is more classy looking?

Heidi: I’d probably say yes.

Jonathan: I like this band. I wonder if we can make it fit this the new Apple watch. Thank you.

Heidi: Attached.

Jonathan: That feels very interesting.


It’s got the Velcro and it never completely comes off. Does it?

Heidi: It should be able to completely come off, it will always be a loop. You should be able to pull it all the way back so you can adjust the size.

Jonathan: Now, suppose we need to think about how to actually get this new Apple watch working and this could be some useful information even if you are upgrading to another model of Apple watch. If you have an Apple watch now, how do you do this? Particularly if you’re doing it in what I would call the off season. Some people might buy a new iPhone and a new Apple watch at the same time. In my case, I’ve already got my iPhone 14 pro max and it’s paired to the Apple watch Series 6 that I have. We actually have two choices. One is that we can just go ahead and boot up this watch and we can add it as a second watch.

You can have multiple Apple watches paired with your phone and it will share health data, and you can customize each one with the apps that you want, that thing. When you set it up, you can go ahead and restore from a backup of your previous Apple watch or you can set the Apple watch up as new. The one downside potentially of that is that there’s no rhyme nor reason about when Apple makes backups of the Apple watch. You can’t force Apple to make a backup of the Apple watch. The only way to do that actually is to unpair your watch.

When you unpair it will make a backup of the watch and then you can be guaranteed that when you are going to restore the backup to a new device, it’s going to have the absolute latest data. This doesn’t include stuff like health and messages and all other data that’s installed into the cloud. If you’ve installed apps recently it will include that. Now in my case, I’m not keeping my old Apple watch because Henry the Wonder son-in-law is getting it. I am going to go ahead and unpair my current Apple watch from my iPhone before we go any further. To do that, I need to go into the watch app. Open Watch.

Automated voice: Watch.

Jonathan: I’ll go to the top of the screen.

Automated voice: All watches button.

Jonathan: I’m going to double-tap the all watches button.

Automated voice: Done. Button.

Jonathan: I’ll flick right.

Automated voice: All watches, heading. My watches, heading. Selected. Jonathan’s Apple watch, stainless steel 44 millimeters, case. Button.

Jonathan: Actions are available here. I will flick up.

Automated voice: More info.

Jonathan: Double-tap more info.

Automated voice: Paired. Heading, Jonathan’s Apple watch 44 millimeters case, stainless steel. Version 9.220S361 Model M zero nine J three serial number Wi-Fi dress, Bluetooth eight three EID button, seed button. Find my Apple watch button, locate your Apple watch, enable lost motor arrays at using the find my app pair Apple watch button.

Jonathan: That is the magic button that will generate a backup and disassociate this watch from my account so that it can become Henry’s watch. I’ll double tap.

Automated voice: Select alert. You’ll need to pair again with this Apple watch to use it again. Unpair Jonathan’s Apple watch button.

Jonathan: I’ll double-tap.

Automated voice: Secure text field. Apple ID password. Heading.

Jonathan: Now I have to enter the password for my Apple ID. I can actually do that on my Mantis so that we don’t get any echo back from the device. I’ll do that now. There we go. I’ll press enter.

Automated voice: Unpair Apple watch button. Unpairing Apple watch, heading. Your iPhone is currently unpairing Apple watch. This might take a little while. In progress.

Jonathan: We don’t see a percentage indicator or hear one anyway, but it is now going ahead and unpairing. The part of the process that’s important here is that it is making a current backup of the Apple watch that we can use when we set up the new one. Be that an Ultra or any other model that you might be upgrading to. I’ll let that do its thing and we’ll come back when we’re ready to take the next step. Actually it didn’t take too long, I would say about what, 90 seconds, Heidi? About that. Now we’ve got–

Automated voice: Good afternoon, heading.

Jonathan: A very good afternoon to you.

Automated voice: If you have an Apple watch, you compare it with your iPhone here. Learn more about Apple watch, button. Photos of an Apple watch. Apple watch sport, and Apple watch edition, image. Watch. Start pairing, button.

Jonathan: This process now is the same as if you were buying a new Apple watch. If you’ve thought about getting one and you think, how does this actually work? This is what you would do at this point. You would go into the Watch app on your phone and you can begin the process from here. What I’m going to do now is finally switch on the Apple Watch Ultra. To do that on one side of the device, we’ve got the digital crown which rotates and presses in, and you can perform a range of functions. Then we also have the side button. It’s that which we need to hold down. It should start the Apple watch booting up. What is shame that they haven’t put a sound in the Apple Watch Ultra like they’ve put a sound in the newer iPhones. Have we got something visual?

Heidi: We have. The amazing Apple logo.

Jonathan: That’s nice. Is it still booting up?

Heidi: It’s now telling us to bring your iPhone near to the watch.

Jonathan: What we want to do now though is invoke voiceover. It’s a pretty standard convention with Apple products to do something like this. To get voiceover working, we will press the digital crown three times triple click the digital crown.

Automated voice: Info, button.

Jonathan: That’s nice speakers.

Automated voice: Info, bring iPhone near Apple watch. Bring iPhone near Apple watch.

Jonathan: We’ll bring the iPhone near the Apple watch.

Automated voice: Start pairing, button.

Jonathan: I’m going to need to do the “start pairing” button.

Automated voice: Set up Apple watch, heading. If you have an Apple watch, you can set it up here. Setting up for a family member requires Apple Watch Series 4 GPS plus Cellular or later. Set up for myself. Button. Hold Apple Watch up– Back button. Hold Apple Watch up to the camera. Heading. Align it with the viewfinder below. Pair Apple Watch manually.

Jonathan: Now, it is possible for a blind person to do this. The camera that it wants is the back-facing camera, isn’t it?

Heidi: Yes, that’s correct.

Jonathan: We hold the Apple Watch up to the camera. I have done this before, but sometimes I’ve also resorted to pairing it manually. How close do you have to be to hold it to the-?

Heidi: You’re too close.

Automated voice: [unintelligible 00:50:38] thousands of tiny [unintelligible 00:50:40] lights swarming in a sphere.

Automated voice: Your Apple Watch is paired.


Jonathan: I was not–

Heidi: Well, you were for a moment.

Jonathan: Okay. Now it says it’s paired.

Automated voice: Your Apple Watch is paired. Heading.

Jonathan: It’s as simple as that. Hold it up to the camera. If you have difficulty doing that– There’s a bit of a knack toward it as a blind person because visually you can see it. If you have a bit of a hassle doing it, you can enter a series of pin numbers on both devices.

Automated voice: A photo of an Apple Watch. Restore from backup. Button. Set up as new Apple Watch. Button.

Jonathan: I’m going to restore from the backup.

Automated voice: Set up ‘Restore from backup.’ Button.

Jonathan: I’ll double-tap. Do I need to flick right?

Automated voice: Choose a backup from the list below or set this Apple Watch up manually. Jonathan’s Apple Watch. Stainless steel. 44 millimeters case. Today, 2:04 PM. Watch OS 9.1. Selected. Continue. Button.

Jonathan: I’ll double-tap ‘Continue.’

Automated voice: Selected. Jonathan’s Apple Watch. Stainless steel. 44 mil– Back button. Restore from backup. Back button. Terms and conditions.

Jonathan: All right. I’ll accept that.

Automated voice: Agree. Button. Apple Watch passcode. Heading. When you set a passcode, Apple Watch locks when you take it off and requires the passcode to unlock. This helps protect your data. Create a passcode. Button.

Jonathan: I’ll do that.

Automated voice: Create a passcode. Heading.

Jonathan: Wow. The first thing I noticed is that the haptics on this thing are very strong [laughs]. They’re quite a bit stronger, it seems to me, than the haptics on the previous generation that I have.

Automated voice: Enter new passcode. One.

Jonathan: I will just enter the passcode now, and I will pause the recording while I do that.

Automated voice: In progress. Bold texting size. Heading. Select your preferred reading experience. Bold text. Switch button. Off. 38%. Adjustable. Suggested based on your iPhone type settings. Continue. Button. Accessibility. Heading. You can apply your accessibility settings from your iPhone to your Apple Watch. Voiceover. Switch button on. Voiceover speaks items on the screen. Bullet tap once to select an item. Bullet swipe two fingers to scroll. Bullet double-tap to activate the selected item. Continue. Button. Optimize charge limit. Heading.

Automated voice: [crosstalk] Indicating that pairing is complete. Image.

Automated voice: Heading. If you see an open charge ring, Apple Watch will charge to an optimized limit. This limit adapts to your daily usage and preserves your battery lifespan over time. You can manage this in Battery Settings on your Apple Watch. Continue. Button. Shared settings. Heading. Apple Watch shares settings with iPhone for location services, Find My iPhone, Siri analytics, and improvement. Some watch faces and apps may use your location when location services is on. Fitness and health apps will be downloaded to your iPhone. Apple Watch automatically works with Share My Location when you leave your iPhone behind.

Okay. Button. Personalized fitness and health. Heading. This information ensures fitness and health data are as accurate as possible. These details are not shared with Apple.

Jonathan: Now it’s going through some personal information such as sex, birthdates, and height and weights.

Automated voice: Weight. Wheelchair. Switch button off. If wheelchair setting is turned on, a paired Apple Watch can track pushes and add to your Move ring. On iPhone you can close your Move ring with any app that adds workouts to health. Continue. Button. Get notifications about your health. Heading. Receive a notification when there’s something you need to know. Noise. Your Apple Watch microphone can measure sound levels without recording audio and notify you if they might affect your hearing. Switch button on. Continue. Button.

Jonathan: Double tap.

Automated voice: Safety. Heading. Apple Watch can help in an emergency. Emergency SOS. Hold the side button to call emergency services and notify emergency contacts. Full detection. Apple Watch can call emergency services if it detects a hard fall and you need help. Crash detection. If Apple Watch detects a car crash, it can call emergency services for you. Siren. If you need to attract help in an emergency, your watch can play a loud sound.

Backtrack. In a remote setting, Apple Watch can record your route in case you get lost. Safety features may share your location when your device calls or you text emergency services. Your emergency contacts may also then be contacted and notified of your location. See how your data is managed. Button. Continue. Button.

Jonathan: We’ll try the siren later, Heidi. That could be exciting.

Heidi: Oh no.

Automated voice: In progress.

Jonathan: The safety thing is still on the screen, but it looks like it’s actually doing something. Is that right? It says “In progress” on the screen as well as that safety information.

Heidi: Yes. It’s got a in-progress indicator, so I don’t think you can get any further right now.

Jonathan: Okay. Meanwhile, on the watch, we’ll just wake it up.

Automated voice: Apple logo surrounded around it by [unintelligible 00:55:41] lines, indicating that pairing is complete.

Jonathan: It’s been saying that for quite some time. The screen is much more rectangular, isn’t it?

Heidi: It is. It doesn’t have the curved edges, like it doesn’t curve downward into the body. It’s flat like a phone.

Jonathan: I have to say it reminds me of those cheap kids’ toy watches that when I was a kid people used to wear.

Heidi: I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

Jonathan: See if anything else is happening here.

Automated voice: Back button. Photo of an Apple Watch displaying a successful Apple Pay purchase. Image. Watch. Apple Pay. Heading. Add credit, debit, or store cards to Apple Pay to make secure payments in apps, on the web, and in shops using NFC.

Jonathan: I have to say this is so, so handy to have your watch on your wrist and walk up to something and just wave it over the terminal and push the button and pay. It’s still got the wow factor because not everybody does it, so when somebody walks up with a watch and does that, sometimes the people on the other side of the counter go, “Dude.”

Heidi: Dude.

Jonathan: Do you like the Apple Pay?

Heidi: Yes, I do like the Apple Pay. I use Apple Pay on my watch all the time.

Jonathan: It’s brilliant. We’ve got to set this up.

Automated voice: Card-related information. Location and information about device settings and use patterns may be sent to Apple and may be used together with account information to provide assessments to your card, issue your payment network, to set up Apple Pay, and prevent transaction fraud. See how your data is managed. Button.

Jonathan: This is something that does not get retained in the backup.

Automated voice: Continue. Button. Previous cards. Quickly add the cards, keys, and passes you previously used. ASBV is a credit card. Four bullets. 5-1-4. Continue. Button.

Jonathan: I want to add that one, so I’ll continue.

Automated voice: Try again. Face not recognized. Face ID authenticated. Face ID.

Jonathan: Authenticated.

Automated voice: Watch. Security code. Text field is editing. Three-digit CVV. Insertion point at start.

Jonathan: Now it wants the three-digit CVV from the Visa card. In New Zealand, my primary credit card that I use most of the time, my American Express Platinum card, does not do Apple Pay, which, given what you have to pay to keep that platinum card, is ridiculous.

Heidi: Boo.

Jonathan: All right. Let’s enter this thing. I’ve entered the three digits, so now I can choose.

Automated voice: Next button. Contacting the card issuer. Terms and conditions. Heading. ASB Apple Pay terms. Heading level one. Vertical scroll bar, 10 pages. 0%. Vertical scroll bar. Agree. Button. Setting up card for Apple Pay. Adding card. Heading. Adding to Apple Watch. Your card has been added to Wallet on your Apple Watch. Card verification. Heading. Choose how to verify your card for Apple Pay. Choose how to verify your card for Apple Pay. Selected. Text message.

Jonathan: Text message is fine.

Automated voice: Next button. Next. Card verification. Card veri– Text field is editing. Enter code. Insertion point at start. Card activated. Heading.

Jonathan: What happened there was that I am on Do Not Disturb while we are recording. The text message came through. It automatically lifted the number from the text message, inserted it, and now we are verified.

Automated voice: ASB Visa credit card is ready for Apple Pay. Done. Button. Done. Action button. Heading.

Jonathan: Now we’re learning about the new action button.

Automated voice: Choose what you’d like the action button to do. Selected. Workout. Start workout. Mark segment. Stopwatch. Start. Mark lap. Waypoint. Create. Backtrack. Start. Dive. Start. Torch on. Off. Continue. Button.

Jonathan: A few options there. What do you think we should make the action button do? Maybe start a workout? I think so.

Heidi: That feels like the thing you’d most likely use.

Jonathan: Yes. Well, maybe the stopwatch in certain situations, because I do use the stopwatch sometimes. If I’m giving a public speech and I want to pre-read it to make sure I’m not going to woff along on too long, I’ll use the stopwatch. Workout I would use even more.

Automated voice: Action button. Choose what you’d like the- Selected. Workout. Start Workout. Mark segment.

Jonathan: That’s fine.

Automated voice: Choose what you’d– Action button. Heading. Set up later in settings. Continue. Button. Depth. Heading.

Jonathan: Now, flick right.

Automated voice: Depth. Heading. The depth app can automatically open underwater and measure temperature, time, and depth.

Jonathan: Now, I did have a request from a listener who said they wanted me to demonstrate this, and I’m not quite sure how I can because if I put the watch under the water, it’s going to be hard to hear the Apple Watch. I’d also need to find a microphone that could go under the water to accompany the Apple Watch. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I don’t think I have a waterproof mic.

Automated voice: Open depth when submerged. Button. Don’t open automatically. Button.

Jonathan: I think we will set it to ‘Don’t open automatically.

Automated voice: Diving safety. Heading. Underwater activities are risky. To dive safely, follow these recommendations. To reduce the risk of serious or fatal injury when diving, always follow diving safety protocols. Before diving, read the instructions and warnings in the Apple Watch user guide. Learn more. Button. Continue. Button.

Jonathan: We’ll continue.

Automated voice: Continue. Button. Always on display. Heading. See what’s on your Apple Watch even when your wrist is down. Sensitive content may not be visible by default, but you can choose what’s displayed in settings. Continue. Button.

Jonathan: I’m going to turn off the always-on display. It is actually off in my backup, so hopefully, that will be inherited because I don’t really see any benefit to a blind person of having it on. For a blind person, switching it off might give me a bit more battery life. Genius.

Automated voice: Continue. Button. App view. Heading. Access your apps by pressing the digital crown. You can change the app view anytime time in Settings. Grid view. Button. Selected. List view.

Jonathan: I definitely prefer the list view of apps from an accessibility point of view.

Automated voice: Continue. Button. Welcome to Apple Watch. Heading.

Jonathan: That really is quite hectic.

Automated voice: My watch. Adjust settings. Organize apps and customize your watch faces. Face gallery. Browse watch faces and add them to your collection. Apple Watch apps. Get apps from the App Store on Apple Watch or on your iPhone. Okay. Button. All watches. Button. Jonathan’s Apple Watch. Heading. Search. My faces.

Jonathan: Now, it’s–

Automated voice: 2:25 PM and eight seconds.

Jonathan: Oh, it looks like it’s all set up.

Automated voice: Battery, 85%. Do not disturb. No events. No events.

Jonathan: That’s interesting. The process was going on while we were setting it up, and it appears to be all ready to go now. What we could do, Heidi, why don’t I turn voiceover off?

Automated voice: Alert. Device added to your account. An Apple Watch now has access to iMessage and FaceTime. If you don’t recognize this device, you can remove it in settings. Settings. Button. Okay. Button. My faces.

Jonathan: I’ll turn voiceover off-

Automated voice: Voiceover off.

Jonathan: -and give you the watch. Happy Christmas.

Heidi: Thank you.

Jonathan: I thought it might be interesting if you were to go through all the watch faces and just tell me if you’re seeing anything new and maybe what they’re like. Since we haven’t heard from you for way too long, would you like to talk about the different watch faces and how you might use those, and in what circumstances?

Heidi: Okay. Oh, conveniently, there’s a category called New Watch Faces.

Jonathan: Brilliant. Tell us about, for those who aren’t Apple Watch users at the moment, about the concept of watch faces and complications. It’s complicated.

Heidi: It is complicated. Your watch face is what you see on the screen by default. It’s where your time is and any other information you’ve put in. There’s little modules which are called complications. They could be things like the Workout app, the calendar, any little app. It’s like a shortcut to the app and they can also display information.

Jonathan: Like the widgets have become in iOS 16, isn’t it, the lock screen widgets?

Heidi: Yes. New watch faces. Astronomy, which seems to have a picture of the earth as the background. Lunar, which has the moon and moon phases on it.

Jonathan: Can you tell by looking at it how many complications each one will contain?

Heidi: I can guesstimate based on how many are shown in the sample. Sometimes there’s an extra slot they don’t use.

Jonathan: On my current one, I’ve been using the I think the chronograph one, and that seems to have the most complications because I like lots of complications.

Heidi: Okay. The astronomy one looks like it only has one or two complication slots. It’s mainly a visual face with the pretty picture in the background. The lunar one has at least four slots.

Jonathan: I’m just looking around because I see we’ve got the charger as well. There’s no power brick.

Heidi: No.

Jonathan: There is a charger, I presume, somewhere. It’s a USB C1 and it supports fast charging. Where is the charger?

Heidi: I don’t know.

Jonathan: I’m looking for it in some sort of recessed–

Heidi: it’s in your hand. It’s wrapped in cardboard.

Jonathan: Oh, there we go. See what you miss when you don’t stay alert? This is a USB-C charger. Go ahead with your complication.

Heidi: Metropoli– Metropoli–

Jonathan: Metropolis?

Heidi: Metropolitan.

Jonathan: Metropolitan. Right.

Heidi: I can’t believe I narrated an audiobook. This one also has four complication slots. It looks like an analog watch, essentially. Then in each corner of the screen is a space for a complication. Modular.

Jonathan: Oh, yes. That’s been around a while unless they’ve changed modular.

Heidi: They have changed it slightly. They updated it recently. That has what? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 slots. There’s one called Playtime where the numbers of the time are fun characters and then there’s cartoony shapes in the background, so very simple. I don’t think it has any complications. Portraits, which again looks like one they already had, where you can use a portrait mode photo from your phone and the person can be partially in front of the time if you want, which makes it difficult to read. That one doesn’t seem to have complications either.

Then there is Wayfinder, which looks like it has a lot of complications, at least eight slots, but maybe more. I think this is the one designed for the Apple Watch Ultra.

Jonathan: You can have all sorts of things on that one, I understand, having looked at the documentation briefly, like elevation, compass bearing. It’s designed for being in the outdoors, I think. I’ll have it back now.

Heidi: I guess I can allow that.

Jonathan: [laughs] I must say, you really notice it on your wrist. When I pick it up, it didn’t feel that huge, but on your wrist, it’s quite pronounced.

Heidi: Yes. It is a big boy.

Jonathan: Yes. You really do notice it on the wrist. Gosh, that’s quite large. I might be revising my view now that it’s actually on my wrist. I need to turn voiceover on. Why don’t I have any sound there?

Automated voice: Voiceover off.

Jonathan: There we go. Oh, no, it’s okay.

Automated voice: Voiceover on. Enter passcode. Enter passcode, one.

Jonathan: I’m just going to enter the passcode.

Automated voice: 2:32 PM and 41 seconds. Headings. Language. Default. English [unintelligible 01:08:13].

Automated voice: English, UK. Volume, 100%. Speaking rate, 62%.

Jonathan: I’ll just slow that down a bit.

Automated voice: 67%.

Jonathan: Wow. The speaker is definitely an improvement, isn’t it?

Heidi: Yes.

Automated voice: Current temperature, 16 degrees low, 12 degrees high. 19 degrees, 57%.

Jonathan: That’s very nice.

Automated voice: Rain. Two unread messages, 991. Bullet, 06. Bullet, 12. Just press record.

Jonathan: There’s just press record and we will have a look at that in just a moment. I’ll go to the main app screen.

Automated voice: Home. One password, seven. Button.

Jonathan: Then if I press the action button now, which is all recessed on the other side–

Automated voice: Workout. Open workout.

Jonathan: There we go. It’s now taking me straight into workout, and it’s very fast, I have to say. Let’s just talk to Siri. What can I say? What’s the weather forecast for today?

Automated voice: It’s currently raining on 16 degrees. Temperatures are heading up from 16 degrees to 18 tonight.

Jonathan: Very nice sound.

Automated voice: Wellington. Early [unintelligible 01:09:23] Wallet. Button. Walkie-Talkie. Button.

Jonathan: Walkie-Talkie. Okay, I’m going to open the Siren app now because this is one of the new features that I can demonstrate. This is a safety feature. I’m told it’s quite loud.

Heidi: Oh, should I cover my ears?

Jonathan: I don’t know how loud it can possibly be. Open siren.

Automated voice: 2:34 PM. Emergency. Play. 80. Siren. 230– Siren. 83%, battery. Play. Button. Emergency call. Button. Emergency call. Button. Play.

Jonathan: It’s a simple app, and there’s a play button here. There I push the thing.

Automated voice: Selected. [unintelligible 01:10:08]

[siren sound]

Jonathan: Does it get louder? I see that was the countdown.

Automated voice: Play.

Jonathan: How loud was that for you?

Heidi: It wasn’t actually that loud, but it was very high-pitched.

Jonathan: It’s piercing, man. It’s too piercing. Too piercing. Do you mind leaving the room? Piercing. That’s the siren app. What do you think of this Apple Watch Ultra?

Heidi: It’s a big boy.

Jonathan: Yes. I am thinking a bit differently about it, I must say. In the hand, it didn’t seem such a big deal, but on your wrist, oh my word. Someone’s going to say, “Oh, I know what you got for Christmas.” There’s absolutely no way you can miss this on your wrist.

Heidi: No.

Jonathan: Apple has talked in the past about a computer on your wrist. This really does feel like you’ve got a computer on your wrist. I’ll do a couple of other comparison things, but meanwhile, thank you very much for helping us unbox it.

Heidi: You’re very welcome.

Jonathan: Happy Christmas.

Heidi: Happy Christmas.

Jonathan: Let’s contrast the speaker on the Apple Watch Series 6 with the Apple Watch Ultra Speaker. I’ve just got my Daniel set to a slightly slower rate than I normally have, so it’s easily intelligible and I’ll invoke the watch now.

Automated voice: 1:10 PM and 52 seconds.

Jonathan: This is the Series 6 right now.

Automated voice: 78 BPM. Bullet. Three minutes ago.

Jonathan: Oh, dear. Okay, now we’ll go to the home screen.

Automated voice: Home. Emoji button. Messages. Mindfulness. Button. Music. Button.

Jonathan: That’s the Apple Watch Series 6 held up reasonably close to the microphone. By immediate contrast, I’ll hold the Apple Watch Ultra up about the same distance from the phone.

Automated voice: 2:57 PM and 26 seconds.

Jonathan: Noticeably better.

Automated voice: 80 BPM. Bullet. One minute ago. Home. Timers. Streamlets. Stopwatch. Stocks. Button.

Jonathan: Actually, let’s go into Streamlets.

Automated voice: Stopwatch. Streamlets. Button.

Jonathan: I’ll double-tap.

Automated voice: Streamlets, heading.

Jonathan: Streamlets, for those who don’t recall or didn’t hear the Graeme Innes review, is a really good Apple Watch Radio app.

Automated voice: Tag slash genre. Button. Countries. Button.

Jonathan: We’re going to countries.

Automated voice: Loading. Ellipses. Andorra. Fire Station.

Jonathan: Scroll through the crown a bit here.

Automated voice: Austria 219 Station S. Button.

Jonathan: Scroll through quite a bit here on the crown.

Automated voice: Egypt. Spain-

Jonathan: Keep going.

Automated voice: 609– Guyana, Hong Kong, New Zealand. 200 station. S. Button.

Jonathan: Oh, we’re well-represented here.

Automated voice: Loading. Ellipses. Newstalk ZB Auckland. 64KBPS. AAC Plus. Button.

Jonathan: That’s got talk, so it’s a good choice. Let’s just have a quick listen in and we’ll hear the speaker working away there.

Automated voice: Volume.

Radio: You’ve got the custom horn, the hand-stitched bench seats for the living area, and the fold-out awning that’s ready to relax under as soon as you park up. [crosstalk] You’ve customized the motor home. It’s time to customize your insurance with Star Insurance Specialists. We know how you care for it so we can tailor insurance that fits perfectly. By Star Insurance Specialists.

Automated voice: Stop playing.

Jonathan: There’s no audio ducking on the Apple Watch, but I was able to save Newstalk ZB as a favorite and then stop playing. That is a look at the speaker on the Apple Watch. Now let’s turn to the microphone system. Just Press Record is such a handy app. I have it on my Apple Watch as a widget on the primary watch face that I use. I also now have it as a widget on my lock screen on my iPhone because you never know when you might be out and about. You might get some guide dog refusal if Bunny and I are traveling together, and it’s just handy to be able to make a recording. I like having Just Press Record handy at all times.

I’m recording this demo on my Apple Watch Series 6, and shortly, I’m going to record a demo on my Apple Watch Ultra just talking into the microphone normally at about the same distance as I now have my Apple Watch. The watch is on my wrist. I do have my wrist raised, so I am talking roughly by the watch. It’s not uncomfortable, but the watch is definitely raised.

Let’s go to the Apple Watch Ultra now and see if we can hear any appreciable difference in terms of the recording quality. Now we’ve switched to the Apple Watch Ultra. I’m holding it about the same distance away from my wrist that I held the Apple Watch Series 6 that I’ve upgraded from. I’m just talking away at the same level in exactly the same place. Now the watch has gone into standby. It’s switched its screen off, but Just Press Record continues to record. I’ve been interested to hear whether there is any appreciable difference in the microphone quality.

This is saving in M4A format, but for spoken word like this, that should be absolutely fine. That’s the microphone on the Apple Watch Ultra. As I put this together, it’s early days. I’ve only had the watch literally for an hour or so on my wrist, and by mutual agreement, I did change the band pretty quickly. Henry was quite pleased with this new band that came with the Apple Watch Ultra. I didn’t like it as much as my knockoff Milanese Loop, which fits the new Apple Watch very snugly, I’m pleased to say, so I can keep wearing it.

It doesn’t feel heavy on my wrist, but when I reach out to my wrist I’m always cognizant of just how big this thing is. I’m sure that will wear off. I’m pretty confident that’s exactly how I felt when I got my first plus-sized iPhone. This is a niche product. Why would you consider an Apple Watch Ultra? The battery life was a very compelling consideration. Apparently, it is phenomenal battery life and I look forward to experiencing that. As someone who has a hearing impairment, the speaker volume and quality was a consideration.

I don’t know why, and I always swore that I would not buy another Apple Watch until this was fixed, but here I am again. The Apple Watch does not support made-for-iPhone hearing aids. Given that there’s plenty of processor power in these things now and that the Apple Watch does support AirPods, I’m really not clear why the Apple Watch doesn’t have seamless handoff between itself and iPhone when using made-for-iPhone hearing aids. That would make a huge difference to me. In the meantime, particularly in slightly more noisy environments, having a clearer louder Apple Watch is a consideration for me.

The primary market for the Apple Watch Ultra is people who are doing a lot of serious athletic stuff, a lot of work in the outdoors. If that’s you, it’s an absolute no-brainer to get an Apple Watch Ultra. The Ultra is more water resistant. You can submerge yourself up to 100 meters with the Apple Watch Ultra, and it can also take the temperature of water. The GPS receiver in Apple Watch Ultra is supposed to be better because its dual-band and high precision. When you get the Apple Watch Series 8, you get the GPS receiver that supports L1. The Apple Watch Ultra GPS receiver supports L1 and L5.

Now Apple says that there are two consequences of this. One is that it’s supposed to be more accurate, and I’ve heard varying opinions about whether that really is true in the real world. The other thing is that it may work better in built environments where you are often prone to lose a GPS signal. If you’ve played with this a lot, it would be interesting to hear your real-world experiences. The action button is nice to have that reprogramming feature there where you can have a button that jumps you into an app that you like. Those are some of the things that you can weigh up. Of course, the size may be a deterrent.

Bonnie’s absolutely adamant, I just rushed upstairs with this Apple Watch on my wrist while I’ve been recording this and said, “Look at this sweetie.” She said, “There is no way I am getting one of these. It is too big.” If you are concerned about the size and you have an Apple store close by, pop in, take a look at it, and see what you think. In my case, we don’t have Apple stores in New Zealand. The only way you can buy from Apple is online. Other stores that sell Apple products don’t seem to have the Apple Watch Ultra in stock at the moment.

The other thing to be mindful of is that there is no Wi-Fi-only Apple Watch Ultra. That’s quite a good thing. When you get the Apple Watch Ultra, you have the cellular option. You don’t have to activate that if you don’t want to, but it’s there. Your carrier will have to support eSIM for wearables. Not all carriers will do that. In a country where there are a lot of natural disasters that is also a consideration for me. If I can activate the Apple Watch and have it work on cellular and have nice long battery life and make phone calls independently, that is something that could be handy one day. Maybe I’m just trying to find ways to justify it, but I’d be interested to see how it fits into my daily life.

That is the Apple Watch Ultra. The new top-of-the-line watch from Apple. If you have one, by all means, share your thoughts. jonathan@mushroomfm.com is my email address. You can attach an audio clip or write it down J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N at Mushroom FM dot com. You can call the listener line, 864-60MOSEN. That’s 864-606-6736. We’d be glad to play a selection of your thoughts when we come back on the 29th of January.

Evidence 111 is a compelling audio game for iOS and Android

Jonathan: Imagine that you’re listening to the radio or you’re watching the TV, you’re getting absorbed in a drama, and you find that you can influence the story. The decisions that you make for your character determine where the story is going to go next. That’s the experience that you get when you play a new audio game available for both iOS and Android called Evidence 111. It’s produced by a Czech company called Play by Ears. Tom Oramus joins us from the Czech Republic. Tom, it’s great to have you with us. Thanks for coming on the podcast.

Tom Oramus: Hi, thanks for inviting me here.

Jonathan: I have to say, I’m not much of a gamer, and it’s not because I’m boring. Well, I may well be boring, but that’s not why I’m not much of a gamer. It’s because I just don’t have a lot of time. I sat down and I thought, this is great. I’ve got some really cool homework for the podcast, and that is I get to play a game for my homework before I talk to you. I really got enthralled by this thing because it’s not a shoot ’em up game. It’s not an action game. It’s just, as I say, like listening to the radio or something, except that you are influencing what’s going to happen next. How did Play by Ears come to be because I understand that this game actually started with a Czech version about a year ago.

Tom: Yes, we did a Czech version actually it’s two years ago already. Time flies. I think the original idea was influenced by like the games such, I don’t know, [unintelligible 01:21:28] become human where you can– They are narrated like a movie and you can influence the story. We thought it’s a great concept and we both, me and Michal, really love it. We decided we could try something similar. Since I’m a sound designer, I was thinking, okay, let’s try do it just in sound because it’s obviously much easier to do and much cheaper. Also, it may be interesting whether people like it, so we try it.

Jonathan: Are there blind people involved in the company at all?

Tom: Actually, no. It’s just basically like the core team. It’s me and Michal and our scriptwriter, Rahdia. When we were developing the Czech version, we were consulting in here with blind community for some advices regarding how the game should be controlled and so on. We cooperated with them.

Jonathan: Did you go about designing this game with the blind community in mind, knowing that blind people are obviously going to love playing this game, or is the fact that it works so well for blind people just an accident that you wanted to create an audio experience for everybody?

Tom: Well, the initial idea was to create audio experience for anybody. It was, as I mentioned, we were thinking whether it could work for the people. Almost instantly we were thinking since it’s just in audio, we should do it also for the blind people because they probably will like it. We then started to cooperate with the community and even though it’s just in audio, we had to make some slight changes, for example, in some gameplay things and make it accessible for the blind people. That was the things we were consulting and trying to get the best experience for everyone.

Jonathan: It’s really good. When the game loads, I’m presuming it’s detecting that voice-over or talk-back might be running and it tells you what to do to get the full experience because it’s obviously, as a game like this, it is self-voicing, so you don’t have to have your screen reader running, and the gesture set is very simple. I’m also really impressed with the help that you have built into the game. If you ever forget what you should be doing to make the story proceed, you’re never too far away from help. It’s obviously something you’ve spent a lot of time on. Now that you have this English version, I must say, all of the elements that make this game so playable, the quality voice actors, the sounds, the way you’re immersed in the experience, I just marvel at these. It must take so much care and time to build these properly.

Tom: It was quite time-consuming, I have to admit. Some designers– It’s my profession and when I’m working on a movie I want to sound it best as it could. That was the same approach with the game. Also, that might be the reason also why it differs slightly from other games because the film background is slightly different and we wanted really to be it as a film without a picture.

Jonathan: Obviously, people can look this up in the app store or Google Play, but can you give us a description of the game? What’s it about?

Tom: In one word it’s about guilt, but if I describe the story more precisely or in more detail, it’s about a chief inspector that is blackmailed by an anonymous caller and he’s threatening to light up some information from her past. She has to bring evidence number 111 to an old hotel where she meets other guests. Also, there’s this case file family, and throughout her visit their son Hugo gets lost and everything gets slightly messed up in the hotel. That’s a basic plot line here.

Jonathan: I must admit, when I first started playing this game, I thought, I wonder if I’ve done something wrong because it starts off in about 1985, I think, and then it jumps quite some years into the future. I thought, ah, I wonder whether something I have done here, one of the decisions I’ve made, caused me to jump forward in time so quickly. I suppose some of the decisions you take could keep you in that original scene longer.

Tom: Well, not really the original scene. Actually, the original scene like 10 years ago, we edited it in the very last part of the development because we are thinking, oh, we need some introduction for historian, also like tutorial for the players. Rahdia, the script writer, was thinking, like, “Let’s do it like a prequel in the beginning.” It’s really just introduction of the story to get you inside and to get to know the controls and so on.

Jonathan: To what extent do the decisions that I make once I get to the main part of that story where you get the phone call and she phones into the radio station, that stuff, how much variation is there, depending on the decisions that I make? For example, whether she picks up the phone. Does it radically change the story at any point?

Tom: It depends. Some of them have greater impact, some of them have smaller. Definitely, most of the decisions give you some part that could be different. For example, if you choose to talk to one character then you can also talk to another one. Then, for example, don’t know his background story, and so on. We wanted for the decisions to matter, so we are tracking all the choices that player makes throughout the game. Based on these choices, you can have different outcomes in the end. It’s not like that you can pick your own ending at the moment when you reach it. For example, if you do wrong decisions throughout the game, you cannot get a good ending in the end, and so on.

Jonathan: How long will it take to play the game from start to finish, do you think?

Tom: I think it’s around two hours, based on the decisions. You can skip something, some parts, and so it’s around two hours.

Jonathan: It’s available in Google Play and the iOS app store. What’s the pricing for the game?

Tom: The price is $4.99, but we wanted that everyone can try it because when we started the Czech version, we were thinking we put this game on the store and someone downloads it for money, and then he realize that there’s no picture. Really, it did happen that after we released the game here in Czech Republic, we got many reviews that said, “Oh, my God, it’s crappy. There’s no picture.” That’s the reason why we decided that we are giving free demo version, I think it’s like first 20 minutes, and then you can decide whether to buy full game or not.

Jonathan: Presumably, you do find sighted people who get it. It’s very clear in the description. Who reads the description before they download, right? It’s very clear that this is an audio game. Do you find that there are sighted people who get it, who understand that it’s what we used to many years ago called the theater of the mind? In the intro you actually say, “Close your eyes and enjoy the experience.” Do some people get it?

Tom: Here in Czech Republic, we did like– There are really no Czech audio games, so our branding was the first Czech audio game. Even though people were writing us, “Why there’s no picture,” but also, on the other hand, there are people writing us, “Oh, it’s really amazing. I was playing it during the night and I exactly closed my eyes and it was really giving me chills.”

Jonathan: Is this the first of many, do you think? Are you hoping to be able to produce other audio games or might you branch into other more traditional gaming areas?

Tom: I think we’d like to stick with audio because the audio is what I really like. I’m passionate about it, so I think we’ll stick with audio games. I’m not sure whether the next game, if there’s going to be next one, it’ll be the same style as the Evidence or we try to do something different. We’d like to continue, and it’s just about how it is going to be, the reception of the Evidence.

Jonathan: See that seems a sensible business decision to me because obviously, the blind market is small, but it’s a hungry market, and I’m sure that you must have received a lot of appreciation even already from blind people for another game that we can fully play.

Tom: I think the reception or the reviews we got so far are really positive. I hope that the word’s going to spread and people will like it and we can do more games like this.

Jonathan: Thomas, thank you for joining us. It’s Tomáš Oramus from Play by Ears, who are bringing us Evidence 111. Now, I’m going to give you a brief snippet of this game. I certainly don’t want to spoil it for you, but I do want to give you enough so that you will realize just what a high-quality game this is and what it’s like to play. You can get it from the iOS app store or Google Play. Let’s invoke the game. Open Evidence 111.

Automated voice: Evidence 111. Direct touch area

Automated Voice: Main menu. You’ll start a new game by swiping right. To load a game you previously started, swipe left. By swiping up, you can turn the help for the visually impaired on or off. By swiping down on the screen, you can purchase the full game. You can exit the game in the same way you exit any other application on your device. To activate the help, swipe up with two fingers on your screen at any time during the game.

Jonathan: I’m going to start a new game now by swiping right.

Automated Voice: You are about to confirm a new game. To start a new game and rewrite your current story, swipe right on the screen. To return to the main menu, swipe left. To repeat the help, swipe up with two fingers.

Jonathan: I’ll swipe right.

Automated Voice: Evidence 111 is an interactive audio story. You will only see basic controls on your display without any graphics. You can pause the game at any time by swiping two fingers down the screen. By swiping two fingers to the right, you can skip to the next part of the game. By swiping to the left, you repeat the part of the game you are in right now. By swiping up, you will activate the help that will remind you how to use the controls. Your progress in the game is saved automatically. For the best experience, put on your headphones, close your eyes, and immerse yourself in the mystery of Evidence 111.

Judy: Hello? Hello, is anyone there? This is Judy. I’m calling all patrols. Please report. Jim, Alice. I’m calling all patrols. Respond, goddamnit.

Automated Voice: In certain moments, the story will pause and you will be able to decide how your character, Constable Alice Wells, will act or react. You’ll confirm your decision by swiping your fingers on the screen. If you want to choose the first option and report to the radio, swipe to the right. If you want to choose the second option and play a joke on the woman on the radio, swipe left. If you want Alice to repeat all the options, swipe up.

Alice: Shall I report to Judy or play a joke on her?

Jonathan: I’m going to swipe right.

Alice: This is Alice. I can hear you, Judy.

Judy: Finally. Someone’s responded. My God. Alice, where are you? What are you doing?

Alice: I’m at a petrol station about 25 miles out from town. Judy, is something happening?

Judy: Listen to me carefully. I’m sending Wilson and Bowers over to you. I need you guys to close the road down and check everyone that tries to go into town, understand? If anyone tries to drive through, you will stop them no matter what. Do you understand what I’m saying?

Automated Voice: Some of your decisions result directly from the situation that you have just heard. These are usually the moments when other characters require a clear yes or no answer from you. Swipe your finger to the right if yes, you understand what Judy is asking from you, or if the answer is no, you do not understand the instructions and would like Judy to repeat them, swipe to the left. The positions of yes to the right and no to the left remain the same throughout the whole game.

Alice: Do I understand what Judy wants?

Jonathan: Now, when you get a question like that, the phone vibrates. That’s another jog, if you will, that there’s a prompt here that you have to respond to. This time, I’m going to swipe left for no.

Alice: Sorry, I didn’t hear you well. What is it that you wanted?

Judy: You close the road down and stop everyone who comes near. Nobody can go into town. Do you copy?

Alice: Yes, Judy. Copy that.

Judy: Alice, this is really important.

Alice: Am I saying it’s not?

Judy: Then repeat what I want from you.

Alice: Am I a child or something?

Judy: Alice.

Automated Voice: In certain situations, Alice will be able to choose from three options. In such cases, you’ll pick the third option by swiping down the screen. The positions of the first and second options remain unchanged.

Alice: Shall I repeat the orders to Judy or not answer at all? Or maybe I should ask what’s going on?

Jonathan: I am going to swipe left.

Judy: Repeat the orders. Alice?

Alice: I wonder what’s happened in Farnham. Nothing really happens here. That must have been the one I’m supposed to stop. I can’t let him get away.

Automated Voice: Now you know everything you need to uncover the mystery of Evidence 111. However, be cautious about your decisions. How the story unfolds is solely up to you.

Alice: I need to go after him. [siren wails] Damn, they’re fast. What kind of car is that? I can’t keep up with him. Shall I call for backup or try to catch him alone?

Jonathan: I don’t think there’s time, so let’s try to catch him alone. I’ll swipe left.

Alice: I can’t do two things at once, otherwise he’ll get away. I’m on my own. How is he driving so fast? I can’t catch him in this piece of garbage. I can barely see him. What the hell?

Jonathan: That is Evidence 111. It is available in the App Store now and also in Google Play now. That’s the prequel bit, then it jumps to the main part of the game, which is set 10 years later. Congratulations to Play By Ears for this, and I hope you enjoy playing the game over your holiday break. Transcripts of Mosen At Large are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies on the web at pneumasolutions.com. That’s P-N-E-U-M-Asolutions.com.

Deep Fried turkey

Stan: Hello, Jonathan. The conversation with you and Bonnie made me think, because she mentioned turkey. When she mentioned turkey, I experienced a flashback. No, it was a drug-free flashback, but a flashback nonetheless. When I moved to Oregon, I went with family members to a snowmobile function. All the snowmobiles got together. It was a potluck, and they did, way for it now, deep-fried Turkey. You have to use a lot of peanut oil, and it is just very, very oil-rich.

I wouldn’t want to do this at home because you have to use gallons of oil for the process when you’re doing a deep-fried turkey for a large function, but it is so good. You think fried chicken is good? Well, deep-fried turkey is to die for. Well, when you consider that oil that’s used, [laughs] it probably is to die for in more ways than one. It is just great tasting, and I have to tell you, snowmobiling is not fun. I don’t care what people say. I rode on the back of a snowmobile wearing a helmet, but man, I did not like that experience. It felt to me like riding a bike and in, and I don’t want to do that.

Audio description

Gerra: Jonathan and every one of you guys at Mosen At Large, very, very good evening, morning, whatever you guys are tuned in. Gerra here from Tampico in Northeastern Mexico. Having gone through several [unintelligible 01:38:14] in a row during this past weeks and days, thus have had the opportunity to immerse myself in audio described series like La Reina del Sur, or for example, Designated Survivor and other interesting series, as well as on Prime Video like Picard, which brings me to comment on your interview with Joel Snyder in episode 204. Very, very well done. I really like the history, the historic background.

I never imagined that it would be from the ’70s and ’80s. The first access I ever had to audio description was in the ’90s, I think it was in 1990. There was a magazine in Braille by the name of DVS Guide, this was when we used to live in the States. In that magazine, apart from articles about what was happening within WGBH and the new DVS movies, shows and the like, you had a TV guide where you would have all of the station listed by state and city and you would see if your local station had DVS within it. That’s how I came into contact.

The very very first DVS movie I watched was Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. That movie really, really made me aware of how enriching audio description makes the TV, movie, series. You guys remember a scene in the movie where Picard, McCoy, and Spock were in Yosemite National Park right after Kirk almost fell off a rock ledge. Well, when I first watched the movie without description, I was almost sure that they were on some kind of a conference room in the Enterprise. I thought, “Then what will happen next?”

When I watched it with DVS, surprise, surprise, I was able to make more sense of the storyline itself because they were in Yosemite rock climbing and then that scene changed to where they were around a campfire and so on and so on and so on. The same thing happened to me with other movies like Jumanji, for example, that I watched in a movie theater. When I had the opportunity to watch it with DVS, was it with DVS? I think it was out of the UK. I don’t know that they described it in WGBH, but when I watched that one with description, what a change.

I was able to get more into the flow of the movie. That makes sense. The same thing happened to me with Old Yeller, for example, even though I was able to follow it without description, but when I watched it, this was with WGBH, like with ET and Star Wars, Star Wars IV, how can I forget that movie? Especially movies that have lots of pauses that don’t have dialogue, one is able to make much more sense and get into the movie or series with description. Then, of course, you have Netflix, which the joy of [unintelligible 01:41:25] in 2017 when I got Netflix on January of 2017 and I was able to watch like everyone else, series like Designated Survivor or The Troll, something about the trolls, I don’t remember, Trolls, and some other series, but here is a catch with audio description that I would like to bring up here with you guys.

You guys know how Netflix, for example, has the audio description track only in English or in Spanish depending where the series or the movie was done, right, or in the case of– you guys remember the Netflix series, The Squid Game? That one does have audio description but it’s only in the native language Korean. How in the world am I going to understand in Korean audio description. It would be neat if Netflix could accomplish like Disney Plus or Apple TV Plus already do to offer the audio description track not only in the original language but in other languages in which the movie can be translated, English, Spanish, for example.

That’s a catch with audio description, so Bravo for Disney Plus and for Apple TV Plus [unintelligible 01:42:49] are doing and hopefully next Netflix will be able to get onto that bandwagon. That will make audio description even more accessible to the blind throughout the world. Don’t you guys agree? Thanks again for all that you provide to us in the show. I would always learn something new. What will you guys continue to watch with audio description?

Jonathan: Well, I’m hoping on my summer break to watch a lot of audio-described content. I think that they did fix Squid Game, didn’t they? I haven’t watched that, but I think eventually we did get English audio description.

Is there a Dvorak keyboard tutor app

The angels are singing, there are celebrations because we’ve got another first-time contributor and it is Edgar. Edgar says, “Good afternoon. I am a first-time contributor, but a long-time follower and listener of your content.” It’s really good to hear from you, Edgar, welcome.

“My question is to the community at large. I am a totally blind JAWS user and I am trying to learn how to type using the Dvorak keyboard layout. Are there any accessible keyboard typing drills to teach the Dvorak keyboard layout?” What comes to mind is something like the old APH typing drills that used to come on audio cassettes back in the day. “I purchased TypeAbility thinking it may provide assistance in that regard, but to no avail. Any assistance from the community would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance to everyone who provides suggestions or advice.”

Crossing in a straight line


Oh, that’s a good song from a great New Zealand band. Straight Old Line from Split Enz and it seemed appropriate because, hi, Jonathan, Peter from Melbourne. On a recent podcast, the issue of crossing a road in a straight line while using a mobility cane was mentioned. I have a little vision, just enough to see the white line, but several blind people I know have mentioned this problem. I contacted Seeing AI and they have put the problem to their design team. In the meantime, I have been trying the compass on my iPhone. If you say, “Open compass,” and hold the phone flat in front of you, it will say the degrees from Magnetic North.

If the traffic is noisy, best to have ear devices of some type to hear clearly. This is not ideal because you have to hold the phone still and flat. Another solution is to call Be My Eyes and have a volunteer talk you across. Whoa, thanks, Peter. I guess people’s risk quotient will vary, but I do feel compelled to say I would not trust a volunteer at random on the internet to help me cross a street. You never know where people are picking up from, and that’s not to say that Be My Eyes isn’t a great app, it is, and people are very helpful, but there could be all sorts of distractions going on.

Also, it’s just the randomness of getting a volunteer anywhere, whether it’s on the internet or not. You can ask somebody for directions or assistance, and depending on who you get, it’s like, “Oh, it’s that way.” Well, what way is that way? They’re pointing and they don’t realize. There’s no training with Be My Eyes volunteers. You may get somebody who’s absolutely fantastic, you may get the complete opposite, but the compass app’s interesting, and the compass app is also on the Apple Watch as well. That’s something that people may like to comment on further.

Microsoft Teams

Christopher: Hello, Jonathan and others. On a previous episode, you raised the whole issue of using Microsoft Teams. I use it at work. For the most part, I don’t have a huge issue with using Teams. The one thing that I believe that Microsoft need to improve is the Hot Keys do not always work. My own experience is that, for example, Control 2 will not get you to your list of chats always, even if you are in a chat. If Microsoft could get this part of the interface working consistently, the Teams experience would be a lot pleasanter for everyone. I do find that Teams on iOS does actually work consistently with voiceover.

Jonathan: Absolutely. I agree with you on all counts, Christopher. There are some apps where you just have to decide which platform is most efficient to use that app on. For me, with Teams, it’s definitely iOS. The iOS Team’s experience is so much better and so much more reliable than the Windows Teams experience is. I certainly concur with you about the problem with the shortcut keys not always working, and I can whack that Control 4, for example, to try and get into my calendar to navigate to my next appointment, and it just does not work sometimes.

You have to quit the app, and restart the app, and face North, and pray to Bill Gates or whoever’s in charge these days. It’s not Bill Gates, is it? Maybe it’ll work. It’s very frustrating, but the other thing about Microsoft Teams as well is just how chatty it is. I think that’s the reference that I was making in my comments that I last made about Teams, that you’ve got people who somehow think that all this verbosity is necessary, when in fact, if you’re just trying to be productive on the job, less is sometimes more.

Newspaper content in audio

Vivian says, “In regards to accessible newspapers, I wanted to mention podcasts. The Economist offers a free podcast, which includes three free articles per week read out by a real human.” I’m actually quite a fan of The Economist. I don’t necessarily agree with all of their politics, but I like their reasoning and I also enjoy being exposed to different points of view. Very good read, the old Economist. Lots of articles on interesting subjects from politics to science and technology to interesting books.

Vivian says, “I would assume that there are many other newspapers that offer free podcasts that are worth considering.” Yes, of course, The New York Times has their very popular thing, The Detail, don’t they? The Guardian also have some podcasts, including The Guardian Audio Long Read, which is an article from The Guardian. Vivian says, “I know the Harvard Business Review also does.” Yes, I listen to one called IdeaCast every week and it’s really good. A very good thought, Vivian, I appreciate you sharing that.

Performing an iPhone clean install

Lewis Peña is writing in, he says, “Hi, Jonathan. I’m about to get an iPhone 14 Pro. I would like to do a clean install because I have some apps that are not working correctly. Could you please advise me of how to do a clean install and how to preserve my information such as passwords, contacts, pictures, and so on? I do have 2 terabytes of storage in iCloud.” Well, Lewis, one thing I would say, to begin with, is that the longer you’ve been using an iPhone, the more hassle this process actually is. I think it would be important to establish whether the hassle is worth the benefit. I went through this recently myself and concluded that the hassle was not worth the benefit.

Apps are sandboxed. That means that if you are finding an app is being problematic, you may be better uninstalling and reinstalling that app to see if that fixes the problem, rather than taking the nuclear option of starting afresh with the whole phone. People do criticize iOS for its sandbox approach, but typically, if you uninstall an iOS app, you really have uninstalled it, you’ve gotten rid of it. Reinstalling, starting again, may well be sufficient to fix the problem. If that is not sufficient to fix the problem with a specific app, then I think the chances of a reinstall from scratch of the whole operating system fixing the app is actually quite remote indeed.

Anyway, that said, if you want to go ahead, it’s really critical to make sure that iCloud is working correctly, and that your messages, your contacts, your passwords are all being backed up somewhere. The default way to backup passwords is to use iCloud Keychain. I don’t use iCloud Keychain, because until fairly recently, there wasn’t a Windows option for getting at your passwords in iCloud. I’ve not tried that new feature, so I don’t know how accessible it is. That’s one of the reasons why I use 1Password, because I have an iPhone, but I don’t use a Mac, I use a Windows PC. It’s important that all my passwords are available on all those devices, and 1Password does a very good job of that.

I’ve covered 1Password before, but if you are using iCloud Keychain on your phone, then all should be well, the password should be in iCloud Keychain when you switch iCloud on. By signing in on a new device, it will bring down your iMessages assuming that that is enabled in iCloud. It will also bring your contacts down as well. You will then go into the App Store and look at your list of purchases. Sometimes I purchase an app or download a free app and I don’t like it, I delete it, so it can take some time. I’ve got many, many hundreds of apps, some of which I have on my phone, some of which I don’t. You would go through and you would choose to reinstall those apps that you want on your phone.

Obviously, where sign in is appropriate or necessary, you will need to go into each app and sign in. It will take a very long time if you’ve been an iPhone user for a while and you have a lot of apps. Those are the basics of how to get it done. You will also, of course, if you’re starting from scratch, have to customize your phone the way you want. You will need to set up email accounts again, you will need to go through all your voiceover settings and have voiceover look and feel the way that you want. All the little options that make your phone yours, you will have to set those up from scratch again, so it is not for the faint of heart.

To that end, I would recommend that if you’re going to do this, before you do, make sure you have a fully encrypted iTunes backup, so that if you get to a certain point of this process, and you decide, “Oh boy, this is just too much hassle,” you’ve got that fully encrypted iTunes backup sitting there, ready to restore your phone to the way that you like it. I suspect that you may get to that point, but good luck. If you go down this route, I would be interested to know if you found that there were benefits in doing it.


Here’s an email from Frank which reads, “Hello, Jonathan, in response to Kim’s submission to Episode 210, there is an organization for people who have low vision. It’s the Council of Citizens With Low Vision International, CCLVI, which is a special interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. You can visit their website at dubdubdub.cclvi.org. If you are someone who doesn’t quite feel at home in the sighted world or in the blind world, you may find that CCLVI is the right place for you.” Thank you, Frank. I should have mentioned that, shouldn’t I? Since I have sat through many ACB roll calls and other events where CCLVI has popped up. I appreciate you popping up to headcam in that direction, should you wish to go there.


IPA Braille

Jonathan: Andrew Leland is writing in and says, “Dear Jonathan, in response to your listener’s query about using the International Phonetic Alphabet with Braille and screen readers, I wanted to share this robust resource page produced by Dr. Robert Englebretson.” There is a nice, long link here, so I shall include that in the show notes in the hopes that it helps Haya and any others who are interested in this subject. Thank you for sending that in, Andrew.

Wanting to be independent in health clubs and other places

Chad: Hey, Jonathan, this is Chad from Fort Wayne, Indiana. You’ve probably noticed right away and maybe others will too, sound quality improvements in my voice memo. I upgraded to an iPhone 14 sometime ago, actually just last week, what am I saying sometime ago. I’m very, very happy with it. You were talking about the incident with that hotel that didn’t want you in there because you had a guide dog. I don’t have a guide dog story, but I do have another one.

This was a lesson for me that I could and should stand up for myself, as long as I do it the right way. I was not afraid to play the business card. One particular health club in town, it was only like $19 a month. I wanted to become a member of it. The guy who was there, one of the managers, talked to me. He gave me the usual, “We’re afraid. What if you fall, a safety risk? What if you hurt yourself?” This that, this that. He kept saying, “You need a guardian.” That was the word he kept using, was guardian, which not only tells blind people can’t take care of themselves, but they need a guard, a protector. No, I don’t.

This was like 2009, 2010. I was like 36, 37 years old. No, I don’t need a protector, a guardian, anything like that. We went back and forth, and I eventually left and did not go back there. I don’t think that club even exists anymore. Well, the YMCA tried to do that to me some months later. They wanted $40 a month. I was willing to even pay that and not even ask for any blindness, disability or income related discounts or anything like that. I was willing to pay it. This guy too, he was polite. He didn’t use words like guardian, but he just kept insisting, “You really need to bring someone with you, we’re afraid of a safety risk,” which to an extent I understand.

I said, “Look, here’s the deal. I’ve had a friend tell me that there is another club in town that is more expensive than you are, they will accept me and let me be independent, and I’m willing to pay full price. That other place charges like $50 a month. Not only do you not get your 40, you don’t get their 50. That’s $90 a month in total loss just from you not letting me be independent and therefore not having me as a customer. Is that how you do business?”

That’s about how I did it. I was polite, I was kind, I didn’t yell and scream or slam my fist or anything like that. I wanted to be kind about it, but I was very firm. I had some friends with me and we got to talking, and a few minutes later, after he talked to some– I think he talked to a person there, and he eventually said to me, “Hey, thanks for your perspective,” and he even said, “Thanks for getting in my face.” I said, “I wasn’t trying to get in your face. I don’t want to do that. I want to be independent, and there’s no reason I can’t be. I can learn this place. I have a little bit of vision. I can learn this place.”

Anyway, we left, at about a half hour later, I get a phone call from him, “Hey, we’d love to have you.” I was only there for a year. The point is, I want to be independent. I’ve done other places too. The security at one of the malls here in town, they have a phone number and I started– one day I called them to see if I could get escorted around a couple of times just to a store, whatever else. They didn’t have to go with me in where I wanted to go. I just wanted to get from place to place.

Finally, they had somebody just say to me, “Can’t you bring your friend with you? We’re busy. We got other things to do.” I told one of the escorts what the person said, and I said, “As far as I’m concerned, that’s your job. You’re security. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. That’s like associates at your stores, your grocery stores and [unintelligible 01:59:28] customer service helping people, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

The only thing that I’ve had some people ask me to do is to at least call them in advance, to let me know they’re coming so they can get someone ready for me, which to an extent I don’t mind doing, but I don’t always know when I want to shop or that kind of a thing, and I don’t want to be tied down to that commitment either. I don’t mind waiting for a while if that’s what it takes, but I think we need to give and take a little bit on things like that.

If we can make it easier for associates to be ready for [unintelligible 02:00:07] that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As far as getting escorted place to place, whatever else, I believe that’s their job, whether it’s security, whether it’s customer service, anything like that. Also, if people like us want to be independent, we shouldn’t have to bring someone with us all the time, and I frankly don’t want to.

Jonathan: Thank you, Chad. I have said many times in my life that the biggest problem of blindness is other people’s perceptions, and I truly believe it. That is what holds us back the most, and what can also hold us back is if we internalize those perceptions. On that note, I will leave you for 2022 for the Mosen At Large podcast. I’d like to wish you and yours happy holidays no matter what or how you are celebrating. Stay safe, be rested, and thank you for all your contributions, which you are welcome to keep sending in over the break, because if you don’t, I will be back on the 29th of January with nothing to play.

Whenever something comes on your mind, takes your fancy, you think, “Oh, I’d like to share that on Mosen At Large,” do be in touch, we’ll stack them up and play them when we’re back on the 29th of January. Take care and thank you.


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


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