Podcast transcript: Mosen At Large Episode 117, come to Mosen At Large, Sonos Roam set up and reviewed, and more on ableist language
This transcript is made possible thanks to the support of InternetNZ.
Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen and this is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. On the show today, Mosen At Large becomes accessible to the deafblind community. I review the Sonos Roam described by TechRadar as the best portable Bluetooth speaker in the world and more on ableist language.
Jonathan: Great to have you back for another busy episode of the show, hope that your week has gone well. We’ve been busy here. Did you order things? I did order things. I ordered some AirTags, a pack of four. I said in a little promo message that I sent out ahead of the show that I have been really impressed by what they’re saying AirTags can do and how they work.
The reviews are now in the embargo lifted on the reviews just a few hours before the pre-orders went live. I read a lot of reviews of the AirTags and was super impressed. I can’t wait to try them. We’ll, of course, try them on this show, but you have to buy accessories to attach them to things. Tiles really got a lot going for it in this regard because they have various form factors. You can get the tiles stickers.
You get different sized tiles that attach to things like keychains. That’s just a part of the tile. Bizarrely, if you want to attach a tile to a keychain, then you’ve actually got to buy an accessory from Apple that costs more than the tile. [laughs] That is quintessentially Apple, isn’t it? I’m sure that if the reviews are believed it also works in a quintessentially Apple way, I’ve ordered a four-pack of the AirTags.
I’m going to have one for luggage purposes, one for my keyring, one in my wallets. I’m sure I’ll find a use for the fourth one or Bonnie will take the fourth one. I’m sure we will find a use for all four of them. We have iOS 14.5 dropping early in the week. It is important that that operating system be on people’s iPhones before the AirTags start arriving. If you’ve not been testing iOS 14.5, I can tell you it’s a pretty robust release.
“Ship it,” is what I say. Ship it. Indeed, they are about to ship it. If you’re running iOS 14.5, that is totally like so next week because some of us are already running the first beater of iOS 14.6. I haven’t found too much exciting in there at the moment. It seems well-behaved. Knock on wood. The speculation is that the primary purpose of that release is going to be to just introduce a few things pertaining to the new podcast subscription service, so we will see.
It is a special episode of Mosen At Large today as I have something to tell you. We have been on a remarkable journey together since I started Mosen At Large in August of 2019. I’ve been podcasting since all the way back in 2004, but I started this particular podcast in August 2019. I wasn’t sure how regularly I would be able to produce the podcast, nor how much time I could devote to producing it.
I started it because I had a job outside of the blindness field and I wanted to just keep my connections with the global blind community. I called it Mosen At Large because for the first time in a long while, I wasn’t associated with any major player in the blindness technology space. I could be free to share my own opinions and to fund the podcast myself. I’m not beholden to any sponsor and that’s liberating.
Over the last 20 months or so, I have published 116 episodes. This is Episode 117 that you are hearing now. Many of these episodes are around two hours long. Given my interest in technology, we’ve talked extensively about its use from a blindness perspective. We have covered tips and tricks, new product demonstrations, explanations, and tutorials. We’ve discussed the promise of this technology to level the playing field as well as its frustrations.
I wanted the podcast to truly reflect all the things that interest me. I’ve been keen to go beyond technology. In the end, technology is a means, not an end in itself. It’s a means to self-actualization for blind people, a way for us to maximize our contribution to society. Achieving such important goals requires changes and public policy, more enlightened public attitudes, and the belief among blind people that we have the right to advocate for our full inclusion.
This podcast has reflected a lot of my personality. We’ve talked about topics like low-carb eating and meditation as well as a range of blindness topics. Mosen At Large has become more than just a podcast that communicates my interests and views. Although, of course, as its host, I lead the discussion. It is humbling to note that we are heard by thousands of blind people every week, as well as a few sighted people who are interested in hearing about lived experience of blindness and the things that we are thinking about.
Our shows are packed with contributions from our community across the world. It is an amazing thing to be a part of. I thank you for making it what it has become. I managed to pull off the production of this podcast by devoting a small amount of time at the beginning and end of my workday as well as much of my Saturday before I publish it on Sunday, New Zealand time.
I love to do it. I have however had one serious concern. It hasn’t been possible for those members of the deafblind community who can’t hear podcasts to benefit from the material the podcast offers and to contribute to the discussion. To try and fix that, I investigated various ways of addressing this serious accessibility deficit. I tried various automated transcription services which, had they worked, I would have been able to fund from my own pocket.
Though they are reasonably effective for a single speaker with a good microphone, they don’t always work so well with the range of accents and recording environments usually heard on our podcast. For Mosen At Large, the only thing that was going to cut the mustard was a transcript generated by humans. When you’re producing three hours of content weekly, that is a considerable expense to meet out of one’s own pocket for a podcast that carries no advertising.
Right now, I don’t want it to carry advertising. I did fund a transcript of the Brailliant Braille display discussion because that was of particular interest to deafblind people. The response I got was very moving. People appreciated being included. This spurred me on to try to find a longer-term solution. I’m really excited to tell you that that solution has come in the form of an on-demand grant generously provided by InternetNZ.
Among its many important functions, InternetNZ provides funding to support community-led initiatives that extend the availability, use, and benefit of the internet. I am profoundly grateful to have received a $10,000 grant to fund the production of podcast transcripts for Mosen At Large. This will allow the deafblind community to enjoy the podcast via technologies like refreshable Braille or using their text-to-speech engine of choice, which may be easier for some to hear than a spoken word recording.
Deafblind people can participate in the discussion by emailing a written email or attaching an audio clip if they want to do that. I have been passionate about seeking a way to do this because deafblind people are far too often excluded from these conversations. InternetNZ’s grant will make a big difference to a group that is digitally excluded most of the time. I know the podcast will be the richer for deafblind people being able to offer their perspectives on the issues being discussed.
I hope that the lives of deafblind people will be enhanced by the provision of information and debate. Transcripts will be published on mosen.org going forward, starting with today’s episode within a few days of the audio being published. If you know of deafblind people who might benefit from this resource, I would appreciate you spreading the word and there will be a blog post on mosen.org all about this initiative.
If you use the transcripts and find them beneficial, then please let me know so I can pass your feedback on to InternetNZ so they can be aware of the difference that their generous grant is making. As well as a huge thank you to InternetNZ, I want to thank the Mosen At Large family who listen and contribute to Mosen At Large every week. We have built a very special community of which I’m immensely proud.
Sometimes we discuss some challenging, contentious issues, but we do so in a climate of mutual respect. That is all too rare in this polarized age. If this grant from InternetNZ will allow you to be a part of the Mosen At Large community for the first time, I warmly welcome you and look forward to your contributions.
Advertisement: For all things Mosen At Large, check out the website where you can listen to episodes online. Subscribe using your favorite podcast app and contact the show. Just point your browser to podcast.mosen.org. That’s podcast.M-O-S-E-N.org.
Jonathan: Once again, it is time for another tremendous Bonnie Bulletin with the tremendous Bonnie Mosen.
Bonnie Mosen: Hi.
Jonathan: Is this the first time you have ever been transcribed?
Jonathan: Why not?
Bonnie: Because I’ve been involved in many presentations that were also transcribed, so I assume that I was part of that transcription as well.
Jonathan: It’s exciting to welcome those people who can participate in the show. Thanks to the transcription though.
Bonnie: Absolutely, absolutely.
Jonathan: Yes, so welcome to you. This is a slightly different Bonnie Bulletin because, normally, we go out live with the Bonnie Bulletin on Mushroom FM as the show is produced, and then we slice it and dice it and condense it and make it available on the podcast version for those who cannot suffer through the full three hours on Mushroom FM or Facebook or YouTube or Clubhouse when we do this live.
We are prerecording the Bonnie Bulletin today because when you have a lot of friends in the United States or anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere and you are celebrating a birthday in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s kind of like you have the birthday that never ends because people start wishing you a happy birthday in the Southern Hemisphere, and then the birthday just keeps on going into the next day.
My birthday is the 24th of April. As the show’s being produced, it still is the 24th of April in some places even though it’s the 25th of April here. Oh, my goodness. It’s a brain breaker, but thank you to everyone who has left kind birthday messages. It’s really nice. I won’t play them all because it’s kind of boring for those who aren’t interested, but I do really appreciate them. Some of them have been quite inventive. People playing on musical instruments and all sorts of things.
Bonnie: That’s cool. I did sing to you, but I won’t do that here.
Jonathan: Won’t you?
Bonnie: No, I did the Marilyn Monroe thing because everybody does that on my birthday, does Marilyn Monroe.
Jonathan: Okay, all right. Happy birthday, Mr. Chief Executive.
Bonnie: [imitates Marilyn Monroe] Happy birthday.
Jonathan: I thought you said you weren’t going to do that.
Jonathan: Okay, so you have a present for me that we were going to do on the Bonnie Bulletin.
Bonnie: Yes, I do, and I will hand it over.
Jonathan: Oh, okay, this is cool.
Bonnie: It looks like a knock-off of an Apple package.
Jonathan: Okay. Oh, wow, that’s a small present. Are we going to say what it is or shall I open it up?
Bonnie: Why don’t you open it up?
Jonathan: Oh, okay.
Bonnie: I think you probably know what it is, but you can open it up. That’s always nice.
Jonathan: Yes, unboxing these things is always a challenge. There’s a bit of tape. It’s quite a small box. I don’t know. How would you describe the box? You’re good at describing things.
Bonnie: It’s a little bit bigger than an iPhone box, kind of.
Jonathan: It stands taller than an iPhone, much taller.
Bonnie: It’s not as flat as an iPhone box, but it does remind me of Apple packaging, except it doesn’t have that slick feel that the Apple boxes have, but it is that sort of box.
Jonathan: It’s not glossy.
Bonnie: No, it does have a little ribbon on the end that you can, I guess, carry it by or I guess where they have it hanging up in the store maybe?
Bonnie: Little ribbon on the end of that.
Jonathan: I’m trying to get some traction. I find unboxing some of these things incredibly frustrating. Do you know how to get into this thing? Because something’s closing. Oh, it’s like a tape across the top of the box.
Bonnie: Yes, I think it’s the price tag.
Jonathan: Oh, really? Oh, well, just as well I can’t see that because aren’t you supposed to take the price tags off when you gift–
Bonnie: Well, it may not be the price tag. I don’t know. They may have tape. There we go. There’s one. Yes, I think we got it now. We have capture, as they say, in space.
Jonathan: Okay, so thank you very much. Now, the top is going to come off the box.
Bonnie: Yes, it does come off like a–
Jonathan: All right, and what we have in the box is it’s wrapped in this soft material. This is obviously the Sonos Roam and it’s much smaller than I was anticipating. Thank you very much, by the way.
Bonnie: Oh, [chuckles] you’re welcome.
Jonathan: This is very exciting. When we were looking at speakers last year, I really wanted to stay in the Sonos ecosystem because we have so much Sonos stuff. The Sonos Move, which was the only portable option out, was just too big to lug around in the suitcase, really. This is quite small. It is much smaller than the Megaboom, which we did have. Have you had a look at this actually out of the box?
Bonnie: I haven’t seen it. Wow, it’s funny. It’s not round like a– Oh, I guess because you can lay it down.
Bonnie: Okay, that makes sense. It’s sort of Sonos-shaped, so it has little feet so you can lie it down, so it doesn’t have to stand up like an Echo or a Boom or anything like that. It says it’s black and it says it’s branded and that you can feel the brand on it. It says S-O-N-O-S, written and the speaker’s in front here. So cool.
Jonathan: Yes, very small.
Bonnie: It is little. I like the size. To me, it’s probably easier to pack than the others we’ve had, honestly, because you can just wrap the little thing up. Does it come in a little carrying case or anything?
Jonathan: All it really has is this soft carrying case you can put–
Bonnie: Oh, yes, you can put it in there. Oh, that’s cool.
Jonathan: It’s just soft material. There’s a little package, and in the bottom of the box–
Bonnie: It’s like a dust cover.
Jonathan: We have USB for charging. The Sonos Roam also does AirPlay and Bluetooth.
Bonnie: Yes, it’s like a dust cover.
Jonathan: It has the voice assistant built-in as well. Pretty sparse in terms of what’s in here. Just the USB cable for charging. What are you giving me back?
Bonnie: The dust cover, yes.
Jonathan: Oh, the little, soft carrying case. We should keep that somewhere safe. I definitely agree with Bonnie that when you have it lying horizontal so that the feet that are on the device are positioned downwards, it does feel like a Sonos Arc. It now has that Sonos feel about it with the Sonos engraving on the top. If you have it positioned that way, on the left-hand side of the device, which could also be the top if you have it standing upright because it can be both, it appears that you have a lot of controls on the top.
These, I imagine, are for playback and volume. No doubt we will get to working out what they do in a sec. If you are lying it horizontally so that the Sonos Roam is positioned in that way so that it feels like a soundbar, on the underside of it, you’ve got a USB-C port, and then next to the USB-C port is quite a big button. That is unquestionably the power button, I would say. It feels like a power button and it’s separate from everything else.
Since it’s right by the USB port, my detective work would suggest to me that this is how you power it on. What I will do is power it on. I’ll hold down the power button. Doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of press in this power button, but I presume it is on. What I might just do is the old trick that I have as a hearing aid user of switching on to the hearing aid loop mode, the telecoil of my hearing aids, and putting it to my ear.
Yes, that works, because by putting it to my ear that way, this is the one advantage of being a hearing aid user. I can hear that the electrics, the electronics are now active, so I know that the Roam is powered up. In typical Sonos style, we’re going to have to set up the Roam now. I’ll do that by going into the Sonos app. Many people will already be familiar with the Sonos app, but there will be some who are not.
I’ve written extensively about Sonos. We’ve talked a lot about Sonos in various podcasts I’ve done over the years. If you’re not familiar with the way that Sonos devices work, you can control them in several ways. The primary one, the one that’s been going many, many years now is the Sonos app. This to me has some significant accessibility advantages, assuming, of course, that the Sonos app remains accessible.
It has become increasingly accessible over the years. In the six or so years that I have had Sonos equipment, there was only one small glitch and that was fixed pretty quickly. They are vigilant about keeping the app accessible. Because Sonos is a multi-room system, you can group speakers together in this app. It’s easy to do and it works beautifully. The speakers do remain in sync right across your house, so you can create different speaker groups depending on what you’re doing at any particular time.
From an accessibility point of view, one of the attractive things about Sonos is that you can use many services from within the Sonos app. Provided Sonos holds up its end of the bargain and keeps the app accessible, it means that you can often have a much better experience with certain services than in their own apps or on their own websites. The Sonos user interface is very consistent. It can sometimes be just way easier to use things from within Sonos.
When you have subscribed to a bunch of services in Sonos, for example, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, and many more, you can search across all of those services at once from the Sonos app. If you’re looking for a particular obscure track, rather than go to each of those services and their own app or website to see if one of your services happens to have that obscure track, just search within the Sonos app and it will search across all the services that you are subscribed to. When you’re building a playlist in the Sonos app, you can build that playlist from multiple sources.
You might play a track from a service that gives you access to lossless music, but there might be a track that’s only available, say, on Apple Music or Spotify, which is not lossless. You can mix and match, save the Sonos playlist, and it will play from a range of sources. As well as what I hope will prove to be a superb quality portable speaker experience, the Sonos Roam is giving you all the benefits of the Sonos ecosystem and the highly accessible Sonos app. We’ll talk to Siri. Open Sonos.
iPhone using Alex voice: Connected to Sonos. Alarms button.
Jonathan: Now, we need to be in the system tab and it looks like–
Alex: New card. Shadow Sonos Roam.
Jonathan: Oh, there we go. It’s found it. Before we go on though, just a reminder that you do need to be running Sonos S2. This is the new operating system. If you have older Sonos equipment and you’ve been reluctant to upgrade because of that, you are going to need to split your Sonos system off. If you have very old Sonos equipment that can’t run Series 1 of the operating system, you’re going to have to create two Sonos systems essentially because you got to have S2 for this to work. I’m going to flick right.
Alex Add button.
Jonathan: There’s the add button. That was so straightforward.
Alex Serial number, close button. Close–
Jonathan: There we go, so we have an add button and a close button.
Alex Add button.
Jonathan: I’ll double-tap.
Alex Add. New card. Getting your Sonos Roam ready. Please wait.
Jonathan: Okay, I will.
Alex Let’s play a chime on your Sonos Roam to temporarily connect your mobile device to it.
Jonathan: Okay then, I’m going to just position the Sonos Roam here on the table in front of the microphone and we’ll flick that.
Alex Continue button, dimmed. 100%.
Jonathan: It’s making that noise. Hopefully–
Alex Charging status bar item. Sonos new card connecting to yours– New card connecting Sonos Roam to man and Wi-Fi. Please wait.
Jonathan: Because I already have a Sonos system, it’s connecting to the Sonos network that we already have.
Alex Connecting Sonos Roam to man and Wi-Fi. New card. 100%– New card. There’s an update available for your Sonos Roam. That must be completed two to six minutes before you can use it. Update button, close button, close button.
Jonathan: That’s all that’s on the screen, so we’ll go back to update-
Alex Update button.
Jonathan: -and double-tap.
Alex Update. New card. Update one of the tune with Trueplay trademark. Adapt the sound of your speakers to the acoustics of the room. Updating your Sonos Roam. Downloading and applying new software. Please wait. Starting your Sonos Roam.
Jonathan: That is very quick. I guess it helps to have a gigabit connection. We’ll just wait for that to restart it. It shouldn’t take too long based on how quickly things are happening. You often see this with Sonos.
Alex Finishing the update. Please wait.
Alex New card. Your Sonos Roam has been added. You can continue personalizing it in settings.
Jonathan: That made a pretty bassy sound actually when it came up. I’ll double-tap done.
Alex Done. New card. Sonos Roam can use auto Trueplay to adapt to your environment. Continue button, continue. New card. Sonos Roam retunes when you pick it up and periodically adjust the sound as long as the microphone is on. Enable button.
Jonathan: That sounds interesting. I’ll enable that.
Alex Enable. New card. Auto Trueplay is enabled on your Sonos Roam. Done button. Alarms button.
Jonathan: Now, I’m back in the system screen of the Sonos app. It looks like we are ready to go. To verify this, I’ll see if I can locate the speaker. We are on the system tab of the Sonos app now. I’ll go to the top of the screen-
Alex Alarms button.
Jonathan: -and flick right.
Alex System adding. Bathroom button. Select rooms button. David Sonos button. Select rooms button. Currently playing Bach. Dining room button. Select rooms button. Guest Sonos button. Select rooms button. Currently playing poop. Starting Amazon Alexa. Lounge button. Select rooms button. Currently playing shots. Nicholas Sonos button. Select rooms button. Currently playing no music selected. Sonos Roam battery is at 51% button.
Jonathan: Excellent. Here’s the Sonos Roam. I’m sure I can give this a name if I want to in the system tab. We will take a look at that in just a moment. Right on the Sonos screen, it tells me the battery status, which is a great feature. I have 51% battery. For those not familiar with the way that Sonos works, you can hear that “select rooms button” after every room. If you double-tap that button, you’ll be presented with a list of all of your Sonos devices.
You can double-tap each one that you want to be grouped together. You can also save those speaker groups. It is in Sonos mode right now, which means that it’s just another room on the Sonos. This means if you want to take something out on the deck, the balcony, then you’re able to do that. I’m going to double-tap to select the Sonos Roam.
Alex Selected. Sonos Roam battery is at 51%.
Jonathan: Now, I should be able to play something from the Sonos app. We’ll do that initially because it’s a pretty straightforward thing to do. I’ll go to the My Sonos tab-
Alex My Sonos tab one of five.
Jonathan: -and double-tap.
Alex Selected. My Sonos–
Jonathan: Let’s just go to something that we can play. We’ll just tap here.
Alex New shore Beatles songs, the archers, more stations, 18. The Fab Four 24/7.
Jonathan: All right, so there’s The Beatles Channel from SiriusXM. I’ll just double-tap and we’ll give it a quick listen. It will be okay if we’re not going to play too much. It’s playing Honey Pie by The Beatles. This gives me a chance to have a look at the controls on the top. There is one button here that is actually distinct. I think this might be play/pause. Yes, it’s play/pause. Unlike some of the newer Sonos devices, this does have physical buttons. I’ll tap that button again and I would expect that it will, yes, resume. I’m also assuming that we’ve got volume up and volume down. Play/pause is in the center of two buttons. I’m just going to tap this, yes, and you can hear the typical Sonos sound.
[song Honey Pie playing]
Jonathan: Putting out a very nice sound here. That distinctive play/pause button is a multi-function button. You tap it to play and you tap it to pause. You can also double-tap it to skip forward to the next track when you’re playing an album. You can triple-tap it to skip back to the previous track when you’re playing an album or, for that matter, a playlist. You can also hold the button in for various lengths. If you hold it down for just a little bit, you will get it into the mode where you can group it with other Sonos speakers.
If you hold it down for longer, you will get into the swap mode. This is a genius feature and I will have a go at this and see if it works as well as the user guide says it should later in the review. The other button, slightly separate from that line of three, is the button to toggle the microphone for your voice assistant of choice if you choose to set one up, be it the Soup Drinker or Google Assistant. Let’s go and see what we can do in terms of customizing it. The sound is really quite full and rich for what it is. What do you think of that quick bit of sound there, Bonnie?
Bonnie: It sounds good. It sounds good. Do you have it plugged into the mixer?
Jonathan: No, it won’t plug into the mixer.
Bonnie: Okay, so you just have it there.
Jonathan: Because there’s no headphone jack or anything like that. I’m just listening to it. It’s sitting in front of the microphone on the desk here. It’s a pretty good sound.
Bonnie: If someone wanted to buy one, would they have to have other Sonoses too or could they–
Jonathan: No, you can start your Sonos system off with one of these and you can connect via Bluetooth. You can also connect via AirPlay. If you don’t want to get too steeped in the Sonos ecosystem, you can just buy this and use it as a portable speaker. This is an alternative to Bose or UE or any of those, JBL, any of those portable speaker options.
Bonnie: Okay, so you could connect it to your phone or for Echo or better to just do it with the phone?
Jonathan: You could connect it to your Echo because it’s Bluetooth-capable. Although, yes, I’m not sure why you would because if you connect this to your Wi-Fi, then you also can set this up with your voice assistant of choice. We’ll take a look at that.
Alex Settings tab- four of five. Selected settings, settings heading. Setup, get to know your Sonos Roam. Estimated time, five minutes button.
Jonathan: Well, that’s amazingly user-friendly. The Sonos app is so accessible. Right at the top here, it knows that we have a new Sonos Roam and that we should get to know it. Let’s go through that process. I’ll double-tap.
Alex New card. Explore Sonos Roam.
Jonathan: We’ll flick around to get this information.
Alex Learn how to use controls and features. Loading tour content.
Jonathan: How long is that going to take?
Alex Start product tour button.
Jonathan: Okay, we’ll do that.
Alex Start product tour dimmed. New card. Let’s try that again.
Jonathan: All right then.
Alex There was a problem loading the product tour. Try again. Try again button.
Jonathan: I’ll double-tap.
Alex Try again. New card. Explore Sonos Roam. Start Product Tour button.
Jonathan: We’ll try again.
Alex Start product tour, dimmed. New card. Let’s try that again.
Jonathan: Well, it’s not going to work, so that’s really disappointing. There’s a product tour here and, repeatedly, it is not letting me access the product tour.
Alex Try again later button.
Jonathan: We’ll press the Later button.
Alex Later– Settings heading. Setup heading. Add a voice assistant. Estimated time, 10 minutes button.
Jonathan: Okay, we’ll do that. We’ll add a voice assistant. I’ll double-tap.
Alex Amazon Alexa in rooms, bathroom, dining room, lounge. Google Assistant requires Google Assistant app. Cancel button.
Jonathan: Sonos supports the Google Assistant and it also supports Amazon Assistant, whose name we know well, but I call it the Soup Drinker so that we don’t trigger everybody’s machines around the world. I’m going to go with the Soup Drinker because it’s my voice assistant of choice. You do have to choose one or the other. You can’t have Google Assistant and the Soup Drinker running on these devices at the same time. I’m going to go with the Soup Drinker, so we’ll flick left-
Alex Google– Amazon Alexa in rooms, bathroom, dining room, lounge.
Jonathan: – and double-tap.
Alex Add Amazon Alexa heading. Amazon Alexa is a free voice service that lets you use voice commands to play music, get the news and weather, and more. Add to Sonos button.
Jonathan: I’ll double-tap.
Alex Select rooms. Heading, you’ll set up Amazon Alexa on these products one at a time. Select All button. Sonos Roam, bathroom, Amazon dining room, Amazon lounge.
Jonathan: We have a number of Sonos devices where it is already set up, but it is not set up on the Sonos Roam, so I’ll flick back-
Alex Dot, dot, Sonos Roam.
Jonathan: -and double-tap.
Alex Selected Sonos Roam.
Jonathan: Voiceover confirms that it is selected. I’ll go to the bottom of the screen now-
Alex Back button, add Amazon Alexa button.
Jonathan: -and double-tap.
Alex Add to the Sonos Roam. Heading. Sign in to the Amazon account you want to use to add Alexa to this room. Sign in to Amazon button.
Jonathan: I’ll double-tap.
Alex Sign in to Amazon. Location tracking on image satisfier item. Text field is editing. Character mode, address, 12%-voice-service-setup.amazon.com secure and validated connection. Welcome to Alexa. Just ask to play and control music, set timers, check the weather, and more. Get Started button.
Jonathan: I’ll double-tap.
Alex Address, address, sign in heading, level one. Forgot password? Email phone for mobile accounts. Text field email phone for mobile accounts.
Jonathan: I’ll pause the recording while I sign in to the service. I am signed in now. Wherever possible, I now use Microsoft Authenticator to do my two-factor authentication rather than text message. I’ve done that now and I got the message that the Soup Drinker is ready to use in Sonos Roam and she actually said, “Hi,” so we’ll confirm that.
Alex Sonos is ready to use in Sonos Roam. Heading, you linked Sonos Roam to Amazon account, jonathan@mosen.– Continue button.
Jonathan: We’ll continue.
Alex The microphones are on and ready to listen. Heading, your default language was set to English US. Your voice language can be changed on Amazon in the settings in the Sonos App. Continue button.
Alex How do I know if Alexa heard my voice? Heading, when you say hello, the status light on your Sonos speakers will flash, but you won’t hear a wake word chime until you confirm that it is listening. You can turn the chime on for your speakers now or do it later in the voice service settings for a room. Turn chime on button.
Jonathan: We’ll do that.
Alex Set the default music service for Alexa. Heading, make sure you set the default music service in the Alexa app. It will make voice commands faster and simpler. To play music with your voice, you’ll need to set up your music services in both the Sonos and Alexa app. Continue button.
Jonathan: I’ll double-tap.
Alex Alert. Sonos would like to send you notifications. Notifications may include alerts, sounds, and icon badges. These can be configured in Settings. Don’t Allow button, Allow button.
Jonathan: I’ll double-tap “allow.”
Alex Sonos link your music services in the Alexa app. Heading, go to Alexa app button.
Jonathan: I’ve done that a long time ago, so I’ll continue.
Alex Back button, Back button. Go to Alexa app button.
Jonathan: Well, it doesn’t seem to let me bypass this, so I’ll double-tap it.
Alex Amazon home tab 1 of 5.
Jonathan: Where are we now?
Alex Home tab, music and podcast. Now, playing tab–
Jonathan: Yes, we are in the Amazon Soup Drinker app, so I’m going to go back to the Sonos app.
Alex Go to the-
Jonathan: I’m back in the Sonos app. If I go to the bottom of the screen–
Alex Back button. I’ve set up my music in Alexa button.
Jonathan: Now that the Sonos app knows that I opened the app, there is a new button now that I can double-tap to confirm that I’ve set up my music.
Alex Let’s play music with your voice. Heading, control Sonos with Alexa. Try saying this. Alexa, play radio. Alexa, turn volume down to three. Alexa, pause. More Information button, back button, done button.
Jonathan: I’ll double-tap done.
Alex Settings, Back button. Services and voice heading, voice heading.
Jonathan: We seem to have gone through the setup. What I want to do now is go and have a look at the settings specifically for the Sonos Roam. I’ll go back.
Alex: Settings, Back button. Settings heading.
Jonathan: In that case, the two-finger scrub gesture did not work, so I had to double-tap the Back button. I’ll flick right.
Alex Account jump system button.
Jonathan: Double-tap the System button.
Alex Product heading.
Jonathan: Now, we have the products that are set up on the Sonos system.
Alex Bathroom one. David Sonos play:one, dining room, one button. Guest Sonos play:one. Lounge plus LS, plus RS arc button. Master bedroom, play:five button. Nichola’s Sonos play:one button. Sonos Roam battery is at 47% button.
Jonathan: I’ll double-tap.
Alex Name heading.
Jonathan: Now, we can configure the device from this screen, so I’ll flick right.
Alex Room Sonos Roam button.
Jonathan: I’m actually quite happy to call it the Sonos Roam because it is not going to stay in any particular room and it’s a clear unambiguous name for it. If you want to change the name of your Sonos Roam speaker, assuming you are going to get one, you can double-tap.
Alex Room name, Sonos Roam. Text field–
Jonathan: There’s a text field here where you can type anything you like. There is a character limit. If you prefer to select from a series of presets, we can flick right.
Alex Bathroom 2 button, bedroom button, den button, dining room 2 button, family room button, foyer button, garage button, garden button, guest room button, hallway button, kitchen button, library button, living room button, lounge 2 button, main bedroom button, media room button, office button, patio button, playroom button, pool button, portable button, TV room button.
Jonathan: Those are the preset choices. I’ll go back to the previous screen. Again, the two-finger scrub gesture is not working, so I’ll go to the top of the screen.
Alex Sonos Roam Back button.
Jonathan: Double-tap the Back button.
Jonathan: I’ll flick right.
Alex Sonos Roam heading, name heading, room Sonos Roam button, products heading. Roam battery is at 47% button.
Jonathan: What happens if we double-tap that button?
Alex Product heading.
Jonathan: Flick right.
Alex Battery is at 47% tab bar.
Jonathan: Okay, that’s all there is in this screen. We’ll go back.
Alex Sonos Roam, Back button. Sonos Roam battery is at 47% button.
Jonathan: Focus returned to where I was before, so I’ll flick right.
Alex Set up stereo pair button.
Jonathan: If you want, you can buy a second Sonos Roam and set up a stereo pair, which would be very nice. I’ll flick right.
Alex Sound heading, EQ button.
Jonathan: Just like any other Sonos device, you can set EQ for this if I double-tap.
Alex Bass zero, adjustable. Treble zero, adjustable.
Jonathan: You can turn the bass and the treble up and down. These are standard slider controls that work perfectly with voiceover.
Alex Loudness on button.
Jonathan: Loudness is something that gives it a little bit of a boost at lower levels.
Alex Reset button.
Jonathan: You can reset to defaults.
Alex Tab bar.
Jonathan: That’s all that’s here. The Back gesture did work this time, so that’s good.
Alex Trueplay button.
Jonathan: Now, we have the Trueplay options. Trueplay seems to be working a bit differently in the Sonos Roam from the way that it works on other Sonos products, at least the big ones. I’ll double-tap and see what it has to say about Trueplay.
Alex Trueplay launches and fine-tunes your Sonos products to make sure they sound great anywhere they’re placed. Auto Trueplay tuning off button. Sonos Roam’s microphone is used to detect the environment, so Auto Trueplay can make periodic tuning adjustments. Make sure the microphone is on whenever you move your product so Trueplay can retune.
Jonathan: This makes a lot of sense. For those not familiar with the Sonos ecosystem, the way that Trueplay usually works on the larger products is that you go through a process of walking around a room with your iPhone and it plays some very sci-fi-sounding sounds so that the microphones can give the Sonos products feedback about the acoustics of your room. It does actually make an appreciable difference in some cases.
It influences the tonal color of what you are hearing. Now, that strategy isn’t going to make sense when you have a portable speaker like this one that’s going to be taken everywhere. Trueplay is different here because if you enable the microphones, which will obviously consume a little bit of power, then it’s going to listen to the environment it’s in at all times and adjust itself. That sounds like a good idea.
Alex Auto Trueplay tuning, on button.
Jonathan: It’s now on. I haven’t actually toggled that, but it was off before. Now, it is on. All right then, I’ll go back. I can’t perform the two-finger scrub gesture here. There’s a lot of inconsistency that has crept into the Sonos app actually regarding the use of that gesture.
Alex Sonos Roam, Back button. Sonos Trueplay button.
Jonathan: Ill flick right.
Alex Volume limit off button.
Jonathan: Flick right again.
Alex Voice heading, Amazon alert button. Change voice assistant button. Hardware heading. Get to know your Sonos Roam button. Status light on button.
Jonathan: I’m not sure whether there’s any benefit in leaving the status light on for a blind person, but I will leave it on.
Alex Touch controls on button.
Jonathan: Now, the touch controls name is a bit misleading in this case because these are not touch controls. These are, I’m very glad to say, physical controls, which is something that Sonos has moved away from in recent times in some of their newer products. You can definitely feel these. If you want to disable those controls so that you can only change things by voice or perhaps by using the Sonos app or whatever device you have paired it to, then you can do that. Let’s just verify that everything is working as we want, so I’ll get the mic, which is quite directional, this mic, close to the Sonos Roam and say, “Alexa, what time is it?
Alexa: It’s 6:55 PM. Enjoy your evening.
Jonathan: It’s a very nice, full, rich, bassy sound. Not well picked up by this microphone, I don’t think, but it is sounding good. The time zone is incorrect because I haven’t set that yet. I need to do that in the Soup Drinker app. The Sonos Roam is also a Bluetooth device. That’s good if you don’t want to use the Sonos app for some reason. Maybe you’re out and about and you just want to use this like any other portable Bluetooth speaker.
How do we make this work well? According to the manual, which I was drooling over before I got this for my birthday, my understanding is that if I hold down the power button for a little bit, [beep sound] okay, we hear a special sound. That should put it into Bluetooth mode. Once the Roam is in Bluetooth discovery mode, it becomes like any other Bluetooth speaker you may have used in the past or, for that matter, Bluetooth peripheral. You stop engaging with the Sonos App at this point and you go into settings, and I’m there now in iOS itself.
Alex Wi-Fi, Bluetooth on.
Jonathan: We go in here on the phone.
Jonathan: I’ll navigate past my currently-paired Bluetooth devices.
Alex My devices heading other devices in progress. Sonos Roam, Sonos 3F36 button.
Jonathan: That’s all there is to it. Right now, it’s discoverable as a Bluetooth device. I would personally want to use the Sonos app whenever possible because it’s such a good experience. Where Wi-Fi is not available or maybe when you want to use this, as Bonnie was saying, with the Amazon Echo or something else, then you can use this as a standard Bluetooth speaker. A very simple process to get going.
Thank you, Sonos, for giving us some audible tones, which make it really clear that you are in Bluetooth discovery mode. I’m going to tap the power button again and just see. I think that might put it out of Bluetooth mode and keep it powered on. While we’re talking about taking this device wherever you may roam, it is IP67 water-resistant. Sonos says it should survive being submerged under a little bit of water for up to half an hour, so you can take it by the pool and safely use it.
Sonos also has a feature called Sound Swap. I’m not sure if I can make this work. My understanding is that you might be somewhere where you’re using the Roam because it’s convenient, but then you come back into where you have a much bigger and better-sounding Sonos. You should be able to hold down the play button and it will transfer the sound to your nearest big Sonos brother or sister. I’m going to try this. Let’s get something going. Alexa, play Mushroom FM.
Alexa: Mushroom FM from Jonathan’s tune in.
Jonathan: That took quite a long time actually, but it is now playing. Now, I’m going to try and hold down the play button.
Jonathan: Yes, and you can hear what’s happened there. I have a couple of Sonos Play:5s in my studio and a subwoofer. Now, just by holding down that play button, it has transferred what I was listening to to the big Sonos sibling. That is a really slick, fantastic feature. Alexa, stop.
Alexa: Online Sonos or studio Sonos?
Jonathan: Studio Sonos. Obviously, Bonnie is listening to something up in the lounge, so it asks which one I should stop, which is also great. What is really slick about this Sound Swap feature is that looking at the user guide and other reviews, it appears that it works in reverse. Let’s say that I’m sitting here in the studio with my subwoofer and my two speakers, but I want to go somewhere else. I can hold down the button on the Sonos Roam.
If it detects that something is playing on a Sonos nearby, then it will also then transfer that audio to the Sonos Roam for me to take it with me when I go. That is so cool. You also have the ability to hand over to Wi-Fi and continue with playing your music when you walk into your home and you’ve been playing something on Bluetooth. We’ve covered using the Sonos Roam as a Sonos device. We’ve also now looked at using it as a Bluetooth device. You can also use the Sonos Roam as an AirPlay device and, hopefully, it’ll just work. To see if it does, we’ll go the control center.
Alex Control center, AirPlay mode, switch button off. Mobile data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth. Eight media controls, not playing. Playback destination button.
Jonathan: This is the one I want to double-tap, the playback destination.
Alex iPhone not playing.
Jonathan: I’ll flick right.
Alex Playback destination button. Previous track play button. Next track dimmed button. Volume, 56%. Selected headphones, speakers, and TVs heading. Bathroom, dining room, living room, our NZ national lounge, master bedroom, Sonos Roam.
Jonathan: There it is in the list, Sonos Roam.
If I double tap this.
Alex Sonos Roam. Sonos Roam. Pending.
Jonathan: Do we have it selected now? Let’s just go back and check.
Alex selected. Sonos Roam.
Jonathan: Yes, it’s selected now. I’ll go back home.
Alex Media control.
Jonathan: Having set this up, I should now be able to say, “Play uptown funk.”
Siri: Which app do you want to listen to this on?
Jonathan: Apple Music.
Alex Alert, Apple Music in privacy.
Jonathan: Oh, all right. This is because I’m now running iOS 14.6 and it’s got something to tell me. I’ll go back to that later.
Alex Continue Button. [beep] Messages, two unread messages.
Jonathan: Now it is playing on the Sonos Roam. I’m going to turn that up a little bit-
-and let’s wait for the bass kicks in.
Wow, whoa. That is quite remarkable given the size of this thing. I’m going to press [laughs] the stop button and that’s how easy it is to get this working with AirPlay. Now, understandably, while we have been geeking out on the Sonos Roam, Bonnie wandered off, but she’s back now. I’ve got it set up and we’ve got Auto Trueplay enabled. Actually, I’ll hand you this Sonos Roam and on the top of it, because I’ve got it aligned vertically, there’s a tactile button in the center that’s quite distinctive. You can feel it’s quite different from all the other buttons. That’s the play/pause. If you tap that, you’ll get a dose of Uptown Funk, I think.
Bonnie: That’s the one in the middle, right?
Jonathan: Yes. You just press it gently. It might take a while to kick in, but just–
Bonnie: There it is.
Jonathan: What do you think of that?
Bonnie: That’s good. Really good.
Jonathan: It’s incredible, isn’t it? Really, really nice. If you tap it again, because we’ll get pinged for copyright infringement otherwise.
That’s the Sonos Roam. A couple of things I haven’t mentioned about it. According to Sonos the Sonos Roam is 6.61 by 2.44 by 2.36 inches, that is 168 by 62 by 69 millimeters. It doesn’t even weigh a pound. It comes in as 0.95 pounds, which is 0.343 kilograms. It has two Class H digital amplifiers. It has a tweeter and one mid-woofer and of course, the far-field microphone array with echo cancellation that’s used for voice assistance and for Trueplay as well.
The battery provides up to 10 hours of continuous playback on a single charge, according to Sonos. It supports 2.4 and 5 gigahertz WiFi.
The WiFi goes all the way up to 802.11 AC. The Bluetooth is Bluetooth 5. It also works with wireless chargers. You can actually use any charger that you might have for your iPhone or other smartphone device that supports Qi charging. You can buy a special stand from Sonos for Qi charging, which is really neat as well as the USB-C.
As we mentioned, when we unboxed there’s a USB-C cable in the box, but no charging brick. We have Apple to thank for this malarkey. You will need some adapter if you want to plug it into a wall outlet, but you could also plug it into USB power source on your computer to charge. What do you think of it?
Bonnie: It’s very good. It sounds really good. It’s very portable. I like its portability. It’s very small.
Jonathan: It makes me think we should get a second one because you can pair them as a stereo pair and because they’re so small, it’d be no hassle at all to just bury a couple of these in the suitcase.
Bonnie: A lot easier than some of the other stuff we’ve had- that take up a lot of room.
Jonathan: Even the MegaBoom that we have, which-
Bonnie: Are big.
Jonathan: -they’re very nice, but they’re really quite big.
Bonnie: That would even go in your backpack.
Jonathan: Yes. It’s rugged. You touch this thing. You think, “This thing is going to withstand–”
Bonnie: Even the Bose one’s pretty big, I think.
Jonathan: Yes, this is really nice. This is a much thinner profile. TechRadar has gone quite gushy about the Sonos Roam and it says it is the best portable speaker in the world at the moment. I have to say, I just love this. I love from an accessibility perspective that you’ve got all the benefits of the highly accessible Sonos ecosystem.
I really like the fact that they’ve gone back to physical buttons on the top. There will be a lot of blind people who really appreciate this. Takes us back to the days of the Play 1 and the Play 3 and some of those earlier speakers where they have these really clearly distinctive controls and the price point, this is actually the cheapest way to get into the Sonos ecosystem.
Bonnie: $319 New Zealand.
Jonathan: It said $169 US. That makes it a little bit cheaper than the 1 Excel, which is the Sonos 1 without the microphones that comes in at $179. You were going to comment on the sales of this.
Bonnie: Yes. They said that– because I called to find out how many they had. They had quite a few and when I bought it, they said they were selling really well.
Jonathan: I appreciate it sweetie because these days it’s hard to get me a birthday present because we’re very fortunate. We’re in a position where if we want to get something we will, but this just happens to come out a few days ago. It’s just arrived. I really like this a lot. This is the kind of thing I’ve been hoping for something very small. It’s like a water bottle actually.
Bonnie: Except it’s not round like a flat thing, like a wedge of cheese.
Jonathan: It’s a very interesting shape.
Bonnie: A giant wedge of cheese.
Jonathan: It’s not cylindrical because it’s, placeable horizontally and vertically, a really clever design, but the sound is good. It’s almost like they’re going after the Bose market because it’s very bassy. Some people might consider it a bit too bassy. You can go in here and fix the EQ if you don’t like that. You can turn the treble way up and potentially the bass of it down, but it’s a very full sound. This is a keeper, mate. I really appreciate this.
Bonnie: I’m glad you enjoy it.
Bonnie: Now just have to rehome our Bose.
Jonathan: [laughs] Yes. Thank you for such a really cool birthday present and people can find out more about this by going to sonos.com. I’m sure it’s everywhere, but if you’ve been thinking, “Maybe I’d like to dabble in the Sonos ecosystem and see what everybody’s going on about.” this is a great way of doing it because you’ve still got your Bluetooth speaker. You’ve still got Airplay, but you’ve got all the benefits of the Sonos ecosystem. You can build on this. If you buy the Sonos Roam and you get into the Sonos groove, you can add to the system in a modular fashion and add different Sonos products for your different rooms. That’s one of the really cool things about the way this is all structured.
I will hold down the power button and put it right up by the mic. Is it going to– I think if I keep holding it down.
There we go. I think that’s powered it off. It’s making all sorts of noises I need to get familiar with.
Bonnie: Yes, made a funny sound.
Jonathan: [laughs] That is the Sonos Roam, the latest Bluetooth speaker from Sonos proclaimed by TechRadar as the best portable Bluetooth speaker in the world. Thank you very much. What a wonderful, wonderful birthday–
Bonnie: You’re welcome and happy birthday.
Jonathan: Thank you.
Bonnie: Have a wonderful rest of your birthday.
Jonathan: Thank you.
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Theme Song: Jonathan Mosen
Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan: More on the very important subject of ableist language and a follow-up to the piece that I did two or three weeks ago on this show where I played for you extracts of an interview with a politician in New Zealand, about which I lodged a formal complaint. I did that because of the repeated use of the word blind as a pejorative to mean ignorant, unaware, stupid, not on top of one’s game.
We have standards to which all broadcasters must adhere in New Zealand and one of those is to not denigrate a group of people. The broadcaster has 20 days to respond after receipt of a former complaint. The public broadcaster here in New Zealand, RNZ, pretty much maxed out their 20 days to write this very short response. I will read it in full. I promise it won’t take me long. “Dear Jonathan, I write in response to your formal complaint about an interview between RNZ reporter, Phil Pennington, and presenter, Susie Ferguson, broadcast on morning report on 17 March 2021.
Throughout the interview, Mr. Pennington uses the word blind to mean lacking perception, awareness, or judgment. Your complaint suggests this use of the word blind is ableist and discriminatory. We disagree. Mr. Pennington is in fact employing a very well-established meaning of the word blind, which has special significance. when applied to matters of ministerial responsibility. In this case, describing what the environment minister could be assumed to know or not know about hazardous waste at the Rio Tinto Aluminium smelter. Given that the language in question is a legitimate use of the word blind and since the discrimination and denigration standard cannot be applied to any genuine expression of serious comment, analysis, or opinion, your complaint was not upheld.”
It then goes on to tell me what I already know. That I can now take the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, which I will with a lot of additional evidence, including that excellent article that I referenced last week that was published on the BBC about ableist language and letters of support from various relevant people in New Zealand asking the Broadcasting Standards Authority to send a signal on this matter by upholding the complaint.
It is a very lazy response to the issues that I raised because in my complaint, which I also read here on the podcast, you will be aware that I acknowledged that the use of the word blind in this context has indeed been common usage. The question is, is it appropriate as we accept the danger that these words can do when used in a pejorative sense for this to continue in 2021?
What they fail to address is that just because a derogatory use of a word might have been accepted once, it doesn’t mean it will always be accepted. Language, and standards, and perceptions evolve, and that’s not what they have addressed in the complaint. They haven’t even said, “We considered this point, and we’ve come to this conclusion.” They’ve simply said, “It’s accepted. We’ve always done it this way. There’s no reason to change.”
If we took that approach, then there would still be some very derogatory racist and sexist language in common use that is now frowned upon in polite society. This ain’t over, and I’ll be continuing to advocate on this issue going to the next level.
Some feedback on all of this. From Matt Campbell first. “Hi, Jonathan. In a comment that you read on your latest show, a listener wrote policing language won’t teach people that blind people aren’t ignorant. It will just tell them that they have to be careful not to offend the blind people by misusing the word blind. I agree with this. It seems to me that sighted people are already nervous about offending us at least when talking to us directly.
I for one don’t want to make that situation worse. When responding to this listener, you made a comparison to racial slurs, but the key difference is that in that case, White people actually meant to oppress Blacks while in most cases sighted people don’t mean us any harm. Of course, if they do harm us, then that harm is real regardless of the intention, but I think this difference should inform our approach to advocacy.
Also, as the passage I quoted above implies, the sighted world’s perception of our competence isn’t the only perception that matters. I think we need to be careful that they don’t perceive us as being uptight and easily offended. When I’m having a conversation with a sighted person who doesn’t already know me well, I want them to be comfortable enough around me that they even forget about my blindness.
Then if they say or do something that assumes I’m sighted, we can have a brief awkward moment, laugh it off, and carry on. That seems unlikely to happen if people have a preconception that they have to be careful what they say to or about us. Such a preconception may even stand in the way of blind people getting jobs. Right or wrong, people make hiring decisions based in part on whether they think they’d like to be around us. That’s why, I think, if it’s to eliminate ableist language, it’s misguided, but I’m willing to be persuaded that I’m wrong.”
Thanks, Matt. This is no different from women feeling like they have no choice if they don’t want to rock the boat, if they want to fit in. To put up with inappropriate bawdy language in the workplace, someone makes a little sexual innuendo that makes a woman feel uncomfortable, and then the woman thinks, “Well if I complain, people will think I’m uptight.” Sometimes the woman thinks, “This has gone far enough.” and does complain. Then you get some chauvinistic men who will say, “What the hell is the matter with you? Can’t you take a joke? I was only joking around. Gee, people are sensitive these days.” and on and on it goes.
It is not acceptable whether the intention is to harm or not. If you denigrate someone with your language, then it’s time for a re-education. I honestly don’t think that we could do anything that would worsen the rate of unemployment among blind people at the moment. Unemployment in the blind community is shockingly high, and it’s not to do with the competence of blind people. It’s to do with the way that blindness is perceived and feared.
One of the reasons why it is perceived so poorly and feared so much is that we allow these derogatory uses of the word blind to be synonymous with incompetence and stupidity to go unchallenged. Those things turn into what are called unconscious bias, which means that even without thinking about it because you’re constantly bombarded with those messages, it seeps into your subconscious so that when you make a hiring decision, you’re not even fully aware that all of those messages have built up to make you predisposed not to pick the potential blind employee.
I do not get those who say, “I want people to forget I’m blind.” I’m proud to be a blind person. It is a part of my identity, and I don’t want people to forget that I’m blind. I want to live in a society that accommodates my blindness and celebrates my blindness. I certainly don’t want to live in a society where blind people have to walk on eggshells and not say how they really feel in case they offend sighted people who are using the word blind, a characteristic I possess and I’m proud of, in a manner that equates it with incompetence.
We need to take the lead from historically oppressed and disadvantaged communities who have made significant progress, much more progress than we have, like women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ community because we really have to ask ourselves how is it that we have made outstanding technological progress and yet we’re still facing such dire unemployment statistics?
Blindness is fundamentally an information barrier, and I use that term “information barrier” in a very wide sense. We are challenged with respect to getting information about street signage, or what’s written on a can, or even what is in front of us, but those information barriers have been reduced considerably because of the advances in technology in the last 40 years or more.
There are much fewer information barriers than there used to be. When you consider how full of paper a traditional office once was, now everybody’s working electronically. Now, we can do banking independently. We can compose documents and send them to sighted people. We can communicate by email with sighted people.
All these things would be unheard of 50 years ago and yet the unemployment rate among blind people is still really high. I submit that one reason for that is the subconscious biases that people have constantly put into their heads through this appalling messaging associating blindness with cluelessness. It’s not the only thing. Making sure that blind people have appropriate training and opportunity all comes into it, but the subconscious bias thing is still one of the big reasons why we have made all this technological progress but little vocational progress.
Brian Gaff very clairvoyantly says, “Firstly, from the tone in your promo about Mosen At Large, I have a feeling that your complaint was not upheld due to the old get-out of common usage. It should be obvious what was actually meant, completely missing the point, but should they be able to be judged on their own content, is there no equivalent of Ofcom over there?”
Oh, yes, there is Brian, yes. There’s the Broadcasting Standards Authority, but you have to complain to the broadcaster first. If you’re not satisfied with their response, then the Broadcasting Standards Authority opens up to you as do several other avenues, and I promise you I am not giving up on this. It’s far too Important “Also.” Says, Brian. “I have no real-time to get involved in Clubhouse, so probably will miss out, but there you go. One cannot be omnipresent.” Oh, I don’t see why not, Brian. “What do you know,” he says, “about this blue button, social media thing? Somebody was trying to explain to me what it is. To me, it sounded like a great way to completely lose all your privacy. Probably no point in getting these new AirTags for what I do, the Tiles work, and even more new when the battery is low.
Podcasts. To me, a new name is really needed for podcasts that you want money to listen or view. I think a good word for this is programs just like on the radio and TV. Leave podcasts alone as what they are and reopen the registration of new ones. Or if Apple and others are not interested, then let somebody else do it. What do you know about TP-Link main switches? I have one here, and it says, download the Tapo app and create an account. Then when it recognizes your WiFi, continue setting up on the SoupDrinker skill.
This seems to fail as the first screen you get on the app in my iPhone is a terms and conditions page, but none of the buttons seem to work in VoiceOver, and the overlay stays hiding the “Create Account” screen. I guess I may have missed some control, but I have wandered all over the screen and heard nothing of use. Have you tried any of these third-party switches? If it’s simply not accessible, then the switch can go back to Amazon and I’ll buy a genuine Amazon one which is more expensive.” A host of things to follow up on there, Brian, so let me start with the BlueButton.
I don’t know much about the Blue Social network, except that I believe it is a way of sharing your profile with people. There used to be an app that was quite popular when I first got my iPhone called Bump, and you would bump your phone against another phone and transfer contact information. I’m not sure what happened to that, but this seems quite similar with the BlueButton stuck to the back of your phone. If you are using this Blue service, then you are able to transfer your profile which contains, I guess, contact information and various other things from one phone to another. My understanding is you do have to initiate the transfer.
I’m not sure that it’s really much different from sharing your contact with someone which I do very regularly. I would far rather share contacts with people than get business cards that I have to scan or have someone work with for me. The BlueButton would appear to be much more efficient than sharing your contact. That’s about all I know. If somebody has played with this Blue Social network and the BlueButtons and can comment on accessibility and usability and utility, that would be interesting.
Regarding the switches. I did look at TP-Link switches when we were doing our home automation projects, but at least when I looked at them a few years ago, they worked with the SoupDrinker and they worked with Google home, but they did not work with Apple HomeKit. My preferences wherever possible to go with something that’s Apple HomeKit compatible first. If something works on the SoupDrinker that is of secondary importance, but I trust Apple with this stuff. I trust their regard for privacy. I know it works well, so wherever I have a HomeKit option, I will always choose the HomeKit option. That was some time ago. It’s possible now that the TP-Link switches have become HomeKit compatible.
If anyone can help Brian with this and the app and the process he should go through, then please do let us know. It’s good that the Tiles are working for you. Tiles do have the advantage of being cross-platform which is great, but for me, what attracted me to give AirTags a go is the precision finding. That’s the main advantage that I see, especially for a blind person because when you get close enough to a Tile when it’s chirping away, a sighted person can often do the last bit of locating visually, but sometimes it can be harder for a blind person to do that, and particularly that’s the case if you’re a blind person with a hearing impairment.
I like the precision finding and my understanding of how it works and I have not used it yet, of course, is that you will be able to get right to the item that you are trying to locate with the help of precision finding. You will also get a battery low indicator in the Find My app. Most of the benefits of Tiles that I can think of will be there with AirTags as well. It’s a beautifully elegant solution by all accounts. Because Apple is in charge of everything, it has piqued the curiosity of Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was one of the people investigating antitrust concerns in the technology industry at the moment.
They were about to begin their hearings on the subject when Apple announced the AirTags and the senator described the announcement of them as timely. The Tile people are not happy about it. They say that Apple has an unfair, competitive advantage by controlling the whole ecosystem. We’ll see where that one goes, but you have to say that for consumers, that looks like a beautiful solution. We’ll see how it works in practice, of course.
Theme Song: Mosen At Large Podcast.
Jonathan: Kelly is writing in from Canada and he says, “Hi, Jonathan, I like using both types of voice engines depending on what I’m doing. For synthesized or artificial voices, I use Eloquence with JAWS. I also have the SAPI 5 version from Code Factory and Fred on my iPhone. These voices are perfect for when I want to listen to something at a fast speed. I also like using the more human-sounding voices as well, mostly for reading e-books. Some of my favorites include Sharon from Acapella, which is also my voice for NVDA, Bridget and James from Neospeech, and Amy and Sally from Ivona.
I also thought about buying one from, and I’ll spell it, C-E-R-E-P-R-O-C. I guess it’s pronounced Cereproc, which is the engine used by Microsoft Soundscape app on the iPhone. The ones included with Windows 10, such as David or Hazel are also quite good, but I think the quality could be better. I wish we had access to the ones used in Edge. Those voices are great for reading news articles. Like you, I cannot stand eSpeak as it sounds to me like it has a bad cold. I can use it if I have to, but it’s definitely not my first choice.” Thanks, Kelly.
We don’t have Microsoft Soundscape in New Zealand. Still, it is extraordinary to me that Microsoft has left New Zealand out of that app so I can’t comment on the voice it has.
Andy says, “Hi Jonathan. Like you, I am absolutely committed to Eloquence on the PC. I try new voices and always return to it. It is fabulous for high-speed listening and equally good when one needs to slow down and concentrate on comprehension of unfamiliar material. Proofing is also excellent. As to iOS, I am possibly the only person on earth who really likes Samantha. Why? Well, it is possible to listen to her at 70% to 80% speaking rate with, to my ears, perfect intelligibility. I customize the pitch down a notch or two from the default.
Additionally, I find the original to be superior to the enhanced version. As always, it is a great Saturday afternoon, fun and education listening to you in the US Eastern Time Zone. Keep well.” Thank you, Andy.
Kathy says, “I used JAWS as far back as version 3.5, both on my computer at home and at work. By the time I retired in 2013, I was finding Eloquence hard to listen to. It really felt as though my ears were taking a beating. Lowering the volume helped only a little. I also felt that cranking the speech up too fast, actually diminished my ability to comprehend and retain information. Once I retired, I used system access with the Paul or Kate voices. I found them easier on my ears and less fatiguing.
When I decided to try NVDA, I could not abide the default voices, but FW James is pleasant and does well for long reading sessions. I also use that voice in Voice Dream Reader on my phone. I am happy with Samantha on my iPhone in most apps, though I do find oddities in the word pronunciation. I have read several books on my iPhone when I couldn’t get them in any other format. I have enjoyed reading some Kindle books using the SoupDrinker voice of my Echo the warmth of that voice lent itself particularly well to the book Writing Out Loud by Beth Finke, that’s F-I-N-K-E. I later found out that the audible edition was narrated by someone I know so I bought that as well and enjoyed the book just as much as I did when I read it for the first time. I don’t care much for acapella Sharon on the BrailleNote Touch. I wonder if her creators were thinking she would be most attractive to male listeners.
Marissa says, “Hello, Jonathan. I think there will be a lot of good things to come with Microsoft acquiring Nuance, primarily in the healthcare field. However, I know that Dragon Dictation is owned by Microsoft. As you mentioned, a lot of speech synthesizers are owned through Nuance Communications which brings me to the highlight of my post. I would absolutely love if the Eloquence synthesizer was brought to iPhones. I too find it very responsive. I have asked Apple over the years to consider this. I think that a lot of people would have to petition Apple for this.
I haven’t had much success when writing to them about adding Eloquence., so I call on your listeners who like Eloquonce as much as I do to please kindly ask Apple to have it put in as a possible text to speech engine for voiceover. This would make me the happiest iPhone user in the world. As it relates to what speech synthesizer is the best in the world, I think it depends on people’s usage and technology skills. For myself, I prefer Eloquence which I use with JAWS.
I like Eloquence for the computer. As the pitch changes enough for me to differentiate whether I’m typing in capital letters. I also find that I can understand more robotic speech a bit better. However, for applications such as Kurzweil 1000, I use the NeoSpeech text to speech engines. I don’t remember if Eloquence is supported within Kurzweil.”
I think Marissa if you got the SAPI 5 version then it would be yes. Marissa continues, “From the brief times. I have heard demonstrations on MacBook, I love Alex.”
Clare Paige writes, “Hi Jonathan. Thanks for making Mosen At Large such an interesting podcast. Thanks for helping me discover new things through it for a start. For a start Castro has become my podcatcher of choice since the beginning of 2021. It’s layout and the way it works are both great. I have an annual subscription so that I can make use of all the features it has to offer. Thanks too for recommending Siri shortcuts. I started with the automation explained in an episode sometime last year for finding out when my iPhone’s battery was either at 40% or 80% and went on to use shortcuts for several other things including transferring podcast from Apple podcasts to Castro.
Finally, thanks to your recent demo, I have started using Speak Screen. I do a lot of reading and Apple Books. Now, I can do so with the screen locks and as I tend to read at night I temporarily turn VoiceOver Speech off while reading to stop it announcing page numbers. As a bilingual person I read in both English and French. Here are my thoughts about words concerning disability in both languages. There are two commonly used expressions in English which I thoroughly dislike namely sight loss and wheelchair-bound. Although I have literally experienced sight loss myself, having been able to see colors and slowly read large print as a child, but having only light perception in middle age, I agree with those who have never had any sight that this is a bad general term to use. I’d rather use visual impairment which for me, could mean any imperfect site including nonne at all.
I have never used a wheelchair but I know several people who do and I don’t consider them bound in any sence. In fact, it gives them more freedom whether they propel the chair themselves or need to have it pushed by someone. There were also some French terms for disability which I’d rather not hear.
Fear not though, I don’t expect you to speak French. I’ll translate them into some English. The French still use the words invalid and invalidity. In fact as a disabled person resident in France, I have had what they used to call an invalidity card allowing certain privileges for disabled people such as discounts for rail travel. When I renewed that card in 2019, I noticed that its name had been changed to mobility inclusion card instead which sounds more positive. In France, blind people are often referred to collectively as visually deficient which sounds negative to me.
Even though there is a French word for blind, it’s more common to talk about blind people as not seeing or badly seeing. The French still often use the word handicapped for disabled people especially wheelchair users, a word which I haven’t heard in English for a long time. Whatever we prefer to call ourselves as blind people, most of us use text to speech.
As you reminded us with the contributions in the latest episode of Mosen At Large, tastes in TTS are very varied and very subjective. My personal preference is for the more human-sounding voices. I think this started when I got JAWS 3.5 in the year 2000 and it was packaged with a set of human-sounding voices for different languages which I liked. I have never felt the need to run speech at extremely fast speeds. I’d rather work with a voice I find more pleasant as much as I can.
Having said that, I wouldn’t refuse to use a more electronic-sounding voice if I didn’t have the choice. I totally understand the reasons why people have a preference for Eloquence or eSpeak or any of the other more electronic voices. Since 2011, I would say, I am a Vocalizer girl using it to both within NVDA and VoiceOver on iOS. Lee is my everyday English speaking NVDA voice.
My default voice on iOS for UK English is Kate and I have French and German voices in both NVDA and VoiceOver. Whichever voice I use, I prefer the premium one. I also find Alex Good for reading sometimes in Kindle but mostly in Apple Books. I don’t know whether it’s his inflection or the fact that he breathes which makes him a good reading voice for me on my iPhone. I know we’ll never have the same opinions about TTS and quite a few things but it’s good to hear so many different points of view on so many subjects on your podcast. I look forward to continuing to listen to Mosen At Large for many episodes to come.” Thank you, Claire. Glad you found Castro. Isn’t it wonderful?
Robin Kristofferson writes. “Hi, just to say you did a great description of the differences between Windows and Mac/iOS editing in this week’s show which is now not this week’s show. In case it’s of use, as a way of thinking about how the cursor works for me at least the best way of describing it is that whatever is passed over is what is read out. That in a nutshell, will explain everything you need to know.
The thin flashing by is always between two characters and that erection you use to get there and the amount you jumped dictates what will be read out when it lands there. This behavior explains why you can left and right arrow over a character and it will always read out the same character. Ditto when moving forward and backwards over a word. Remember that as you cursor through a word or sentence what is spoken is always the thing to the left of your cursor.
Apple’s rules of cursor navigation qlso dictate that the cursor lands the end of each word as you move forward through a sentence by words, which you mentioned in your description. If you remember this along with a bit above about what is passed over is spoken then you should be able to more easily break the habit of thinking that you’re on the beginning of the word just read out as has always been the case in Windows. Huge learning curve but not insurmountable. I find I’m able to switch the mental map as I move between windows and macOS on my Mac with its virtual machine.
BTW, that’s by the way, by the way, that tick box to switch behavior to make navigating more windows like on macOS, is very bagg and so not really viable as an option. Half the time when you arrow or jump around with that option ticked, nothing is spoken at all. Oh, well, I’ll keep up the mental gymnastics for now.” Thank you, Robyn. That’s a shame to hear because when I had macOS I don’t recall there being an issue with it. It’s a shame that has regressed.
To contribute to Mosen At Large. You can email Jonathan that’s J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com by writing something down or attaching an audio file or you can call our listener line. It’s a US number 864-60- Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.
Theme song: Mosen At Large Podcast.
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