A walk with Gus and me

I was bored and had to take Gus to the vet last week, the video is not interesting but has some interesting naturally occurring cinematic’s! Also as it was shot in the dark with no additional lighting I think it gives views an idea of what I can see… although I can probably see a bit les than how it came out!

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Wow Excitement at geekish levels!

Well I appreciate this post will bore most of you in to a stupor of non caring existence ant that your opinion of me will perhaps change to one that sees me as some who blows their own trumpet. This is a risk i am willing to take because I am proud of my achievements!

I should explain for the beginning – Way back as a teenager in secondary school I was started on a programme of touch typing using Mavis Beacon Teaches typing. I used this software once or twice a week to help me learn to touch type. At the time I hated it and sometimes sat at the computer on my own doing nothing except possibly eating the bar of chocolate I had stowed about my person, of course I quickly lurched into action if there was a teacher around! Some days the cheating was impossible and I kind of liked the idea of being able to type really fast without looking at the computer keyboard, plus my parents and teachers regularly told me how important the ability to type would be in my life – for all the skiving and the boredom I did take it seriously! Even back then I knew that my hand writing was incomparable to even my peers with the scruffiest writing, I often struggled to read my own hand writing and positively felt sorry for my teachers who had to read anything I had written in a hurry.

Progress was PAINFULLY slow but I stuck at it, my journey was helped greatly but the sudden emergence of (as it was back then) MSN Messenger, I guess this increased the amount of time I spent typing even if I was hunched over the computer keyboard looking at the large print yellow on black keyboard stickers!

Bare in mind at school and to an extent college I was expected to hand write during class, most homework assignments had to go into our exercise books at school, My typing was considered to be at to infant a level for me to be eligible to use a Laptop in classes, this is probably true it was probably not yet faster for me to type than it was to write but I perhaps feel for everyone’s sake it may have been easier for everyone to read if I had typed it. Eventually I must have been in year 9 or maybe even year 10 my typing was considered fast enough to warrant me being loaned a laptop, a whopping 37 words a minute (WPM) I belive. The first laptop I was given I eagerly carried home, turned on and it crashed, I got a blue screen of death and then it turned itself off. It was replaced a few days later by what can only be described as a BEAST of a laptop, it was incredibly heavy and brick like, the power pack was quite possibly the size of a standard house brick and equally as heavy.

So anyway back to the topic in hand since using a laptop more first at school, college and then full-time at university and for play my typing speed has improved greatly.

I got an incredibly sense of nostalgia when whilst wandering thought Apples new App store I came across Mavis Beckon teaches typing ’11 ultimate edition.

I was however disappointed to discover its impossible to make the practice fonts bigger in this new edition, meaning I made mistakes because  I could not read what I was supposed to be typing unless I hunched with my head very close to the screen which is not good posture for typing! As a result my average WPM scores were incredibly disappointing!

However there is a silver lining to the situation here. I discovered this evening that the Mavis Beacon software has a built in visual typing gauge that can be viewed whilst you type in any document or frame.

It has spent most of its time whilst i have been writing this sat around the 80 to 100 WPM mark, the scale only goes up to 100 WPM.

This is exciting! considering the adverse human being speaks at roughly 90 words a minute this is a very good thing.

Dragon Dictate

MacSpeech Dictate has now become Dragon Dictate and I have just, with in the last 24 hours updated period in fact I’m using it right now to write this entire blog post.

Since upgrading to Mac OS Snow Leopard MacSpeech Dictate failed to work as it was not compatible, forcing an upgrade at the time I decided against it as MacSpeech Dictate used to drive me mad with its lack of accuracy. I spent more time correcting MacSpeech Dictate then I did actually using it to be to dictate text the commands were difficult to master and the whole process seemed totally unnatural. Added to my frustrations was that I also had a US version which just seem to further complicate matters.

Previously I had to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Windows based computers and found this to be largely successful was completing my A-levels, some of my coursework was completed in its entirety using their software without spending hours training and constantly correcting it so my hopes MacSpeech Dictate were quite high; I was very disappointed.

I said quite recently that DragonDictate had been a huge leap forward in terms of speech recognition to the  Mac OS, I decided somewhat uncertainly that I would give it a bash and I must say I’m very pleasantly surprised!

After very little training the speech software is able to do a very good job of recognising my speech, it makes very few mistakes, and most of these I can tell are due to my own hesitation/slurring of words or commands (no I’m not drunk)!

My only criticism is that the processing speed seems quite slow, although this could be because I speak quite fast,  all because of my computers processing speed however I am using a 2008 MacBook Pro.

I have had the software less than 24 hours and still is fiddling around with the correct ratio between speed and accuracy, but I would seriously recommend it.

I have deliberately left in mistakes in this post as I wanted to give a real representation of the accuracy I am achieving after having the software less than 24 hours, so please forgive me! you are

BBC News – ‘Internet addiction’ linked to depression, says study

BBC News – ‘Internet addiction’ linked to depression, says study.

Being addicted to the internet has some link to depression, although what makes up a addiction problem with the internet is not clear. Also unclear is what leads to what, weather depression causes people to become addicted to the internet or the reverse.

The study has received mixed responses from experts in the field of mental health. Some are critical of the theory saying that the data collected was bias because the researchers used social networking websites to recruit the participants.

Thinking of this on a personal level it reminds me that my mum always suggests that I use the internet too much, she thinks I have a addiction problem with being online. I also have depression and whether the two are linked in my case I am  not sure so I am going to continue to ponder.

The iPod Touch Edition

Hello and may I start by saying I hope you had a fantastic festive season whatever it was you were celebrating.

I have had a most fantastic time myself, we had a somewhat unorthodox Christmas as we were unable to have a christmas tree in fear that our furry friends would simply destroy it. Still Christmas Day was a relaxed affair, presents followed by a beautiful walk around Stokes Bay beach for us all.

Boxing day I went to stay with my other half who surprised me with lots of VERY lovely presents.

The biggest surprise was the iPod Touch I am using to write this.

Those who know me well will know that I was going to buy myself one with my student loan eventually comes through. I have been going on about how much it would enhance my very existence for some time probably driving everyone totally bonkers.

When the iPod Touch with inbuilt text to speech and full screen magnification was launched it went straight on top of my ‘Thing;s I’m going to treat myself to when my loan comes through’ list.

My opinion of its Text-to-speech capabilities it’s utterly fantastic and completely revolutionary I would really recommend it to any blindie who wanted a new MP3 player or for that matter a new phone.

It’s just as good as I imagined and continues to astound me with its sheer greatness.

Not the worlds most objective review I know I will get back to you with a better one at some point.

Snow Leapord – What The Media Have Forgotton To Tell

Apple – Mac OS X – Accessibility.

Snow Leopard the latest update to the popular Leopard operating system installed on all modern day Mac computers has got an update, it’s only a little one and mainly focuses around bug fixes, it’s not a complete overhaul of the way the system looks but at less than £30 you would not expect a miracle.

Opinion as I have understood it has been divided, many see snow Leopard as a bit of a waste of money and time, its well documented how it is faster than Leopard (which I have never found slow).

There are a collection of features that have not been spoken about in the public eye that I have seen in any way and that is the updates to the already good accessibility tools.

To put this into context most of the time I use something called Text- To -Speech or more commonly referred to in is easier form of TTS or a Screen Reader. For Mac this is something called Voiceover. Basically a lovely little American man called Alex reads me everything that happens on screen, all the things I would struggle to read. I navigate through different windows and applications with ease and am able to for the majority of my time edit the two websites and one forum which I own and manage solely using this software.

Its hard to explain to a person that has never used TTS but when Apple created Voiceover they took the manual on making TTS engines and threw it off  a plane before passing it through a mulching machine and stamping on its mussy remains. Voiceover is unique anyone can use it straight out of the box, no additional software needed.

A blind person can go along to an Apple store and say ‘I would like a MacBook please’, pay for it  return home open the box and use it straight off. Apple are the only computer and software developer to do this, they are incredibly committed to accessiblity and see there products as the way forward, even the iPhone3G S now has Voiceover and can be used by visually impaired people.

With the Microsoft  counterparts we all know and… hate that is simply not possible, you would have to purchase your laptop then spend an additional £800 on software to make it accessible and then install the software.

Snow Leopard is once again revolutionising the way that blind and partially sighted people use their computers TTS engines have forever relied on the keyboard to allow users to navigate their way around their computer, this is no more.

With Voiceover and Snow Leopard OS X 10.6 users can now not only navigate with the keyboard but also with the touch pad on MacBook’s using gestures. Now that for many people may well be the closest they ever get to using a computer mouse, something that if you have severe visual impairment you are seriously unlikely to ever do!  Voiceover is more powerful and better at handling complex web pages with the new release which will be very welcomed by many as there are certain web pages that Voiceover currently just does not have the power to understand.  For example the webpage I am writing this on right now, Voiceover cannot cope with all the information and the styling of WordPress, which is as much down to the design faults of wordpress as it is to the lack of Voiceover grunt. With increased power I hope that Voiceover will overcome the WordPress accessibility issues, but time will tell.

I must now buy Snow Leopard and quickly.

Alas I am not the only person jumping up and down giggling with technology fuelled excitement whilst drooling slightly at apples accessibility my freelancer friend Lesley Smith has decided to convert to the ways of apple, mostly because of the accessibility features I have just mentioned and a fair amount of persuading from me.

Ovi Store: Nokia Magnifier

Ovi Store: Nokia Magnifier.

I am in awe of this app from Nokia Beta Labs, as the creators name suggests this is a betia version of what I can only discribe as a video magnifier within the Nokia.

Example: Your out shopping and you want to check your reciept to make sure you have not been overcharged, but you cant read the reciept. you whip out your Nokia phone and open the Magnifyer app point your phones camera at whatever you are trying to look at press the ok button and the app automatically zooms in and focuses on the text, simply move your camera from side to side as you read and hey presto!

The app is absolutly fantastic, its the type of simple use of technoligy that can have a huge imapct on those of us with VI, furthermore the features dont stop there, its possible to take a photo of whatever you are viewing in the magnification meaning you can send the images. there is also a built in option of high contrast mode and negative as well as image stabilasion (which I just found irritating).

The application can be downloaded following the simple steps on the link above and below this are screen shots I have taken about 5 minutes ago, its that simple!

(click through thumbnails to see larger image)

BBC NEWS | Text lifeline to help deaf people

BBC NEWS | England | London | Text lifeline to help deaf people.

 

This is something that particularly intrests me, I have a level one British Sign Language qualification don’t you know, how many partially sighted people do you know that can sign? So anyway partly as a result of this I have a few friends who are hearing impaired so a story like this naturally caught my slightly spazzy eyes.

However what I really wanted to blog about however is that on Friday evening I made my very first 999 call, how exciting is that?

A local wooded area had once again been set on fire, there was a lot of thick black smoke and flames big enough for me to see sat in the front seat of my dad’s car so out came the mobile phone and followed by the fire engine!

So its wonderful that this story all about making it easier for disabled people to contact the emergency services was very interesting.