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Welcome to the First Living Blindfully Episode




Voiceover: From Wellington, New Zealand to the world, it’s the Living Blindfully podcast – living your best life with blindness or low vision. Here is your host, Jonathan Mosen.


Jonathan Mosen: Hello! The podcast has a new name. We’ll hear some listener comments, and some tips for making the most of Living Blindfully plus.


There’s been plenty of talk about SensePlayer. I’ll speak with Earle Harrison from Hims. And Vaughn Bennison demonstrates and reviews the device.


All this, and plenty of other listener comments.


We made it to the other side. I feel like I should be doing a “Why did a blind man cross the road?” joke, but I can’t think of a good punchline. But here we are on Living Blindfully, at last – a project that has been some months in the making, and I’m glad that you’re here, too.


If you’ve listened to Mosen at Large before, a special welcome to you. But if you’ve discovered Living Blindfully, perhaps through a search engine (there’s been a bit of a chit-chat on social media over the last week or so), a special welcome to new listeners. This is the same podcast. It’s just a different brand.


Country and Area Codes For 223 and 224


So here we are, at episode 224. But we didn’t have a chance to talk about 223 in the context of US area codes. And if you were listening to the webinar that we did in episode 223, you may have heard from Pawel from Poland, who made the point that there are actually country codes – international country codes in this range, that also have 3 digits. I don’t think that applies once we get into the 3s. At that point, I think you get 2-digit country codes. But we will enjoy it while it lasts.


So let’s first look at country code 223 and area code 223 from the last episode. I am advised by reliable sources that area code 223 in the United States is South Central Pennsylvania. And what I want to know is how do you dial Pennsylvania 6-5000? The numbering plan must have been very different when Glen Miller worked his magic back in the – when did he do that? – in the 1930s, I think. So don’t know how you get Pennsylvania 6-5000. But welcome to those of you in Pennsylvania in the 223 area code. Enjoy your moment in the spotlight.


Ditto for the people of Mali, because country code 223 is the country code for Mali in Africa. There are 22 and a bit million people in Mali, and they speak French so bonjour to you in Mali, if you’re listening. We are heard in over 110 different countries and territories, and I need to check whether Mali is on that list. But you never know. Maybe somebody will Google on it and see the reference to Mali in the transcripts, and then they’ll come flooding in to enjoy their day in the sun. [laughs] So welcome to Mali.


That brings us to episode 224 and area code 224 which is in Illinois – in quite a few, and I mean actually, a voluminous list of suburbs of Chicago that this area code covers. It’s a very busy little area code. So if you are in area code 224 in Illinois in Chicago specifically, where they will be hosting the Democratic National Convention next year, then welcome to you.


And staying in Africa for the country codes (because the country codes are usually quite logically organized), and we say hello to Guinea because Guinea has the country code 224. Fewer people there than in Mali. Actually, about 13 million people in Guinea. So one of them might be listening to Living Blindfully. You never know.




Living Blindfully Plus on the Victor Reader Stream


A big shoutout to our Living Blindfully plus community and our Living Blindfully plus wannabes who may not have subscribed to a premium podcast before and been through the process of getting a private RSS feed and pasting it into your podcast client.


I am very grateful to Joe Norton, who got in touch with me quite early in the piece after Living Blindfully was announced and gave me some instructions about the Victor Reader Stream 2nd generation which I’ll put up on the webpage at

That’s the word plus, P-L-U-S. And I’ve also put some other instructions relating to players that a lot of people use like Overcast, Downcast, and Apple Podcast, to help people get the benefits of their private RSS feed.

So Joe has put together this audio demo on the Victor Reader Stream, and I’m told that this only applies to the 2nd generation. At the moment, the 3rd generation Stream isn’t supported by the companion software. And if I get more information about the 3rd generation Stream, then we’ll certainly provide it on the Living Blindfully plus page.


Some of this will be relevant no matter what player you are using in terms of finding your personal RSS feed and copying it to the clipboard of your device so you can paste it wherever it needs to be.


You’ll notice references to Mosen at Large in this demo. That’s because Joe did it nice and early in the piece, and I did have to wait a little bit before officially changing the name in the podcast feed to Living Blindfully. Because if I’d gone ahead and changed it too early – before people heard the last podcast episode announcing the change, people would be saying “What? What is this? I didn’t subscribe to this Living Blindfully thing. What is it?”, and they wouldn’t equate it with Mosen at Large. So that’s why I had to wait a wee while for the name to change.


Also, if you have not yet subscribed to Living Blindfully plus and you are thinking about it, it is actually now easier to get your private RSS feed than it was when Joe subscribed and when some of our very generous early subscribers did – because I’ve been working with Matt from Pinecast. They are the people who host this podcast. And I did a full review – an audit, if you will, of all the technology, all the services that we use while Living Blindfully was being put together, and Pinecast still came out as the best, by a long way, in terms of accessibility. But most important, responsiveness and customer service. You can hear my interview with Matt from Pinecast and also learn about my traversing of other podcast options if you go to episode 54 of the podcast. You can do that easily now by just visiting

That’s the number.

and the podcast will come right up. That applies to all the episode numbers of podcasts that we produce.


So there a number of important changes. The first is that when you receive your Living Blindfully plus subscription confirmation, the link to your private RSS feed is right there in the email now. And that means that you can save that email somewhere and refer to it whenever you need to and just paste the RSS feed where it needs to go. So it is no longer necessary to log in as Joe demonstrates to get your RSS feed. But you might misplace that email. You might delete it or something like that, and you might want to find out how to get it, so this is still relevant.

Another thing that is much easier now is that there is a copy feed to clipboard option when you see your RSS feed displayed on that Pinecast page. So rather than having to use the selection methods on your device, you can just choose that button or link, copy the full URL to the clipboard, and then it’s there for pasting.


So I really appreciate how responsive Matt has been in improving the Living Blindfully plus experience.


With that preamble, here’s this great demo from Joe Norton.


Joe Norton: Hello! This is Joe Norton in Dalton Georgia in the United States again. And I want to give a brief (well, as brief as it can be), a brief demonstration of how to use the Living Blindfully plus podcast with the Victor Stream.


When you first subscribe to Living Blindfully plus, you will get a special email from Pinecast that will have a URL that you can type into a podcast reader to subscribe to the RSS feed that you get. It’s a special feed that is unique to your subscription. You only have to do this once. And then, your podcast reader, in this case, the Victor Stream, will remember this for you so you shouldn’t have to do it again for a long time. The process can seem a little convoluted. But once you’ve done it, it’s done.


Anyway, first, what I’ll do is get the email that I had.


JAWS: Pinecast – thanks for your subscription. Sat., [4:08].


Joe: Okay. There it is. “Thanks for your subscription.”. I’m in Microsoft Outlook. Although this shouldn’t matter that much. I’m going to press enter on this email to open it up and see what it says.


JAWS: Hi there. Your subscription was created. Mosen at Large received NZ$1.00. Thanks for supporting podcast creators!


You can update your subscription to Mosen at Large anytime at


Joe: And there’s what I need. And I’m going to make sure I’m on that link.


JAWS: https –


Joe: And I’ll press enter on it.



Opening new window. Pinecast tip jar – Microsoft Edge. Pinecast tip jar – Microsoft Edge page. Tipping great podcasts helps fund better … Pinecast.


Joe: Okay. I’ll silence that.


I’m at a special webpage which is asking me to sign in with my email to Pinecast so I can receive the Living Blindfully plus podcast. So I’m going to press e for edit, ‘till I get to the place where I type in my email address.


JAWS: Email edit (required).


Joe: I’ll press enter on that.


[forms mode on sound]


JAWS: Email edit (required).


Joe: And I’ll type in my email and press enter.


[typing sound]


JAWS: Loading page. Check your email.


Joe: Okay. And it says check your email. And in a few seconds, I’ll get an email from the system that I can use to verify this subscription. So I’ll close the browser.


And the email already came in.


JAWS: Inbox – Joe…


Joe: So let me find the new email.


JAWS: Unread, Pinecast – Podcast tip jar email verification.


Joe: Now if you’ve already signed in to Pinecast, you probably won’t get all this. But this can happen if you’re signing in from a different computer, or possibly using a different browser. So I thought I’d run through this, just in case. So I’ll press enter on this message.


JAWS: Thanks for verifying your email. Click the link below to see your podcast subscriptions.


Joe: And it’s given me a link to click on again, so I’ll go down to that link.


JAWS: Blank. Thanks for … Blank. ht …


Joe: And I’ll press enter on it.


JAWS: Opening new window. Tip jar – Microsoft Edge page. Tip jar. Page has 1 region, 2 headings and 3 links. Active subscriptions podcast contributions…


Joe: There it is. Active subscriptions and podcast contributions. So I’m here now where I wanna be, and I need to do a couple more things to get the special URL that I need. I’m going to press the h key until I get to active subscriptions.


JAWS: Your podcast… Active subscriptions heading level 2.

Joe: And the only one I have is Mosen at Large, or Living Blindfully. I guess that will change pretty soon. I’m going to simply press down arrow.


JAWS: Link Mosen at Large.


Joe: And I’ll press enter on that link.




Joe: And for some reason, it didn’t say much of anything. But it has opened up a webpage that has details of the subscription. And it’s getting the information about the payment method, things like that. That’s not necessary to worry about right now.


The main thing is at the very bottom of the webpage, there’s a link and I can press control end to get down there.


JAWS: Link see what is available.


Joe: See what is available. That’s what we want. I’ll press enter.


JAWS: Heading level 2, there was a problem loading the episode list.


Joe: I’m not sure why it says that. I guess maybe the podcast is so new, it doesn’t have much here. But what is here is the special address I need to type in. So I’m going to press the letter e, which will take me to a read-only edit field which has the special URL in it.


JAWS: Wrapping to top. Read-only edit. https…


Joe: And I’m gonna press enter on that.


[forms mode on sound]

JAWS: Read-only edit.


Joe: And it puts me in there. I’m gonna press control a to select all, and control c to copy.


JAWS: Copied selection to clipboard.


Joe: That’s all I need to do here. I’m going to close out the browser and get my SD card for my Stream. That will be next.


I’ve returned to my desktop, and I’ve got the SD card that goes in my Stream. I’m going to insert it into my computer.




JAWS: New notification from autoplay – VRStream D, selected. Choose…


Joe: Okay. There it is. I’m now going to press h on my desktop until I get to Humanware Companion.


JAWS: Humanware Companion checked.


Joe: There it is. I’ll press enter on that.




JAWS: Humanware Companion Stream talking books dialog. Talking books on PC treeview…


Joe: It’s giving me a list of the talking books that are on my PC. But I don’t need that. What I’m going to do is press alt l for the tools menu.


JAWS: Tools menu. Create SD card label.


Joe: And I’m going to press up arrow a few times until I get to podcast feed exporter.


JAWS: Options, o. Podcast feed exporter…


Joe: And I’ll press enter on that.


JAWS: Leaving menus. Podcast feed exporter dialog. Podcast feed URL: edit.


Joe: And all I have to do is paste that URL that I got from that previous webpage in here. So I’ll do that by pressing control v.


JAWS: Pasted from clipboard.


Joe: And let me make sure it’s in there.


JAWS: Podcast feed URL: edit. https…


Joe: Yes, there it is. So I’m going to tab over to the export button.


JAWS: Export button, alt+e.


Joe: And I’ll press enter on it.


JAWS: Podcast feed exporter dialog. Podcast feed URL. Export dialog. Successfully completed. Okay button.


Joe: And I’ll press enter on that button.


I seemed to have lost focus for some reason. Let me try a couple of alt tabs here.


JAWS: Untitled – Total Recorder. Humanware Stream Companion… Close button.


Joe: There it is. So I tabbed over to the close button.


JAWS: Talking books on PC treeview…


Joe: And now here I am, back at the talking books list. I’m really through with this program, so I’m going to hit alt f4 to close it.


JAWS: Exit dialog. The application will exit with the prompt to safely remove hardware.


Joe: Okay. I’m going to have to press enter on that. And it’s going to give me a dialog for safely remove hardware. I can just escape out of that, and I’m just gonna remove the SD card. Windows doesn’t cache the data the way it used to, so you really don’t have to do this too much.


Now the next step is to turn on my Stream.




[beep sound]




Victor Reader Stream: Welcome to Victor Reader.




Victor Reader Stream: 0 books, no media.

Hold key 1 to enter or exit the built-in user guide.


Connected to Wi-Fi.


Joe: Okay. Everything is ready.


There’s no SD card in here right now, and I’m about to put my SD card in here. So let’s insert it.


Victor Reader Stream: Talking books.


Joe: I am in the bookshelf right now, but I’m in the bookshelf that corresponds to the SD card. To import this podcast feed into the Stream, I need to be in the online bookshelf. And to get to that, I’m gonna press the key above the 2.


[short beep sound]


Victor Reader Stream: Bookshelf. Podcasts. 2 podcasts.


[2 short beep sounds]


Joe: And here I am in podcasts already. Now I’m not ready to actually go into the podcasts themselves because I need to go on to the menus first.


What I’m going to do now is press the 7 key to get into the menus, and I’m going to keep pressing 7 until I get to podcasts.


Victor Reader Stream: Menu. Wireless. General. Internet radio. Podcasts.


Downloaded podcast episodes to keep – 3 episodes.


Joe: Here I am in the podcasts menu, and I’m just going to press 8 to go down to the option I need.


Victor Reader Stream: Import podcast feeds from file.


Joe: That’s what I need so I’ll press the confirm key or the pound key or # (hash) key.


Victor Reader Stream: Please wait.




Please wait.


1 podcast feed imported.


Menu. Podcasts. Import podcast feeds from file.


Joe: Okay. I’m back to the menu. I’ll press * (star) to get out of that.


Victor Reader Stream: Leaving menu. 3 podcast feeds. 1. Freedom Scientific FSCast – Freedom Scientific, 3 new episodes.


Joe: Notice I now have 3 podcast feeds. In just a second, it’s going to download the first episode.


[beep sound]


Victor Reader Stream: Podcast download completed.


Joe: And there, it did it. So let’s go in here and see what I got.


Victor Reader Stream: 2. Mosen at Large – Jonathan Mosen, 1 new episode.


Joe: And I will press play.


[beep sound]






Voiceover: From Wellington New Zealand to the world…


Joe: And there it is. Boy, what a process! But you only have to do it one time. And as long as your subscription’s current, your Stream will remember that feed and you won’t have to worry about it again.


Well, I hope this has been of some use to you. If you have any questions, you can email me at

And I will try to give what assistance I can.


Otherwise, everyone have a great week and we all look forward to more Living Blindfully.


Jonathan: Thank you, Joe. Really appreciate you taking the time to do that.


Comments on the Change to Living Blindfully


Here’s an email from someone. I can’t tell who it is ‘cause there’s only an email address in the from field and not a name.


But it says

Hi, Jonathan,


I finished listening to episode 223 just a few minutes ago, and enjoyed it very much.


When the podcast downloaded to my Victor Reader Stream III last evening and I checked the length of the podcast, I was a bit taken aback. 3 hours? Really?


I listened to episode 222 earlier on Saturday, so I was surprised to find out that there was an episode 223.


Anyway, your podcasts are hard to stop listening to once I start listening. Your podcasts remind me of the proverbial book you can’t put down.


Keep up the great work.


Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. [chuckle]


Caller: Hello, Jonathan. It’s Keao from Hawaii.


I just wanted to congratulate you on your new adventure. [laughs] So congratulations on the Living Blindfully podcast, and hope to hear a bit more.


And I’ve subscribed to the Living Blindfully plus tier. It’s not much, but it’s a great informer, so thank you so much, and thank you so much for all you do.

Continue to be yourself, and have a wonderful night or day. [laughs] See you later. Thanks. Bye! Aloha!


Jonathan: Aloha to you, Keao! Nice to hear from you. And yes, it’s true what they say. “You gotta be yourself because everyone else is taken.” Thank you for your Living Blindfully plus subscription.


“Great name change!”, writes Jane Jordan.


I think this is a wonderful brand. I piqued at the website before you even brought it up in the Zoom meeting. I love the look and feel of it. I think it’s good you aren’t getting rid of the episodes, just carrying on as you were, only with a new name.


Keep up the good work, and I will try to think of interesting things to say. I’ve been quiet because I haven’t had a lot to say that others haven’t said already.


Right now, because my podcast playlist in Overcast is so long, I am taking advantage of the transcripts that are available. And when I finally catch back up, I’ll start listening in audio again.


I will say that I was very very interested in the Braille laptop, and I really really really want one. But I doubt I can afford one. I am already having to plunk down cash to get my Braille display fixed or possibly replaced because the USPS people have lost it, and I am not happy about that. I miss Braille for personal use. I have a BrailleNote Touch Plus, but I only use it for work because they are so strict.


Anyway, good work and please keep it up. Try not to burn out.


Good advice, Jane. Good advice. I appreciate that.


That is a shocker about your Braille display. Surely if they have lost it, if it was in transit and it was in their care, they will have to do an investigation. And if they can’t find it, they’ll have to replace it for you, won’t they? You shouldn’t be out-of-pocket because USPS has lost it. That’s their responsibility, surely. Do let us know how you get on with that.


And if anyone else has had an experience like this where you’ve had a currier lose a valuable item like a Braille display, how did you get on? How did you deal with that problem? How was the resolution? How long did it take?

or 864-60-Mosen.




Voiceover: Don’t miss out! Stay informed about Living Blindfully by joining our announcement email list. You’ll receive a maximum of a couple of emails a week, and you’ll be the first to learn about upcoming shows and how to have your say. opt out anytime you want.


You can join by sending a blank email to

Why not join now? That’s

and be in the know.


Comments on Episode 220


Rebecca Skipper is responding to episode 220. She says


I loved the interview you had about the Optima and the tough questions asked. It is now in my top three list of potential future purchases.


Orbit Research’s integrity and excellent customer service means a lot, and I am glad they are open about their processes and listen to users’ feedback.


Since you and others are having trouble with the Focus line of displays, I’ve come to the conclusion that screen readers and the constant refresh rates can create problems. I recommend the suspend Braille scripts from Jim Snowbarger at

I’ve installed these scripts on my laptop, since I use Braille in combination with speech.


I listened to a webinar about the SensePlayer, and I think I would prefer it over the Victor Reader Stream because of its features. I am waiting though to see which player will support NLS and Audible.


Thanks, Rebecca.


I have been a Braille display user for 40 years, and I have not had any issue like the ones I had with the Focus 40 Blue 5th generation. I’ve been using my Mantis day in, day out for many hours every day for the last, I don’t know, nearly 3 years I think it is, and I have not had a single problem. So I don’t think it is necessary to suspend your Braille display to preserve it. I mean, this is what these devices are intended to do. If you can’t use your Braille display, why have one? There is clearly a quality control issue with Focus 40 Blue Braille displays. It’s just too common an issue for there not to be, and we need to call it.


Comments on the Keto Lifestyle


Voice message: Jonathan and Mosen at Large listeners, this is Brandt from Johannesburg, South Africa. I wish you all well, and a good day.


Now, this is me commenting on episode 220.


Keto. I will say I had done it for a while. Successfully, I might add. And yes, you feel awesome when you do it, except for a couple things.


Number one, if you’re like me, a meathead, your workouts will suck. Because I spend about an hour and a half in the gym every single day for 5 days a week (I take the weekends off to spend with my wife.). Now the reason why your workouts will suck is because of Glycogen stored in your muscles and liver which is an energy source converted from carbohydrates. On keto, you do not have much of it, if any, so you cannot perform at peak performance. It’s not possible.


Now there are more reasons – two more – why ketogenic diet does not work for me.


Number two (and I think this is actually the main reason), is because keto is extremely expensive. And I say living this way is not a good idea, unless you are wealthy, which I am not. And my wife is also not on the ketogenic diet. She is more of a middling high-carb eater.


Reason number three comes right into that. I personally love my carbohydrates, and I need it. So I eat about 40% of my diet in carbs, 40% of my diet in protein (because as a meathead, protein is important – that is, for anybody, actually). About 0.8% grams of protein per pound of body weight. It’s what I consume, which is a lot of body protein. I do not care who you are. You can eat quite a bit of chicken breasts that way. And yes, I am the stereotypical meathead. I eat broccoli, rice, and chicken every day. So that’s just me being crazy.


Anyway, I’ve seen many people praise keto for working so well. But I don’t think many people understand why keto works as well as it does. The reason is actually quite simple. The CICO principle applies. That is calories in, calories out. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.


On the other end, if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. And there is no two things about this. It is scientifically established fact.


If you are willing to go read through the studies, there’s plenty of them on pubmed. But do as I did. The lazy way. Go read proper material on the topic – of which, there’s many. There’s many books out there that will explain how this works.


Flexible dieting is the way I go about it, meaning I eat whatever the hell I like. I do not care what it is. I mean if I want junk food, I can have my junk food. But just be careful ‘cause you are calory-counting constantly. And yes, some people would say that is a slip. Yes, it is a slip. But once you’re in the habit, it’s not that much of a slip. It’s really not that big of a deal.


Gentlemen, if you are like me or like I was – heavier than you’d like to be but more chubby, go read “Bigger, Leaner, Stronger” by Mr. Michael Matthews. The book is available on Audible, and they are material that you can go download. Follow including workout program. Good one. 3, 4, and 5 days a week programs. And there are also diet plans. Although I personally cannot follow them because most of it is made for the United States people.


Alright. Ladies, “Thinner, Leaner, Stronger” by Mr. Michael Matthews is his user manual for the female body (dieting, exercise, and all that wonderful things). Also available on Audible. Go read that book. I would highly recommend it.


I’ve read both because my wife – she is a non-fiction reader. She does not like doing it. She falls asleep. So I am the guy that reads user manuals for fun. So reading a user manual on the human body wasn’t a big deal for me. I enjoyed it.


Please let me know if you do so read those books, and if you are successful. And gentlemen and ladies, I do not care how old you might be. You can start strength-training at any age, and I highly recommend it. I’m not saying become a bodybuilder. Please don’t, ‘cause that is a miserable miserable sport. Just do decent-quality strength-training.


Jonathan: Strength-training is important Brandt, for sure. And I can’t say that I’m as dedicated to it as you, but I do a little bit of strength-training every day. And our muscle mass does start to decline over time as we age, even when we do look after ourselves. And there are so many benefits of strength-training.


Your contribution indicates that you have obviously looked into this. You’ve found a regime that works for you. I also agree with you that protein is important and many of us tend to underconsume protein. That is also particularly important as we age.


But I would disagree with you about it being a scientifically proven fact about the calories in, calories out hypothesis. And the best work that I’ve seen tackling this particular subject is called “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. That is a bit of a heavy read. It’s quite medically geeky. And for a more consumer-friendly read, there’s another book by him that’s excellent called “Why We Get Fat, and What to Do About It”. And his argument is actually that the whole calories in calories out hypothesis has done us enormous damage.


And I suppose this is the confusion, isn’t it? That people want to look after themselves, and there are so many conflicting bits of advice. You would think with all the science that we have access to today, there could be some sort of consensus.


And I think there is some consensus forming about certain things. Ultra-processed, highly-sugary foods – just stay away, if you want to look after your health. “The Case Against Sugar” is also a pretty scary but important read by Gary Taubes.


Due to the work of people like Ancel Keys’ “Fat”, good, healthy fat was demonized for a very long time. And in some circles, that persists.


But I think there is a grudging increasing acceptance of the fact that actually, fat has been unduly demonized. And even people who are perhaps not convinced of keto’s benefits agree that healthy fats like avocados and nuts are an important thing to add to the diet.


So there is conflicting information. And I think the important thing is to find something that’s sustainable.


Some people that I talked to about keto have said “Yeah, you’re right. I lost heaps of weight on keto. I have more energy than I know what to do with. But I got bored. I got bored with the food.”


And I suppose we all have our weaknesses. I’m completely weaned off the sugary stuff now. I don’t miss it. I can’t tell you the last time I even had a diet soda, let alone a lethal sugary soda that does us so much damage and is actually highly addictive. I’m weaned off all of that. But my one weakness is potatoes. Potatoes and their jackets smothered with butter, roast potatoes when you’re having a roast – oh, boy! I find that hard to give up. But when I consider all the things that I don’t miss, I reckon I can treat myself once in a while.


If you treat it too much like something you can’t deviate from a little bit, you’re going to feel like you’re constantly being deprived. So it is important to be gentle with yourself.


I have lost a soup-load of weight, and I have never counted a single calory. And the reason for that is actually the way that keto works. Essentially, you should think about your body like it’s a dual fuel-burning machine. And it has a priority system. And when you feed your body carbohydrates, that’s the easiest fuel for it to burn, so it will burn it. And anything that you don’t burn will be accumulated as fat.


On the other hand, if you keep your carbs low to the point that you don’t have the reserve of carbohydrates in that particular tank, your body will switch to tank b. And that is to convert fat and turn it into fuel. That is a process called ketosis. And some people get ketosis confused with a pretty scary process involved in diabetes which is something completely different.


Ketosis is a healthy state to be in, and you’re burning your fat and turning it into fuel. In fact, there is a book out there also called “Fat For Fuel” that explains this in some measure as well.


It may sound too good to be true, but it works. And in many keto diets that are prescribed, people specifically say “You do this, you do not have to count a single calory.” And I can honestly say I never have.


But for people who are on this journey, there is plenty to read. It will be conflicting, and that’s the challenge.


But good on you, Brandt, for finding something that works for you.  And with the kind of strength-training that you are doing so regularly, I completely understand why what you’re doing does work for you.


We’re gonna go in-depth with the SensePlayer in just a moment. But before we do, I want to say hi to our friends at Pneuma Solutions who are still here, still sponsoring our transcripts. And boy, were they useful when we were doing the big migration to Living Blindfully last weekend.


There were all sorts of little things to do – making sure that logos were correctly positioned, going into user interfaces where accessibility was less than optimal – there was a lot going on, and not a lot of time to do it. So I enlisted the help of Heidi Taylor, who I think was quite staggered by the fact that that webinar on Sunday morning New Zealand time ran for 3 hours. And she was amazing sitting there managing all the calls for us and contributions for us. But she also helped with the migration to Living Blindfully and all that that entailed.


RIM offers a very generous 30 minutes free per day. So you can use that and make no commitment at all and have RIM at your disposal.


And that’s what Heidi and I often do. If I just wanted her to quickly check something for me – maybe an inaccessible CAPTCHA that I really just can’t avoid or something like that, well the 30 minutes are just fine.


When we got into something intense like this Living Blindfully migration, 30 minutes wasn’t enough. But Heidi didn’t need a RIM subscription right now. And so we bought a day pass from RIM.


For just $US10, you can connect as much as you like to one target machine. That is precisely what we needed to get this task done. It was simple to sign up, and we were up and running in seconds. No hassle, and fully accessible.


So if you need a RIM day pass, check it out and go to

Or if you use it more frequently, subscribe to one of their generous monthly plans. That’s, from Pneuma Solutions.




Earle Harrison From HIMS Discusses SensePlayer and Other HIMS Products


If you’ve been listening to the podcast for the last several weeks, you’ll have heard a lot of talk about the new SensePlayer, an audio player from HIMS.


We have a review coming up later in the show from someone who’s had 3 months of use of the device, and we’ve reached out to him some time ago to talk with a spokesperson about the product.


And today, we’re welcoming Earle Harrison who’s the national account manager at HIMS in the USA, and we’ll have a talk about SensePlayer and other HIMS products as well. Welcome to Living Blindfully, Earle. Good to have you with us.


Earle Harrison: [laughs] Hey. I love the name Living Blindfully.


Jonathan: I’m glad. I chose it out of thousands. [laughs]


Now the SensePlayer’s creating a lot of buzz on social media right now. It’s an interesting device to me ‘cause it offers some quite complex functions, but also a lot of basic ones, too. Who’s the SensePlayer aimed at?


Earle: Oh my gosh! I don’t think the SensePlayer was aimed at anybody in particular. In fact if you would have asked me a year ago if it would be a good idea to develop a hand-held device for the consumer population, I would have said “Uh, yeah. Ever heard of a cellphone?”


But I find myself eating a lot of humble pie these days because I was wrong. It is really a very cool device, and it really has something for everyone.


Jonathan: Why do you use it? As I presume a pretty seasoned smartphone user, what advantage do you get by actually having to carry another thing around?


Earle: Oh my gosh! It’s such a versatile device. The idea that I’m carrying just another thing doesn’t really matter because it’s just so small.


The battery life is amazing, and it is a user-replaceable battery. So if somebody were to decide that they don’t wanna charge their device every day (and they’d probably get a couple few days’ worth of use on the original battery just in the course of normal use). So battery is huge.


The podcaster is fantastic, the web radio, you got your FM radio – which, I am one of those geeks who uses it everywhere I go (and I go a lot of places ‘cause it’s fun to hear what’s over the air in different parts of the country as I travel), and there’s just more coming with this product.


So I’d say I was off to a kind of a shaky start in terms of the release – because it was released in other parts of the world before it was released here in the United States. And with you having such a huge US listener base, it caused a lot of confusion. So hopefully, I can help clear some of that up.

Jonathan: Yeah. It does seem to be differing in availability all around the place. I know that Australians have had it for quite a long time now, and it seems to be rolling out a bit in the UK. What’s the plan there, and why is that roll out being so staggered in the way that it is?


Earle: Well, you know, the initial thought was that we had some very US-specific things, you know. The things that I’m here to talk to you about today are very US-specific like National Library Services. Bard was not yet available, but that’s soon to be a non-issue, as is the ability to install apps like Bard without having to get the device license. So we kind of struggled through that whole thing. And the decision was to actually install a mobile screen reader that would allow people to download and install the app itself, so we don’t have to worry about any licensing issues. And that theoretically not only goes for Bard, but also goes for a lot of other third-party apps like Audible and Google Lookout, and the list goes on and on.


Jonathan: Has that screen reader been written by HIMS, or is it based on TalkBack, or how does it work?


Earle: So it’s going to be that the HIMS mobile screen reader… Kind of think of it as a BrailleSense in a hand-held without the Braille, right? So some iteration of the HIMS mobile screen reader, which of course, was built from the ground up by HIMS, including the Braille support, and that’s in the case of the BrailleSense. So it’ll function very much like that. And because everything is just so menus-driven, it’ll be very similar to using the actual native HIMS apps on the device.


Jonathan: Are you essentially skinning those applications then, or do you get to what you will call the native UI of the application? I mean, Audible is another big one, for example. And we know that one of your competitors have had some challenges getting Audible working. Can you just install the Audible app, for example, from the PlayStore when this is all up and running, and what would that experience be like?


Earle: So we won’t have the PlayStore on the SensePlayer. What we will have is a – you know, up-to-date Android operating system with the ability to download and well, sideload applications. I have not gotten a version of this to try myself to see how it would work with Audible or in the other app for that matter. But the theory is that the mobile screen reader will allow us to do that, and it should just work because it’s just another Android device running on well-supported hardware.


Jonathan: So will there be a catalog of some kind, do you think, of apps that work particularly well?

Earle: I think they are going to have links to well-supported apps on the HIMS support page as one suggestion. I think that we are going to be in so much unchartered territory that we’ll probably learn more from our consumers than we will in-house on what apps work and which ones don’t because everybody will be trying different things.


Jonathan: So I guess the advantage of this approach is that you open up a world of possibilities in terms of things that this can do. But the disadvantage may be that some people go for products like these because of their ease of use, and because they struggle with smartphone technology.


Earle: Mm-hmm.


Jonathan: Not exclusively. There are some power users who are really interested in this. But it’s certainly a market. Do you worry though that this might be a little bit daunting for those who just want to get their Bard books or their Audible books?


Earle: [laughs] I don’t think so. I think that people will find that there are a lot of uses that they didn’t think they had for the device.


For example, people who struggle with smartphone technology, touch gestures and things like that will benefit from the SmartConnect feature that allows us to, you know, connect to our phone, and use arrow keys to navigate around, and then T-9 to text.


So everybody’s different, everybody’s gonna have their different uses for it. But I really do think that most people will find it very helpful, even if it is just to download and read Bard books. And if that means they have to download the Bard app, it’s one of those things. You do it, it’s done, you log on the first time, and every subsequent time you go to get a book, you are already logged in.


Jonathan: You know I have to ask this question and people love not to answer them. But is there any kind of ETA for that screen reader feature being added to the device?


Earle: [laughs] We are shooting for middle of summer. You know, we’re shooting for the consumer national conventions here in the United States.


Jonathan: So does that mean then that before that support is added (particularly for Bard which is such an important product in the US market) that it’s kind of a soft launch there, or can people purchase the SensePlayer now?


Earle: People can, and have been purchasing the SensePlayer. If you go to our website, you’ll see that it is available for purchase. And here we are in April already. Wow!


So we’ve already started shipping the products. This was announced at CSUN.


And there is a little checkbox that you need to check to acknowledge that you understand that Bard is not yet supported.


Jonathan: Fair enough.


The SmartConnect feature – it’s a pretty cool feed of engineering. Where do you see that it’s being practical? Because – are people gonna want to carry another device around that essentially allows them to control another device?


Earle: [laughs] Yeah. I mean, we actually have a little SensePlayer. I could actually include the SmartConnect feature in my demonstration of the product. But I feel like I can just go into it now. Let me just go ahead and wake up…




Oh. I didn’t actually put it to sleep. It was already awake.


SensePlayer: File manager.


Earle: So does that sound familiar to you? File manager? Basically, it means that we’re in the main menu of the SensePlayer right now.


And do you want me to go ahead and give a physical description, or do you feel like you’ve had that?

Jonathan: We’ve actually got a review coming up from Vaughn Bennison after we talk to you.


Earle: Oh.


Jonathan: And he’s given a good description of the device, so that’s handy.


Earle: So I was actually at a deaf-blind conference last week. And you know, I wasn’t even going to bring out the SensePlayer. You know, as a technically deaf-blind person myself, I thought well, this is kind of a hearing person’s tool. And then I thought, you know, how dare I make that decision for other people? Because just like many people have different levels of vision, many people have different levels of hearing. And some people with the most profound hearing loss still like to read audio books and listen to music, you know.


So I showed it to one of the vendors who has got a profound hearing loss. And on his way out the door that day, he said “Yeah, you sold one.” [laughs] Because I showed him the SmartConnect feature. And also, it actually did connect immediately to his hearing aids.


So there is a use case – somebody who has a hearing loss. And it just basically puts the audio right in their head from their phone, just like if they were, you know, connected directly to the hearing aids through the phone, but it’s going through the SensePlayer instead.


Jonathan: That’s interesting. That’s output, obviously. Does input work the same way if you’re connected that way to the microphones of the SensePlayer


Earle: It does. In fact, you can route the audio to the SensePlayer. And if you have a need to during the course of a conversation, you could just tap the record button. It will immediately start recording your conversation in both sides.


Jonathan: Right.


Earle: So it does route both the microphone and the headset. So here I am, …

SensePlayer: File manager.


Earle: in the file manager, it says. And I’m gonna go ahead and wake up my iPhone here.


Alex: [2:59] PM. BeMyEyes. Get live video support.


Earle: And I’m gonna go ahead and tap the SmartConnect button.


SensePlayer: SmartConnect. [silence] Connecting. Successfully connected to Earle’s phone.


Earle: And I’ve got it right at the headphone jack running to the mixer.


Alex: Page 1 of 2, adjustable.


Earle: So I hear that I’m in the folder that I call AT apps. So I’m gonna go back out to my home screen.


Alex: AT apps folder. 11 apps.


Earle: And you can hear as I’m navigating.


Alex: Mail and social folder. Phone.


Earle: Okay. Let me go back out one more level here.


Alex: Page 1 of 8, adjustable. Ring.


Earle: And you can hear me pressing the keys. I’m pressing very quickly. Much faster than a person could probably do just for holding the phone in one hand and flicking with the other. I’m just pressing the arrow buttons while I’m holding the device in one hand. If I wanna go to my dock, I press the number 7 which takes me down to the bottom where the 4 folders that I’ve got down there for items on my dock.


Alex: AT apps folder, 11 apps. Mail and social folder. Phone.


Earle: Okay. If I want to go to my notifications, for example, … It’s a long press and hold of the menu key to go to the home screen. But if I use that menu button as a modifier, I can go to my notifications area.


Alex: Notification center.


Earle: This is my notification center. I can go to my control center very quickly.


Alex: Control center. Music recognition button.


Earle: I can turn speech on and off if I’m listening to music and I don’t want it to interfere and read the titles and things if I’m listening to a book or music, that sort of thing.


Alex: Speech off.




Earle: And there’s the play button. I just started playing music, obviously. [laughs] I have no idea what this is.


So as you can see, it’s just very very quick to get around. And then, when I wanna go back to my SensePlayer, …


SensePlayer: File manager.


Earle: Boom! There I am.

Jonathan: If you want to enter text into the device, what’s that like?


Earle: Yeah. So you’re talking to somebody who’s been around for a while, and somebody who used to use a lot of Nokia devices and things like that. Or I mean, do you remember the days of T9, right?


Jonathan: I actually liked T9. I could whack out really quite lengthy messages with T9.


Earle: Oh, yeah, yeah. You can do the same with the SensePlayer.


Jonathan: Yeah?


Earle: In fact, let’s go…


Jonathan: Okay.


Earle: Well I could go into a message, but I don’t know who I’d message right now. [laughs]


Jonathan: No, that’s fine. And one of the things that Vaughn also demonstrates is that many people do have difficulty entering numbers – either dialing a phone number on the iPhone or Android for that matter, or perhaps entering numbers in an IVR system.

Build Thursday, March 30, 2023.


Earle: Oh. I pressed the wrong button. I meant to press the SmartConnect button

Earle: Yeah.


Jonathan: And obviously, you can just use the keypad with the physical buttons to do that.


Earle: Yeah. Exactly.


SensePlayer: SensePlayer SW ver 1.0. Build Thursday, March 30, 2023.


Earle: Oh. I pressed the wrong button. I meant to press the SmartConnect button.


SensePlayer: SmartConnect.


Earle: So it’s just in the upper right corner.


SensePlayer: Connecting.


Earle: And it just says connecting again here.


SensePlayer: Successfully connected to Earle’s phone.


Earle: And let’s say…


Alex: Cellular data. Airplane mode. Wi-fi. Bluetooth. SensePlayer.


Earle: Oh, I’m in my control center. So I’m gonna get back out to my home screen here. Press and hold the menu key.


Alex: [3:03] PM. Calendar, 33 minutes ago.


Earle: And I’m gonna go down to my dock.


Alex: Calendar, grouped. Tomorrow, 2 PM East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind. Options. Ring, grouped. Calendar. Linked in, grouped. 1 hour ago.


Earle: Oh, I see. I’m actually still – my phone locked. Silly me, silly me. I’ll go ahead and unlock it.


Alex: Dock, phone.


Earle: Get into the phone.


Alex: Selected, phone. All button. Tab bar. Keypad tab, 4 of 5.


Earle: There’s the keypad. And I’m gonna switch to input mode. When you’re in the keypad, you can press and release the menu button again.


SensePlayer: Web browsing mode.


Earle: Same button.


SensePlayer: Text input mode.



Earle: And now, I’m in text input mode. I just switch over to numbers, and I’ll just dial the HIMS main number.


SensePlayer and Alex: 512-837-2000.


Earle: And I’ll press okay.


IVR: Thank you for calling HIMS.


Earle: And there’s me. I’m talking to myself.


Jonathan: Well, there you go. [laughs]


Earle: Should I ask for technical support? Let me just… I’m gonna tap the record button, and I’m gonna tap it again.

Okay. So I’ll go ahead and hang up on that. I’m gonna go back to the file manager.


SensePlayer: File manager.


Earle: I launch everything from the file manager. What’s beautiful about this also is you can read all kinds of documents – pdf, docx, lots and lots of formats supported as well as obviously lots of media types.


SensePlayer: File manager. Flash disk 1 1 list item.


Earle: So that’s the only item I have is the flash disk.


SensePlayer: Audio books. Bookshare. Database. Documents.


Earle: And if I do the number, I think it’s 8.


SensePlayer: Mp3. Music. Podcast.


Earle: Ah, yeah. Music.


SensePlayer: Radio. Record.


Earle: You can record the radio.


SensePlayer: Record01.m4A media file.


Earle: Now, let’s hear this.


Recorded IVR: If you have called for this purpose, please check your information and try again.


Earle: Okay. So you’re hearing both sides of the conversation there.


Jonathan: Right.


SensePlayer: File manager.


Jonathan: I take it that the FM radio requires some sort of wired headset to be connected for it to function?


Earle: It does, because that serves as your antenna.


Jonathan: Yup.


We’ve got a large international audience all over the place, so I want to ask about stand-alone access to Daisy digital libraries around the world. There’s obviously wi-fi built into the device. Is it intended that eventually – because there is, I understand, an open standard relating to Daisy digital libraries, that you will be able to download from a wide variety of Daisy sources?


Earle: Yeah. That is something that I don’t know much about, Jonathan. [laughs] So I’d have to plead ignorance on that. I just know that that might be a better question for somebody from the international market. I’m really only familiar with the US. I wish I knew the answer.


Jonathan: Sure.


How are things going with the OCR, and what expectations should people have of that? You’d be familiar, I’m sure, with apps like Seeing AI and similar products. Is it comparable?


Earle: I’m gonna get in trouble for this, but okay. The OCR leaves a little bit to be desired. So that’s why it’s gonna continue to be a work in progress.


Right now, it’s kind of a quick-and-dirty can I read my mail kind of thing – things that you really wanna read in a pinch that maybe you don’t have access to something on a mobile phone at the moment, or color identification. They may include some other things, uses of the camera.


But I think that the real power is gonna come from those who actually develop this type of technology all day, every day. That’s gonna be the folks that work with Google Lookout, Envision AI, you know, those types of apps. And I think there’s gonna be a lot of potential there.


Jonathan: I’m actually pleased to hear that the device does have an FM radio. It’s kind of low tech. And you mentioned the interesting practice of going to new places and hearing radio, and I love that, too.


But I think as we get into an era of climate change, there are a lot of natural disasters happening. In New Zealand, we’ve had more than our fair share this year. And radio, good old terrestrial radio may be the only way that you can keep in touch with what’s happening and get advice from emergency authorities. So an FM radio is a really useful tool to have on a device like this.


Earle: Absolutely. Agreed.


Jonathan: Carrying case. Have we got one yet?


Earle: No, we don’t. [laughs] I think that they’ve got discussions here in the United States with the folks from Executive Products to make one. I rallied for a case, and it actually remains to be seen if they decide to eventually do one or not. But currently, as it stands, it does not have a case.


It does come with a lanyard. If you’re worried about dropping it, it’s actually a really nice way to help build some security into not dropping the device.


I have also, on my device, added a little skid-proof thing on the back of it – basically, a little rubber backing because I didn’t like the way it slid on smooth surfaces. And that actually works really well.


I made the argument that you know, we really should have a case for this device. But I just don’t think that the decision has been made as to move forward with that.


Jonathan: Perhaps, Executive Products will come to the party in time.


Earle: I’m quite sure they will, actually.


Jonathan: There’s been a lot of discussion about the software. And you made mention of the fact that it’s a work in progress, and there was a significant update release just a few weeks ago, I think, that has helped a lot. How often do people get software updates? How often should they expect them?


Earle: Well I think early on in, you know… Being that we just released the product, you could probably expect an update or a patch kind of on the ongoing basis of, I would say, every couple few months. You know, of course, there’s a whole cycle – the test cycle – from the beta process through public release. So I think it’s probably quarterly for the actual releases, and perhaps a smattering of patches, bug fixes, things like that.


Jonathan: When people buy product like this, they really want it to succeed. And so they feel a sense of investment in it. What’s the best way to provide feedback on what those future software updates might contain? Is there an ideal mechanism to get that feedback in?


Earle: you know for HIMS, we don’t run a list. There are some consumer lists out there.


But if you want to get the information to us, I encourage folks to send an email to our support team at


You know they’re going to kill me for saying that because it’s likely we don’t have enough actual support compared with feature requests and things like that. But they really do, for those things on the folks over in Korea for them to see and to consider.


I’ve been with HIMS for about 5 years now, and I have seen a lot of consumer feedback actually implemented into the product as far as the BrailleSense is concerned. And I expect it would be the same for the SensePlayer.


Jonathan: Now obviously, HIMS does a lot more. You’re doing Braille displays as well and note-taker devices. I wanted to have a chat with you about those.


Earle: Sure.


Jonathan: Because there’s been a lot of discussion recently about whether the devices we still call note-takers simply can’t keep up anymore. Both HIMS and your principal competitor in this space have been criticized for running outdated versions of Android.


What do you think about the future of the note-taker? Has it essentially had its day?


Earle: No. You’d be impressed if you saw our sales sheet on the number of BrailleSense 6 and BrailleSense 6 mini that we sell in different sectors such as education, government, and the private sector of course.


The BrailleSense, I think, is more or less a sighted person would think of a tablet. The idea that the BrailleSense note-taker has kind of approaching the end is like saying that people are gonna stop using the iPads. Because you can do the same stuff on the BrailleSense with the Braille display that you can do on an iPad or your favorite Google tablet, and maybe more. I mean, we’ve got features that sighted people would love, like a text-based Google search. We avoid that whole scenario having to deal with advertising banners and things like that that you encounter in a web browser.


We are using the latest Android operating system on a note-taker, and we’re about to jump to an even newer version. We’re on Android 10.0 now. And if somebody asks the question why, it’s because we had to start somewhere. We’re about to jump to 12. So yes, we understand that 13 is out there, and I think 14 is in beta now, is it not?


Jonathan: Yes, I believe that’s right.


Earle: I think you got to start somewhere. And once you start using these things, it becomes more of a matter of what it is you want to do, not a matter of what Android version you’re running.


I got to tell a story. I was in a state where one of the techs for one of the rehab agencies invited me to do BrailleSense demo for a consumer.


As I was going through the process, he kept interjecting things like “Well yeah, I can do that with my phone.”. And it’s like first of all, it’s not nice to invite me to do a demonstration to your consumer and try to derail my presentation.



But then, after the third or fourth time of this, I said no, you can’t. He goes “Yeah, I can.” And it’s just like “Okay, let’s go to notes.” Boom! I did a keystroke, I was in notes. “Let’s do a Google search.” I did a keystroke, I’m in Google search. “Let’s check my email.” Boom! I did a keystroke, I’m in email. “File manager.” I can go to OneDrive, I can go to Google Drive, I can browse through perhaps a document that I forgot at home that I needed for a meeting or that I needed for a class, and I can do it so much faster than I can do it on a computer. And it’s so much more portable than I can do it on the computer.


I’ve got Bard mobile on my note-taker, I’ve got Netflix. If I wanna watch an audio-described movie with a sighted family member, I can do that. I mean, this thing is super super versatile.


So I contend that note-takers are gonna be around for a while. And mostly, manufacturers of other products are the ones who are saying that the note-taker is doomed because they want them to buy their product, maybe? I don’t know. But I’m here to tell you that I leave the house without my computer when I travel on the road, and I don’t miss it. There was a time not too long ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say that.


Jonathan: I guess principally, the primary market for note-takers is education.


You just described a scenario where that’s not exclusively true, of course. There are adults who like to buy these devices.


Earle: Yeah.


Jonathan: But one of the concerns that’s been expressed recently on this podcast, and I’d like to give you a chance to comment on this…


Earle: Sure.


Jonathan: is that actually, by weaning people on note-taker devices as they are in the education system, and they’re starting to learn things, means that inevitably, they’re going to come up against a brick wall when they get to a point that they need a job and they need to be able to work in the Windows environment. Are we, in fact, doing blind people a disservice by not giving them good Windows skills at an early age and keeping them on the note-taker devices?


Earle: No. I really kind of disagree with that philosophy because it’s just another tool in the toolbox. I mean, I have yet to go to a school for the blind where the note-taker is the only tool that that student is using. They still use their Windows computers so they still know their screen reader commands.


So you know, it’s like again, putting people in a box and saying “Well, we’re locking them into this way of doing things.” When in fact, it is not the case. It’s really building on their skill set.


Jonathan: If you were to run software on one of the newer HIMS note-takers, how likely is it to work? I mean if something is accessible in Talkback, for example, is it likely to be accessible on the BrailleSense as well?


Earle: To a degree. Because what a lot of people don’t realize is that navigating on the BrailleSense in a third-party app is very much just a matter of tabbing, arrowing around, and inputting text than checking checkboxes and things like that. Those are all the same types of things that you can do with Talkback.


Our screen reader does a fabulous job. I can tell you that nobody does Braille translation better than HIMS. The idea that you can type a document, whether it be an email or word-processor document in contracted Braille, and then just plunk it over on somebody’s shared drive on OneDrive or Google Drive and they can open it up and it just opens beautifully in their word-processor and perfect visually. That includes Math, by the way, complete with graphs and so on. So the person can actually mix Mathematics and literary Braille in one document using contracted Braille, or Nemeth, or UEB Math, and save it with the knowledge that a person (it has to be a docx file) can open that same document in Word and see everything that is intended. So perfect literary text and Math. You know, perfectly visual Math.


Jonathan: And I imagine – because you’ve got Braille displays as well in the HIMS product family, there’s always that tension, that potential for scope creep. Which features should we put in a Braille display which has some note-taker and basic functions, and which should stay in the full note-takers, right?


Earle: Yes, we’ve got the full note-takers. I almost don’t like the word note-takers, but it’s just one of those terms that everybody is familiar with. Really, it’s a productivity tool, just like a tablet.


Jonathan: Yeah. I tried to change the term note-taker when I was involved, and it just wouldn’t budge because it’s not a very apt description of a note-taker anyway.


Earle: Right. [laughs] We have Braille display. Singular. Right now, we’ve got the QBraille XL.


For people who aren’t familiar with that, that’s a 40-cell Braille display. Imagine a regular laptop keyboard. You take away all the letters and the numbers in the main keyboard area. And in its place, you put a Perkins style Braille keyboard.


So now, you’ve got the best of both worlds. You got the ability to input to whatever you’re connected to in contracted Braille (because the actual translation takes place on the QBraille itself before it goes out to the device). it could be a Mac, it could be a Windows computer. But you’ve got all the extended QUERTY keys that you would have on laptops. So all those commands that you’re already familiar with on a laptop carry over to the QBraille XL. So you don’t have to take your hands off the QBraille and move back and forth between the keyboard and the Braille display.


I mean you have the option to move back and forth, but you don’t have to. I know Braille translators, proofreaders, folks in customer service jobs, and medical transcription who just love the idea that they can just stay on the device itself and do all the things they’d need to do and have the Braille right there.


But I think the only difference – I think I went off into the weeds on you a little bit. [laughs] But I think the only difference is, the biggest difference, I should say, is that the primary job of a Braille display is to connect to other things. And of course on the QBraille, you can connect up to 7 other things to it. Not that anybody would do that, but I’m kind of a geek and I’ve done 4 at a time and switch between them on the fly. And then have the very very basic internal functions such as an editor, a Daisy book reader, a calculator, a count-down timer, stopwatch, those types of things. In the case of the QBraille XL, we can also access text-based pdf.


Jonathan: Android devices have let the side down because there’s no HID support in Android yet. Does that affect the QBraille? Or can QBraille talk to Android smartphones and tablets right now through Talkback?


Earle: You got me again because I don’t have an Android phone to try. I have not tried the QBraille with an Android device.


Jonathan: Okay. It would be useful to know because obviously, some of the competitive products who went all-in on the HID standard in good faith because Android said they were going to support it. And now, they haven’t, so it’s kind of left them a bit high-and-dry there. Disappointing.


Now, I’m going to ask you about pricing because obviously, a lot of people would like to have a device like something from the BrailleSense line, but they are expensive to manufacture because there’s lots of moving parts in a Braille display, but also ‘cause you’ve got to spread the cost of paying for the software engineers, support, and all of that over a relatively small number of units. Is there a way to pay off these devices in the United States?


Earle: Yeah. So here in the US and Canada, we actually do have a company that we work with called Affirm.


The process of checking out – you go and you click the buy now button on a BrailleSense. And then, you go to your cart. You’ll see that actually, you do have an option to apply for Affirm.


They will do a soft credit check on you, and you’ll know immediately whether you’ve been approved or not. And if you’re approved, they’ll tell you how much. So that could take some of the sting out of it. And then, you’ve got some options as to how long you want to pay it off.


Obviously, it’s a finance company so they don’t do this out of the kindness of their heart. But for a lot of people, it is a Godsend because they are able to get the tool that they feel that they need, and pay it off over time.


Another option is PayPal Credit. You can click on the buy now button and opt for PayPal Credit. If you don’t already have PayPal Credit, you can apply for it. And then, pay it off in 6 months, same as cash terms. It’s kind of a short-term loan. But for some people, it’s enough time versus having to come up with a bigger chunk of money all at once.


Jonathan: As I say, there’s a lot of moving parts in Braille displays. And I did want to give you the opportunity to comment on something that’s come up from time-to-time.


We have had various comments over the years about the servicing of HIMS products. And perhaps, it’s not such a big deal when you’re talking about the SensePlayer because if that breaks, it’s not the end of the world.


But if your note-taker or your Braille display dies, that could affect your ability to get work or study done.


Some listeners have said that their devices have had to be sent to Korea for servicing. And they then get stuck with massive import duties when the Braille display eventually comes back.


What expectations should people have around servicing in 2023?


Earle: I’m gonna actually disclaim that this is in the US, right, and Canada, mostly. I would say that 95% of the repairs that are done here in North America are done in Austin, Texas. It’s very very rare nowadays that a device needs to be sent back to Korea.


Further, there was a time… (I don’t know whoever decided this. I guess it doesn’t really matter.) that if you had to change a couple Braille cells, they would require that you swap out the entire Braille array. That has not been the case for a couple of years. So if there are 2 or 3 weak cells, we will replace those at a cost of $95 plus whatever the cost of labor is and shipping, of course. So it’s way more acceptable than having to pay for an entirely new Braille display.


If we’re talking like 7, 8, 9, 10 weak cells, then we start talking to people about replacing the entire array because it seems like it’s more of a systemic issue than it is one Braille cell here or one Braille cell there.


Jonathan: I presume the product does have a warranty. Do you offer some sort of product management agreement program where if you really are dependent on one of these things, you can pay a subscription to swap a device out if you need that?


Earle: Gosh! I think a subscription would be a brilliant idea.


But we have something called a product maintenance agreement which extends the manufacturer’s warranty an additional year. In the case of the BrailleSense 6, it’s from 1 to 2 years. In the case of the QBraille XL, it’s from 2 to 3 years. I don’t understand why there’s that difference, but that’s what it is. [laughs] And what that gets you is – they call it premium tech support, the option to have a loan unit sent to you, should yours need to go in for any reason.


Actually, I think that they have a… I haven’t read it lately. But there was a time they will, say, a waiver. So if it’s physically damaged within the product maintenance agreement timeframe, then it would be replaced. That, I would have to verify, though. I don’t wanna write a cheque with my mouth that HIMS can’t cash. [laughs] You might want to cross that out.


Jonathan: That last about the servicing, though. A narrative takes hold. And even if you’ve made some progress, sometimes it’s hard to shake that narrative. And so it sounds like there has been progress in recent years.


Earle: Yeah. We have fabulous people in our tech support department in the past few years.


When Randy Ahn came (He’s our CEO) onto the scene and he took control of it, he’s very operations-oriented, very hands-on with customer service. I really think he’s been instrumental on really trying to get that stigma out of there. I know because man, I’ve been the face of apology for HIMS. [laughs]


Jonathan: There’s also the possibility some time down the track of something like the Optima that runs full Windows. There’s been a lot of talk about this form factor and functionality.


If somebody can get a machine that’s running the full Windows operating system and their screen reader of choice, what do you perceive the ongoing advantage to be of going with a device like the BrailleSense?


Earle: Optima sounds like it’s going to be a cool product.


You’re talking to somebody who lives under a roof with somebody who has access to all of it. My wife Kelly actually does a lot of work for an agency for the blind here in Minnesota, as well as some of the deaf-blind programs. And so, she has demos of these things. So I have the privilege of playing with all of it. I think there’s a place for all of it.


When she does an assessment, sometimes I might have to leave the room when she recommends a competitor’s product. [laughs] But her rationale and reason is completely on-point.


I mean, I think I wanna have an Optima when it comes out. But my concern is what’s gonna happen? I like that it’s modular because one of the concerns is what happens when Windows is no longer supported on the hardware.


And it’s the same problem we experience with everything. Eventually, the Polaris met its end of life when it stopped working on anything later than Android version 5. Now we’re on an operating system that is retroactive to Android version 6.


So it’s a moving target, and you just gotta keep up with it and realize that technology is not a religion. They are tools that we use for the reasons that we have to use, not for reasons that other people have for us not to have these tools.


Jonathan: Well I remember when HIMS came on the scene, thinking then, and I still think it now, that HIMS makes great hardware, really nice hardware.


Earle: Yeah.


Jonathan: And so, it’ll be interesting to see the SensePlayer. If I can just circle back to that in conclusion.


People can actually go ahead and order the SensePlayer now in the United States market. And I think, pretty much around the world now, right? There’s a bit of a delay, I think?


Earle: You understand that I don’t work out of Austin. I work out of my little dank, dark dungeon here in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the center of the country. So I don’t know what the stock situation is right now. But I believe that if they’re not already shipping them, they will be shipping them very shortly.


Jonathan: Brilliant.


Well, it’s been really good to catch up with you and learn all about the range of HIMS products that’s out there. There really is a buzz about this SensePlayer, so it sounds like you could be on to a winner there. I appreciate you giving us some time.


Earle: I appreciate the opportunity, Jonathan. Thank you so much!




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Drop us an email. You can write it down, or attach an audio recording.

Email us today.


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Vaughn Bennison Reviews and Demonstrates SensePlayer From HIMS


Vaughn Bennison: Hello! This is Vaughn Bennison from Hobart, Tasmania, here for the Living Blindfully podcast.


I’m here to do a review of the SensePlayer. It has been a hot topic on this podcast, and several others besides for several months now. And as I’ve owned one since around the end of January, I thought it was a good time to come and have a bit of a chat to you about what the SensePlayer is like and why one might choose to use it in everyday life, plus a few of its pros and cons.


You might remember that a few weeks ago, I wrote to Jonathan and gave a brief physical description of the SensePlayer, and some of my concerns about the software environment in which it operates. I’ll have to say some of those concerns have been addressed, and that’s partly why it’s taken me so long to come back with this review – because there has been a recent firmware update. And as I was aware that this firmware update was coming, I thought I’d leave it until such time as it had rolled out.


So to look at the SensePlayer, it’s a plastic device. It looks somewhat similar to a – as I call them, candy bar style mobile phone. But it does have a slight convex nature on particularly the backside, so it curves outwards a little bit at the back.


The top side or the front, if you are holding it upright, is largely flat. But there is a slight curve outwards towards the back. It’s a little bit difficult to explain. But if you see one, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.


As I said, it is made from plastic. It does have a slight texture to it, so it doesn’t have the high gloss finish that one might expect to find on some of the other HIMS devices such as the BrailleSense 6 or the mini.

It has a speaker on each end of the device, and I’m going to call it each end because to me, the natural way to use this is in portrait mode. And if you use it in portrait mode, you hold it in a similar way to what you would have held in the past a mobile phone, with the telephone-style keypad to the bottom, and the directional keypad up towards the top. So therefore, one speaker is where the earpiece of the phone would be, and the other speaker is roughly where the mouthpiece of the phone would be.


In my opinion, the speakers are actually quite good, and their one of the really big pluses for this particular product.


You can walk around with it in your hand or in your pocket and hear it quite easily, but you obviously wouldn’t want to do that in a loud environment because whilst you can turn it up, you certainly wouldn’t want to disturb other people. And if there was enough noise around, you really wouldn’t hear it. But it’s roughly equivalent to probably an average-sized (for those of us old enough to remember) the average-sized hand-held cassette player.


In my opinion, it’s better than the Victor Reader Stream 2 in that the highs are much more pronounced, and it’s much easier to understand voices at low levels.


As I have indicated, it does have a telephone-style keypad on the bottom as you might expect, and that looks somewhat similar to (those of you who will remember) the PlexTalk Pocket. The keys are very similar in size and shape. I think, the BrailleSense keys might be very slightly bigger and have a very slightly more pronounced dome shape to them. There is, of course, a dot on the 5 as you might expect.


Above that is a directional pad, and it has your usual up, down, left, and right arrow keys which face in the appropriate direction and are roughly triangular-shaped, so that they point in the appropriate direction.


Around those, if you think of it in terms of a clock, at roughly half past 7, half past 4, half past 1, and half past 10 positions are keys that do other things.


I will start with the top left. The first key takes you back to the home menu whenever you press it.


The one to the right, on the top right is what they call the menu key, and that opens submenus in applications. And if you hold it down, it will open the global options if you want to change any settings.


The key below that – the bottom right one is the delete key, and that enables you to delete files or delete anything that you have typed.


And the bottom left button is the back button or the cancel button, depending on your perspective.


Across the top are four buttons. These are really interesting buttons. And once again, really well-thought out and really useful. They perform a variety of functions. But in the main, each of those buttons relates to a particular feature on the SensePlayer itself.


Now, these buttons are interesting because as I say, they perform multiple functions. And the way they do that is to have 2 clicks, if you like. So if you press it gently, it clicks once. And if you press it more firmly, it clicks again. So it’s almost like there are 2 stages to the press – a gentle press and a more firm press.


If you press the top left button in a gentle way, it will tell you what mode you’re currently in and give you information about what you’re actually doing. For example, what book you’re reading, and some other information besides.


If you push that button, it will cycle through the different modes that you have set up when you set the options under the long press, which enables you to set the modes that are available to you as you press the mode button.


I have to say I don’t use this mode button very often. For some reason, it just never occurs to me. And it seems to me that seeing as you can access everything numerically from the main menu anyway, I’m not really sure what purpose it serves. But it is there for those who wish to use it.


The second button is your wi-fi button. I don’t know if they have a specific word for it, but I call it the wi-fi button.


If you just press it gently, it will tell you what wi-fi network you’re currently connected to. If you press it more firmly, it will toggle wi-fi on and off. And if you hold it, it will enable you to access the wi-fi setup screen so that you can set up a wireless network, join a network, etc.


The third button is much the same, except it’s for Bluetooth. So once again, if you press it gently, it will tell you what you’re connected to. If you press it more firmly, it will toggle Bluetooth. And if you hold it down, it will open the Bluetooth settings so that you can pair new devices, select which device you’re paired with, or anything like that.


The fourth button is the SmartConnect. Now this is a much-wanted feature of this particular device. It is a really interesting feature. I have to say I don’t use it very often. But when I have used it, it’s actually being really useful. I would encourage people to play with it a little bit more.


It enables you to connect via Bluetooth to a mobile device. For example, an iPhone, and Android phone, or your BrailleSense 6. I assume you could connect with the Polaris as well. I hadn’t really thought much about it, but I’m sure that that would work. You can control those devices from your SensePlayer.


The other interesting part of the SmartConnect is that it does send and receive audio as well. And as of the most recent firmware update, you can actually record phone calls through it.


I haven’t tested this. I didn’t find that the audio sending and receiving feature worked absolutely brilliantly, but it was certainly serviceable. It was great while I was actually using the device. But through phone calls, it really wasn’t that successful in my case. And that was using an iPhone 14 pro max, which I do actually suspect has some minor Bluetooth issues. I’d be interested to find out if anyone else has any Bluetooth issues. So I’m certainly not going to blame the SensePlayer for the fact that that doesn’t work.


You’ve got your usual buttons down the left-hand side. Those of you who are familiar with the Blaze products will be aware that there are buttons down the sides. In fact, most of these players have them. They perform functions like for example, the top left button accesses your recordings. The second button down is a toggle button which toggles through various options to do with volume, speed control, equalization if you’re in the media player, and a few other things. The two buttons below that are your up and down buttons. Typically, they control your volume. But you can use them to change the speed of the device, and there’s a few other things you can do which we’ll get into shortly.

The power button is the top right of the device, on the very right-hand side, right above the key hold switch. I’m going to press and hold that button now, as I hold the device as close to the microphone as I can get it  at this point.


[short vibrating sound]


That noise you heard was the vibrate motor telling me that the device had turned on.


What’s going to happen now is after a very short time, it’s going to start vibrating. Yes, it started giving me little tap now, and we’ll hear some sounds shortly.


[boot up sound]


Those sounds you’re hearing are the device booting up.




SensePlayer: File manager.


Vaughn: One of the bugs that still hasn’t been ironed out is that if you boot the device with headphones or anything plugged in to it, the audio (most of the time, not every single time, but most of the time) comes out the speaker as well. Sometimes, by unplugging it and plugging it back in, you can change that. But sometimes, you actually have to go to the FM radio and enable the speaker, and then disable it again in order to prevent that from happening.


Let’s try and see what happens. I’m going to pull it out now.


And you can hear the hum as I touch the cable.


SensePlayer: media player.


Vaughn: No, it’s still coming through the speaker. So in this case, I have to go to the FM radio.


SensePlayer: Daisy player. Document reader. FM radio. FM radio.


[static sound]


SensePlayer: Frequency – 95.7 Mhz.


Vaughn: Okay. And now, I can press 9.


SensePlayer: Internal speaker on.


Vaughn: And then, I can do the same again.


SensePlayer: Internal speaker off.


Vaughn: Okay. Now, it’s back.


SensePlayer: FM radio.


Vaughn: Alright. So now, we’ve got our speaker disabled, and we’ve got audio coming through the audio output only.


It’s worth making a point at this time that there are three ways you can get audio. Actually, there is four, when you think about it. One of them is through the internal speakers. The other is through the headphone jack on the bottom left-hand corner. The third way is via a USBC port. I did think about doing this review with the device connected to a USB audio device, but I thought it would be a much better and more realistic viewpoint if we just connected the 3.5 connector. The fourth way of getting audio, of course, is via Bluetooth and that works really really well. I haven’t had any issues with that. And in fact, if you use the Airpods pro and other Bluetooth headphones, you can start and stop playback, particularly in the media player, by using the buttons on your Bluetooth headphones.

Let’s have a little bit of a look at the software of this device. Now, as I said, when I first got the device and for quite a while, I had some concerns about the way that it operated.


One of the concerns that I had was that when you’re listening to a piece of audio, particularly a Daisy book, it read the time very strangely. For example, instead of saying 1 hour and 28 minutes, it would say 1 hour 88 minutes, which of course is 1 hour plus 28, right? That has now been fixed. I’m pleased to say that works nicely.


The other concern I had was that very often, if I was listening to audio particularly in the media player, the machine would lose track of where I was if I stopped and started. It didn’t happen all the time, but it happened enough to be really annoying, and to make things like reading books that have been converted from CDs, audio-described content, or longer form audio rather annoying, particularly if it was in some sort of playlist form.


The other point to make here is that there’s no way at this time to save a playlist. So if you have a book that is made up of a number of CDs or a number of audio files, it might be in your best interest to create the playlist before you copy the content onto your device. If you do that, you can actually run the playlist file.


But it’s important that you don’t run it from the file manager by clicking on the folder. Because if you do, it will add all of the files from the folder plus then the playlist file, which will add them again. So you’ll end up with the book twice, and that can be rather annoying.


So if you are gonna create your own playlist, go down to the playlist file and play it from there. That does seem to work pretty well.


But you don’t have to do that. You can certainly click on the folder and it will put the file in for you.


As of this recording, you cannot do so with recursive folders. That means that if you have a book, for example, called Vaughn Bennison’s book and inside that book is disk 1, disk 2, disk 3 and each one of those has 20 files, you can’t click on Vaughn Bennison’s book and expect it to open in the media player. You would have to go into each disk folder and add the files from there. You can, however, do that from within the media player.


I do hope they fix that at some point ‘cause I can’t understand why such a thing would be difficult to do. I’m sure it’s just something that’s been overlooked. But that would be a very useful feature.


The other thing that I think would be a really useful feature when you’re thinking about the media player and the file manager in particular is to be able to designate a particular folder as a book. So that when it looks at the files in the folder, it doesn’t just look at a playlist with 20 files in it. It looks at them all as one book.


So that instead of, for example, remembering your spot in a file, it remembers your spot in a playlist. So that if you go away from it and listen to something else and then come back to that playlist, it will recognize where you left off in the entire folder and continue playing from there.


That would make reading things like, as I said, CD-based books and things like that much easier. And also, if you are binge-watching Colombo, for example as I’ve been doing in recent months, a hell of a lot easier if you can remember your spot in a playlist of a number of quite long files.


So let’s have a little bit of a look at the file manager. And of course as one might expect, it comes at the top of the main menu. But you can also press 1 to get to it.


SensePlayer: File manager. Flash disk 1 2 list item.


Vaughn: So you have two options here. At least, I have two options because I have a 512 GB SD card in mine.


The first one is the internal flash disk. There’s about 43 GB usable on that.


Typically, I don’t use it because I find that copying material over (because of the Android file transfer protocol that is being used) I find it quite slow. So I prefer to take the SD card out and transfer it directly. But everybody has their different approaches to doing these things. Maybe for you, it doesn’t matter. So you could absolutely use the internal flash disk if you want to.


The only time I access the internal flash disk is for podcasts because you cannot store (at this time) podcasts on SD card. They are limited to the internal storage.


Again, I don’t think there’s any philosophical reason why this should be the case. I’m sure it’s just something that hasn’t yet been implemented.


SensePlayer: SD 2 2 list item.


Vaughn: SD card is exactly what it says on the tin. So we open it by pressing the right arrow.


SensePlayer: Android 1 10 list item.


Vaughn: And we have a typical file structure system.


SensePlayer: Audio drama 2 10. Audiobooks 3 … Daisy 4 10 list item.


Vaughn: And then of course, you’ve got your list of things that you might put on your SD card to listen to.


I’m going to play a book in the media player. Doing it through the file manager.


SensePlayer: Audiobook 3 10 list item. Alistair Maclean 4 24 list item. Bear Island 2 14 list item. Circus 3 13 list item.


Vaughn: Okay. We’ve found Alistair Maclean’s Circus. Alistair Maclean has been dead for quite some years, but wrote an awful lot of books from the ‘60s to the ‘80s. In fact, probably even from the ‘50s to the ‘80s.


I could just press enter on that. And if I did that, it would load all of the files in that directory into the media player and begin playing.


But if I wanted to have a look at what is in the folder, for example, to find out whether there are any text files so that I can find out about the book, whether there is in fact a playlist file, I can press right arrow.


SensePlayer: 01 circus.mp3 media file 1 12 list item.


Vaughn: Okay. I can see that there are 12 items, and the first one is 01 circus.mp3. I could play that. If it was, for example, a music folder, I could play that song. Or I could just keep going and see what else is in the folder.


For right now though, I’m going to go back to the circus directory, and I’m gonna press enter.




Audiobook narrator: Circus, by Alistair Maclean, read by Simon Ward.


SensePlayer: Pause.


Vaughn: Okay. I’ve now paused it, once again, by pressing the button in the center of the direction pad.


Now while I’m in the media player, I have a few things that I can do. If I press the second button down on the left, (as I said that toggles through different menu options), we can get some information. We can also change a few settings.


SensePlayer: Speed – 0.


Vaughn: So speed is 0. I can speed it up. I’m not gonna bother to demonstrate that because you all know what that sounds like.


SensePlayer: Equalizer – normal.


Vaughn: Equalizer is a number of different presets. We’ll go through them.


SensePlayer: Equalizer – classical. Equalizer – dance. Equalizer – flat. Equalizer – folk. Equalizer – heavy metal. Equalizer – hip-hop. Equalizer – jazz. Equalizer – pop. Equalizer – rock.


Vaughn: And so, therefore, you’ve heard the presets. It would be really useful if it didn’t continue repeating the word equalizer all the time. We know we’re in the equalizer section. We really don’t need to know that it’s equalizer this, equalizer that.


Now if you leave it for too long as I just did, it gives you haptic feedback to let you know that it’s dropped back to controlling the volume. This is where some of the Android players have a real advantage because it’s actually controlling the volume of the media playback, not the volume of the overall device.


So let me give you an example of that. Here we are, playing again.


SensePlayer: Playing.


Simon Ward: Chapter 1. If you were a genuine army colonel,…


Vaughn: Okay. I’m going to likely press the top left button.


SensePlayer: Media player. 01 – circus.mp3. Current time: [00:00:17]. Total time: [00:34:08]. Current track number: 1. Total track number: 12. Play status: play.


Vaughn: Okay. Now, what I’m going to do is I’m going to turn the volume down. Right. You can hear it’s much lower.


Now, I’m going to press the top left button again.


SensePlayer: Media player. 01- circus.mp3. Current time: … Pause.


Vaughn: And you can hear from that that whilst the level of the audio has gone down, the level of the voice hasn’t.


0 will give you information in a dialog box about what it is that you’re listening to, or what it is that you’re doing.


So for example, when I press the mode key and it gave me all the information about the audio I was playing, I could have looked at that piece by piece by pressing 0, and then wading through the information that it gives me with the up and down arrow keys.


If I long-press the 0 key, however, I go into what they call explorer mode which is like a mini file manager mode, but specifically aimed at whatever type of file I’m looking at, in terms of the mode that I’m currently in.


So for example, I am in the media player. If I long-press 0 now, I will go to explorer mode in the folder that contains the file that I’m currently playing.


SensePlayer: Explorer open. 01 – circus.mp3. Media file 1 12 list item.


Vaughn: Now, the theory behind this is that this is where I can put in files into my media player. And as I add more files, it will actually add it to the playlist.


SensePlayer: 8 files added to playlist.


Vaughn: So I’ve now added Goodbye California to my playlist, and what that does is clears what was already there and inserts the files that I’ve selected, which in this case is Goodbye California.


I think it would be really useful if you could set whether it cleared the existing playlist and added a new one, or whether it appended them to what you’ve already got in the system. I think that would be quite a useful feature.


Although, what you can do if you did want to make a playlist of two books is you can go on and find the first book. Short-press 0 on it. And then, go to the next one and short-press 0. And then, press enter. It will add all of those files. That’s a useful way of doing it as well.


So it’s not like you can’t add files of multiple books or files from multiple folders to the list, but you do have to do it all at once. There’s no way that I’ve found to append a file to a playlist.


SensePlayer: File manager.


Vaughn: So that takes care of the media player pretty well. I have to say, I think the audio output of this device is outstanding.


I’ve been seriously disappointed with the audio output of the Victor Reader Stream 2. When I first got it, I forget what version of the firmware I was running. An earlier version – version 2 or something like that, and it wasn’t too bad. But the later versions changed the audio format in some way and took a lot of the bottom end out of it and really ripped the guts out of the audio, so I’ve been quite dissatisfied with the audio output.


I think the audio output via the headphone socket and via Bluetooth is really good on the SensePlayer.


I also had some concerns about the BookSense some years ago, particularly with regard to Bluetooth. The headphone audio output was alright. But Bluetooth had a very strange harmonic in the signal which did some very strange things, to my brain anyway.


This is running Android 11, so you could reasonably expect that it would be running Android-based audio codecs and things like that. I have no confirmation of that. And at this stage, there’s no way to sideload anything, either.


So I have to say I was very heartened by Brian Hartgen’s comments some weeks ago that he had been told that they were looking to put a screen reader into this device. Because one thing that’s really lacking, I think, is the ability to play books from one’s audible library. The only way to do that is to decode the books into mp3 or something like that and copy them across. It’s just not really worth the bother, even if you could simply download the books onto the device and play them.


I’m not particularly concerned about being able to browse the audible catalogue, but it would be nice to browse the books that one has in one’s library and read them on this device.


The Daisy Player works as you might expect, and works very very well. I am of the belief that it would be good if the top speed could be sped up a little bit more. I haven’t clocked it to see exactly what the speed increase is. But I regularly read books at around about 2.8 to 3 speed, and I’m fairly confident that the speed doesn’t get up that far. I reckon it’s probably about 2.3 times, maybe 2.5 at top speed. It would be good if you could get it up over 3.


It has been mentioned that there are quite a number of movement units available on the device. I agree with that. I think that whilst I think that they all need to be there, it would be really good if you had a little setting applet where you could turn them off at will and select which particular movement units that you wanted to use. It wouldn’t be that hard to do.


But The Media Player and the Daisy Player are very similar to what you would find on the BrailleSense 6 mini. and of course, going back all the way to the BrailleSense U2 mini, which I had. And again, the Media Player worked in a very similar way as did the Daisy Player.


Of course, you don’t have the Braille Display, so you don’t have that cool little scroll bar that goes across the Braille Display that gives you a hint as to how much of the file you’ve got to go. But there are ways that you can find that information if you need to.


While I think of it, if you want to know information – for example, battery level is holding down volume down. I’ll do that now.


SensePlayer: 96 charged, using battery.


Vaughn: Similarly, the volume up button…


SensePlayer: [20:58:09].


Vaughn: gives you the time. I always keep my devices on 24-hour time.

If you were to hold down the button that toggles between speed and EQ and things like that, it resets the playback settings to the default.


I can see why that’s really useful, but it is one of these things that, you know, use with care. Because if you have to go back and set them again and you can’t quite remember which EQ setting you really liked, that can be slightly annoying.


There are many things to like about this device, and there are many features that are talked about. I think generally speaking, it lives up to its hype.


I think the battery life estimate – I’ve heard 9 to 10 hours. I feel like maybe that’s a little bit under. Because I have regularly used it for 5 or 6 hours at a stretch, and only gone down to 70%. So unless it drops rather suddenly, I reckon I’d be more likely to get 12, 13, 14 hours out of it.


The battery is user-replaceable and very easy to do. So if you do want to carry a spare battery around with you, it’s easy to do that.


There is no case available, as far as I’m aware. I haven’t looked on executive products for a couple of weeks now. But certainly, as of early March, there was no case available. I think that’s a bit of a disappointment because it’s a nice device, and it would be good to keep it in good condition.


It would be really nice if we could have a case that had a belt clip on it as well, so you can clip it to your pants, or whatever you want to clip it to.


The OCR works quite nicely. I wouldn’t say it’s outstanding. I think there are better products out there.


But for somebody who wants something really simple, and wants to have hard buttons or physical buttons, it’s a really good way of achieving decent OCR responses.


The SmartConnect, as I said, is a really good and really useful feature. Let me see if I can demonstrate that now. I’m going to see if I can get it to connect to my iPhone. I’ll press the top right button now.

SensePlayer: SmartConnect.




SensePlayer: iPhone is connected.


Vaughn: Okay. We now have the iPhone connected. Let’s see what we can do here.


Alex: More info. Activate, default.


Vaughn: Right. I’m in the Bluetooth settings on the iPhone. To get back to the home screen, I need to hold down the menu button. Now remember, that’s the top right button of the direction pad.




Vaughn: Now, you have to hold that down for quite a long time. I think it would be really good, (given the fact that you can actually set the delay in terms of entering text on the BrailleSense keypad), it would be really good to be able to select what constitutes a long press, and what doesn’t. For example, to make this perhaps a 1-second press instead of about a 3.


Now, what I can do is I can left and right arrow through the options on my phone. Now, I haven’t slowed my speech down. This is not meant to be a tutorial, or to display what is on my phone. It is simply to make a point.


Alex: Batteries widget. iPhone, 60% charged. Page 1 of 1, adjustable.


Vaughn: Now, this audio is coming through the Sense Player itself. I don’t have my phone connected to the mixer, or anything like that.


Alex: Home folder, 8 apps. Recording folder, 7 apps.


Vaughn: Okay. I’m now going to press 7. That will take me to the very bottom right hand corner of my screen, very similar to a four finger tap on the bottom of the iPhone screen itself.


Alex: Dock. Entertainment folder, 15 apps.


Vaughn: Okay. I’m now going to go to my phone app and demonstrate just why the SmartConnect can be really useful.


Alex: Mail, 2 unread. Phone.


Vaughn: Okay. I’m going to press enter on that.


Alex: Phone. Tab bar. Selected, favorites tab, 1 of 5.


Vaughn: It has, by coincidence, put me onto the tab bar across the bottom, which we all know so well. I’m gonna go to the keypad And press enter.


Alex: Selected. Keypad tab, 4 of 5.


Vaughn: Now, I’m going to enter in a phone number. I’m going to use the Sense Player to do that.


Now in order to make this happen, I actually need to press the menu key – just a short press to toggle through to text input mode.


Once again, it would be quite useful if there was a way to access text input mode temporarily in this sort of situation. But I can see why that might be a little bit more difficult to work out. Because it would have to be context-aware, and it’s not reasonable to expect that an application like this is context-aware.


I’ll press the menu key.


SensePlayer: Web browsing mode. Text input mode.


Vaughn: Right. There’s text input mode. You must remember not only to go to text input mode, but to go to number input mode by pressing the hash key.


SensePlayer: Symbols. Numbers.


Vaughn: Okay. Now, I can type in my phone number.


[typing sound]


Okay. And once I’ve typed in my number, I can press enter.


Voicemail: Hello! This is Vaughn Bennison. Unfortunately, I’m currently on another call and unable to speak to you. If you’d leave your name, telephone number, and a brief message after the beep, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


Alex: End call button. Hide button. End call button.




Vaughn: And I’ve ended the call. So as you can see, it’s much easier to type in numbers when you are using a physical keypad than it is to type them in on the screen.


So if you’re doing something like accessing a Zoom meeting by phone, paying a bill through your phone banking, or something like that, it might be a really good option for you to use a device that has physical keys, rather than having to navigate the touch screen and just hope like hell that you can hear VoiceOver as you try to find the digits of the keypad.


We’ve heard a number of times that this can be difficult for some players.


So SmartConnect certainly has its uses. It’s not a panacea and it’s not necessarily something that everybody’s going to use, but it can be very useful.


And as I said, as of the last firmware revision, you can record phone calls while connected via SmartConnect, which could be, again, really useful for some people.


So to get out of Smart Connect, we can press the top left button of the navigational keypad which is, of course, the home button.


SensePlayer: File manager.


Vaughn: And that takes us back to File Manager.


There’s a significant number of options available to you on the SensePlayer. And whether you choose to use the Sense Player over the Victor Reader Stream, really, is up to you.


One of the things that I do really like about it is that you can put your files into a directory structure that makes sense to you. You can have those directories going as deep as you like.


Again, one of the downsides to that is the device doesn’t know whether what you’re listening to is a group of music files, an audio book, audio described TV, audio drama, or anything like that, so it doesn’t know what it should do with it. I think that can be a bit of a downside.


I think it’s probably fixable, but at this stage, there are a few bugs that make it slightly difficult under certain circumstances, and means that you might have to perhaps do a little bit more work than you might, otherwise.


Certainly, the PlexTalk Pocket approached its file structure in a very similar way, and didn’t have quite the same bugs that the SensePlayer currently has. So I’m sure they’re fixable. It’s just a matter of bringing them to the attention of the right people.


It’s very easy to get information about where you are and what you’re doing. And I’m really heartened, as I said earlier, by the comments that have been made by Brian Hartgen and others about some of the expectations that HIMS has for a product like this.


Being able to put a screen reader in and sideload apps would be really useful.


Having a Kindle app, I think, would be particularly useful, as well as an Audible app. Whether they’re the default Audible apps available through the Play Store and you sideload them in some way, or whether eventually there’s some sort of Play Store app itself, I don’t really care. I just like to have access to my Audible and Kindle libraries.


As I said, I don’t really care about browsing the catalogues. I just want access to the content that I already have, so that I can use this device to listen to it.


I did try sideloading the Audible app, and it didn’t do anything at all. So I can attest to the fact that currently, that is not available. I did think it was interesting to find out, though.


The Wi-Fi works really well.


The podcast app is very very similar to what you might expect to see on the BrailleSense 6 and the BrailleSense 6 Mini, of course. It’s very easy to use. There are some podcast feeds to get you started, and there is a podcast search algorithm so that you can search for podcasts.


And when you access a podcast, they don’t download automatically, as you might expect to see on your iPhone or Android device. But they do show up in a very similar sort of structure to what you might expect to find in the file management structure.


In fact let’s have a bit of a look, shall we?


SensePlayer: Media player. Daisy player. Document reader. FM radio. OCR. Web radio. Podcasts.


Vaughn: There’s the podcasts. We’ll hit enter.

SensePlayer: Feed. Creating feed list. Feed list creation complete. Feed. 62nd Science 1 40 list item. ABC news update 2 40… Against the Odds. Blind Bargains 4 40. Daily News Sports. Drama of the Week. Eyes on Success. Global News podcast. Here’s the Thing with Alex. Hit Parade Music. Money Talks… NBC Nightly News. Audio 13 40 list item.


Vaughn: These are the feeds that it has provided by default. So let’s find one that we’re probably all familiar with.


SensePlayer: Blind Bargains 4 40 list… Feed. Blind Bargains. Episode CSUNATC22 audio: Inclusive map-viewing through any browser with Audiom, not downloaded 1 50 list item.


Vaughn: Okay. So All I did to open that feed was to press right arrow. And then, it went out and had a look at the feed, and has given me the 50 most recent episodes. So if we find one that we might be interested in looking at, …


SensePlayer: CSUNATC22 audio: What’s new in Duxbury 12.6 for Mac and Windows. CSUNATC22 audio: Finding Layers Of Context With The Dynamic Tactile Device From APH. Not downloaded. Audio: Hable Is The New Tactile Assistant For Your Smartphone. Not downloaded 4 50 list item.


Vaughn: Okay, Hable has been mentioned on the Living Blindfully podcast a few times in recent weeks. So I’m going to press enter on that one, and we’ll see what they’re up to.


SensePlayer: Start content download.




SensePlayer: Play.


[Blind Bargains podcast intro]


SensePlayer: Pause.

Vaughn: Okay, so that’s how you download and play a podcast.


Now there is a bit of a problem at the moment, and I’m not quite sure what the answer is, but there is a bit of a workaround.


You can set the podcast app to only download the podcast. But if you do that, it is not possible to play them from the podcast app. If you go to the episodes that you’ve downloaded, it tells you that it’s downloaded. But then when you go to play it, it tries to download it again and says episode already downloaded, and just throws you back to the feed.


So the only way you then can download it is go to the file manager, and then, to your podcast directory. Have a look for it there and play it from there.


Not a big deal, but it would be nice if there was an option to say the file is downloaded, do you want to play it? I’m sure once again that this will happen in the fullness of time.


If I press left arrow now…


[Blind Bargains podcast intro]


Vaughn: It restarts the playback of the file.


What happens if I press okay?


SensePlayer: Play.


Vaughn: Oops! It doesn’t realize that it’s playing, and it says play. I have to press it again to pause. Once again, something that’s easy to fix.


So it’s a very straightforward podcast program. But as I said, it doesn’t download the podcast for you automatically (as some of the other devices do) and as might be expected on your smartphone app.

So use with care. Don’t expect that it’s going to have all the podcasts for the last week ready for you when you’re on your long plane journey and you’re stuck on airplane mode, because that’s not going to happen. You’re going to have to download them. And then, listen to them at your leisure.


Once again, if you do it that way, you’re going to have to do it through the media player. There’s no way to do it through the podcast player itself.


The other thing that would be really useful, I think, would be for each of the different apps on the device to remember the audio settings that you have for that particular app, or for that particular type of playback.


So for example, if I were to go into media player and start listening to my Alistair Maclean book and set the speed accordingly, and then go to the Daisy player and listen to a Daisy book, the speed would be the same.


If I then change because the narrator is considerably faster and I slow the speed down, then when I go back to my Alistair Maclean book, it will be slowed down again. So it would be useful if it could remember the speed of the app that you were playing at the time, rather than speed being a global option.


That’s all there really is to say about the SensePlayer at this point. I think they’ve done a good job of fixing a lot of the bugs. There are still a couple to go.


I’m really excited to see what happens with this device in the future.


It does run Android 11, which is one version higher than the BrailleSense devices currently run. so I’m hoping we’ll get an update for the BrailleSense devices at some point in the near future.


I’d be really excited to see what HIMS could do with Android 13 on the Sense player because then we would have – if we used a version of TalkBack for the screen reader, we would have native Braille support. I think that would be really useful regardless of whether it uses the HID protocol or not. I think it would be nice to be able to see our OCR books or OCR files in Braille as you could, for example, on the Blaze devices.


I have to admit, though. I never actually tried it, and I’ve never really heard from anyone that it was particularly successful. So do let us know if you had some success with that.


I will finish this recording with a demonstration of the recording from the product.


I have a couple of concerns about the recording. It’s quite useful for certain circumstances, but it’s not what I would call a high-quality recorder.


The microphones are very oddly placed. they’re placed in the top left-hand corner right above the record button, and the bottom right hand corner down past the key hold switch. I just think that’s really odd.


It’s quite useful if you’re recording an interview. You’ve got one microphone facing one person. Hold the unit slightly diagonally, and you’ve got the other microphone facing the other person. There would be no way to get the microphones even close to each other or facing in the same direction.


It’s quite useful if you’re recording an interview. You’ve got one microphone facing one person. Hold the unit slightly diagonally, and you’ve got the other microphone facing the other person.


There would be no way to get the microphones even close to each other or facing in the same direction. So you couldn’t, for example, get a coincident pair, or anything of that nature.


However, the recording such as it is, is there. And if you wish to use it, you can. I’ll provide a demonstration.


Firstly, I’m going to do a recording. And while I do the recording, I’m going to leave the headphone monitoring on so you can hear what that’s like.


I have to tell you, be aware. It’s pretty atrocious. I think it’s one thing that really seriously needs a look at.


Because for one thing, you can’t monitor through your headphones in stereo. The other thing is it only picks up what one of the microphones is doing. And the third thing that I think is really bad is it’s very very loud, and the EQ is very strange. So we’ll demonstrate that now, if we can.


Okay, I’m now going to hold down the record button, and we’ll hear what happens.


Okay. We’re recording on the SensePlayer now,and we’re using the headphone monitoring system that is built into the SensePlayer.


As you can hear, it’s not particularly satisfactory. In fact, I’m not even sure you can understand what I’m saying.


And just to verify what I said before about it only accessing one microphone, I’m now going to touch the microphone on the bottom right-hand corner.


Okay, now I’ll touch the top left-hand corner. Nothing happens.


Okay, I’m now going to turn the device around a little bit in my hands. And when I play it back, you’ll be able to hear the stereo nature of the recording, and verify that it is, in fact, recording in stereo, and recording reasonably well.


But there is a significant amount of hiss. Probably not quite as bad as… Well, definitely not as bad as the average cassette recorder, but certainly a bit worse than some of the cassette recorders that I currently have. I wouldn’t say that the noise floor in this system is anywhere near what I would call close to being professional grade recording.


I’m now going to press enter, and we’ll play it back.


SensePlayer: Successfully saved. List item. Record01.mp3. Media file 1 1 list item.


Vaughn: And here we go. We’ll press enter on that.


“Significant amount of hiss. Probably not quite as bad as… Well, definitely not as bad as the average cassette recorder, but certainly a bit worse than some of the cassette recorders that I currently have. I wouldn’t say that the noise floor in this system is anywhere near what I would call close to being professional grade recording.


I’m now going to press enter, and we’ll play it back.”


And whilst we can see that the first half of that recording was missing, I will actually insert the recorded file here so that we can verify the fact that it is in fact, recording.


“Okay. We’re recording on the Sense Player now,and we’re using the headphone monitoring system that is built into the SensePlayer.


As you can hear, it’s not particularly satisfactory. In fact, I’m not even sure you can understand what I’m saying.


And just to verify what I said before about it only accessing one microphone, I’m now going to touch the microphone on the bottom right-hand corner.


Okay, now I’ll touch the top left-hand corner. Nothing happens.


Okay, I’m now going to turn the device around a little bit in my hands. And when I play it back, you’ll be able to hear the stereo nature of the recording, and verify that it is, in fact, recording in stereo, and recording reasonably well.


But there is a significant amount of hiss. Probably not quite as bad as… Well, definitely not as bad as the average cassette recorder, but certainly a bit worse than some of the cassette recorders that I currently have. I wouldn’t say that the noise floor in this system is anywhere near what I would call close to being professional grade recording.


I’m now going to press enter, and we’ll play it back.”


Thanks for being a part of this review.


It has been slightly long-winded. I recognize that. But I hope you’ve been able to get a sense of what it’s like to use a SensePlayer.


As I said, I think it’s a great device. I really enjoy using it and I’m really glad that I have it in my toolkit, but it has to be acknowledged that it is good for what it is good for, but we shouldn’t really have any expectations that it will go beyond that.


It’s certainly not a replacement for a mobile device in any way, and it’s certainly not a replacement for a professional grade recorder, for those people who care about such things.


If you don’t, then it’s pretty cool. You can do some really interesting things with it, like making daisy audiobooks with headings on the fly and things like that, if that’s what you want to do. Really useful in that respect.


You can, of course, record with the USB-C input as well if you choose to. And of course then, you will get a much better result because you’ll be able to use the microphone or audio device of your choice.


I highly recommend the Sense Player if you have the opportunity to get one, and I look forward to seeing what comes from this device and from HIMS in the future.




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The BlindShell Classic on AT&T


Jonathan: Let’s return to the Blindshell Classic, and whether or not it works on the AT&T network in the United States.


Gene Warner says:


Several weeks ago, one of your listeners lamented the fact that Blindshell phones only work on T-Mobile here in the United States.


You reported that you had asked Bari Azman about this, to which he replied that Blindshell phones now work with the other carriers in the United States, namely AT&T and Verizon later.


Well, this is one Blindshell user who knows from experience that what Bari told you couldn’t be further from the truth.


I took Bari at his word, and went to an AT&T store to switch my cellular service from T-Mobile to AT&T.


What a big mistake!


Once my AT&T account was set up and my phone number was ported over, I proceeded to swap out the T-Mobile SIM in my phone for one from AT&T, then powered up the phone.


The phone reported that there was no service, and that it was using 2G. That’s not what I was expecting.


For the next hour or so, AT&T tried a number of things, but could not get my phone to communicate with their network.


Now, I have to try and undo the damage this switch attempt has caused. Because until I do, I do not have a working phone.


And it gets worse!


In order for mobile data to work on AT&T, there are some APN settings that need to be adjusted. I don’t know what phone the instructions Bari provided are for, but they are definitely not for the Classic 2 phone, because most of the settings that needed changing don’t exist on the Classic 2. So those instructions turned out to be unusable.


I really do love the concept of the Blindshell Classic 2 phone, but the company behind it leaves a lot to be desired.


Jonathan: Well thanks, Gene.


Obviously, I want to provide accurate information on the podcast. and so once again, I reached out to Bari Azman from Blindshell USA to ask him if he could absolutely confirm that AT&T and the Blindshell Classic 2 are compatible.


Bari says that he is working withGene, the customer in question, and he says: “I can confirm 100% that we have many active Blindshell Classic 2 users successfully using the AT&T network. We have provided Gene with instructions on how to adjust the APN setting, and also offered him personalized assistance.”


Now I’m half a world away, I’ve got no way of testing or verifying this. But I’ll put it out there.


If you are using a Blindshell Classic 2 on AT&T, do let me know how you got it working and how it’s working out for you. If you have tried and failed as Gene has at the time that he wrote this, then please let me know that as well.


Closing and Contact Info


That wraps it up for this week.


Remember that when you’re out there working your guide dog, you’ve harnessed success. And with your cane, you’re able.



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