Transcripts of Living Blindfully are made possible by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at http://PneumaSolutions.com.
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.
Hello! The Google IO keynote talked about new devices, operating systems, and plenty about AI. We’ll cover the highlights from a blindness perspective. Mastodon continues to gain traction with some high profile organizations making the jump, and what are we doing about the risks of quiet cars?
Thanks for joining me for another episode of the podcast. I appreciate it because you’re helping me get over my disappointment.
I was talking about this on Mastodon just the other day. My disappointment stems from the fact that yet again, I have been overlooked for a Pulitzer Prize.
[Aww! sound effect]
But I believe in being optimistic in seeing the silver lining in every cloud. And I said to the people on Mastodon, “Even though I’m not obviously getting a Pulitzer Prize this year, I’m still in the running for a Bopitzer, Twistitzer, and Flickitzer prize.”
And somebody said, “That’s all very well, but you forgot the most important prestigious prize at all – the Spinitzer Prize.”
And I replied on the Mastodon, “I did not forget the Spinitzer Prize. But a politician has already taken that one.”
[laughter sound effect]
Yes, it’s been a long week. It has also been over a month now since we announced Living Blindfully. And with it, a whole raft of changes, including Living Blindfully plus.
And that means that some people’s subscriptions are renewing – those who’ve chosen to make a recurring subscription to Living Blindfully plus.
So I just want to say thank you, once again. It is making such a difference to my quality of life, to the energy that I can bring to the podcast, because I’m freer from some of these administrative tasks. So your contributions to Living Blindfully plus mean a great deal. Thank you so much.
If you’re not subscribed yet, you can support the podcast and get episodes 3 days in advance when you subscribe for as little as one New Zealand dollar a month, which only equates to about 62 American cents at the moment. You can go higher, and I appreciate it.
If you would like to do that, you will get emailed a private RSS feed. You can paste that into your podcast app of choice, reap the benefits of Living Blindfully plus, and help to keep the podcast viable, so thank you so much.
I will be talking about Living Blindfully and my podcasting journey at the New Zealand Podcast Summit. By the time this episode is released, all being well, I will have done that and come back home.
They’re experiencing some more torrential rain and horrible weather in Auckland, but I’m hoping to be up there over the weekend for the New Zealand Podcasting Summit.
I was talking to the organizers of the summit a couple of months ago, and talking about Living Blindfully and all the podcasts things I’ve done over the years. And I pointed out that I’ve been podcasting since 2004, (the latter part of 2004, when podcasting was just starting,). We started doing a Mosen Explosion podcast back then.
And in those days, you had to roll your own RSS feed. There weren’t podcast hosts. Initially, you had to do all of that yourself.
I think, Libsyn might have been the first podcast hosts that I can recall that came along and made things a lot easier, and started this whole category of podcast hosting companies. And now, there are quite a few around.
And the guy I spoke to from the New Zealand Podcasting Summit said, “You may well have been New Zealand’s first podcaster.” And I haven’t thought about that before. But I guess, that is very possible. So that’s a dubious distinction. And it’s amazing to think that next year, those of us who were early adopters will have been doing this podcasting thing for 20 years.
I haven’t forgotten to mention that this is episode 229.
So what’s the US area code for 229? We’re going to the south of Georgia.
I feel like I need some sort of reverb or something, so I can go, “Georgia, my sweet Georgia”,. But then, I don’t want you to cancel your Living Blindfully plus subscription, so I’ll stop right there.
The southern part of Georgia. Apparently this area code was created in 2001, when an area code was getting a bit full, and they created a couple of spin-offs.
So if you are in the southern part of Georgia in the United States, (that’s not the other Georgia that’s a country), then a warm welcome to you. But welcome to you if you are in Georgia, the country, as well. We welcome everybody.
And that means we also welcome people in Benin. I haven’t been in Benin before. But it’s country code 229. And it’s bordering a lot of these countries whose country codes we’ve been going through in recent weeks. So these country codes are all geographically clustered. There’s about 13-ish million people in Benin, and the majority of the population are on the south coast. So welcome to you, if you happen to be listening from there.
Trying to Sign Up For mastodon
He is someone who won’t be joining us over on the Rockin’ Mastodon anytime soon. It’s John Riehl. He says:
“Hi, Jonathan. just listened to your extremely comprehensive tutorial on Mona. As usual, another stellar tutorial.”
Well, thank you so much,John. I appreciate that.
“Unfortunately,” he says, “as someone who has never used Twitter, I’m probably not going to sign up and use Mastodon anytime soon. In part, the reason is that I have an aversion to social media in general.
Another major reason is the geeky nature of mastodon. I went to masto.host just to check it out, and found this as part of their sign-up instructions:
Choose the domain/subdomain for your Mastodon server.
Skipping a little, we find:
Pointing the domain to masto.host
If you choose to use your domain/subdomain, you will be given instructions to point the domain/subdomain to masto.host servers. For installations with masto.host subdomain, the step is not necessary.
The installation process will automatically start as soon as the domain/subdomain responds on masto.host servers for masto.host subdomains. This is immediate. This should take a couple of minutes, and you will receive an email once it has finished.
Say what? Domain/sub domain? A couple of examples explaining what a domain/subdomain means would have been helpful.
I’m fairly sophisticated when it comes to the internet, but this stumped me. I can only imagine what new users will experience. Until signing up and hosting on Mastodon is as seamless as it is on Twitter, many potential users will not bother to sign up, unfortunately.
Thanks for producing an always high-quality podcast.”
Well thanks, as always, for another contribution, John.
And I may be presumptuous, but I’m wondering if you’ve gone to the right place. If you want to just sign up and use Mastodon as an end-user, masto.host is definitely not the place to go.
You go to masto.host if you want to buy Mastodon hosting to start your own mastodon server, or your own Mastodon instance. For example, I wanted to install Mastodon software on LivingBlindfully.social. So that’s my domain. And in that case, it’s appropriate for me to go to masto.host which is one company, (one very good company) that will install the Mastodon software on a domain for you, which is why they’re referring to domains and subdomains. So they installed Mastodon on LivingBlindfully.social for me.
Most end-users won’t want to go anywhere near that. Most end-users will want to pick a mastodon instance such as mastodon.social, which is the one I recommended people might like to start with. Or if they’re interested in a blindness-specific community, they could go to tweesecake.social. In that case, all you need to do is provide a username and a password, and you’re in.
And in that regard, once you’ve chosen the place you want to be, it’s no more complicated than signing up for Twitter. It’s a really simple form you fill in, you will get an email confirmation, you may be asked to agree to some rules which you should review. And it’s going to take you all of a few minutes to get up and running, and connected to whatever Mastodon instance you chose. So there’s a difference between setting up an instance from scratch, and just joining a mastodon instance, which most people want to do.
So if you’d like to join us on Mastodon, I recommend giving tweesecake.social a look. That’s tweesecake.social. Sign up there, agree to the rules, you’ll get on. And I hope you’ll follow me there on my personal account which is JonathanMosen@tweesecake.social. You can also follow this podcast on Mastodon: podcast@LivingBlindfully.social.
The Federation and Freedom on the Fediverse – NFB and Freedom Scientific Come to Mastodon
I have been very heartened to see so many people flocking to Mastodon in recent times.
And I should give a big shoutout and welcome to the National Federation of the Blind, who have now issued a media release saying that Mastodon is their social network of choice. In fact, I’ll read that release because I think it is an important statement.
The headline is:
National Federation of the Blind Moves Away from Twitter, Establishes Mastodon Server and Account.
And the release reads:
In light of recent events, including the laying off of Twitter’s entire accessibility team and changes to its API that have broken accessible Twitter clients used by our community, the National Federation of the Blind is realigning our social media presence. The biggest immediate change is the establishment of a new server and account on the federated social media network Mastodon.
As the transformative membership and advocacy organization of blind people across the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, the National Federation of the Blind will prioritize accessibility, inclusion, and the preferences of blind people as we adapt our social media strategy. Our move away from Twitter and toward Mastodon reflects these commitments. Advantages of Mastodon include an established accessibility culture (for example, the community sets an expectation of alt tags for images), the ability to tailor the experience in many ways to meet our community’s needs, and a number of highly accessible clients across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.
“Twitter is no longer a platform we can support due to its complete lack of regard for equal access by the blind. While we do not want to abandon our supporters on Twitter and will continue to post content there, it will no longer be a primary source of our social media engagement,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind.
“The good news is that there are new and exciting opportunities in the social media space. We are thrilled to plant our flag in the fediverse with our new Mastodon server and first account, and we look forward to feedback from our community on how to take full advantage of the exciting possibilities that this network presents.”
Members of the National Federation of the Blind are invited to submit ideas on the use of our new nfb.social server by sending their thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. (That’s email@example.com.) We want to hear your thoughts on whether NFB members should have individual accounts on the new server, how those accounts might be used, and any other ideas about how we should post, organize content, and take full advantage of Mastodon’s capabilities.
So I’ll stop the release there, but there you go – the Federation on the Fediverse. And you’ll find them there at nfb.social.
Good forward-thinking stuff from the National Federation of the Blind to get on Mastodon. I imagine that that’s where a lot of the convention activity will be happening in Houston this year.
But as all the infomercial say, or at least they used to say, “But wait, there’s more.” I haven’t watched an infomercial for years.
But the important thing to tell you is that Freedom Scientific is also now on Mastodon. And if you want to follow them, you can go to FreedomScientific.com, and there’s a link to the Mastodon account right on their homepage. Or you can follow them directly in your Mastodon client, and the address is @FreedomScientific@Mastodon.social. That’s @FreedomScientific@Mastodon.social.
It is great to have them here as well, to be able to keep up-to-date with what’s going on with all the extensive training that Freedom Scientific does, news of upcoming JAWS and ZoomText, and Fusion releases, and all the things that FS likes to post about.
So it is happening. We are seeing some blindness organizations coming to Mastodon.
There are some outliers, but I’m not going to name them because it seems like we’ve got a domino effect going on now [laughs] where quite a few organizations are coming to Mastodon. And it’s possible that the organization’s I feel somewhat compelled to call out may be on by the time this podcast is published, or soon thereafter. But they know who they are, I’m sure. And it’s starting to look a bit embarrassing at this point.
Voice Dream Reader and Subscriptions
Hi to Lachlan Thomas, who writes:
I’m very new to Voice Dream Reader, having bought the app only 3 weeks ago. I’m pleased I bought it when I did, so I don’t need to pay for an app subscription.
Like you, i access Daisy books from a blindness Library. In my case, it’s the Vision Australia Library.
While I understand the concept of downloading books via my iPhones web browser and importing them into VDR, I would much prefer that VDR used the Daisy online standard, because I find the process of selecting, downloading, and importing my books into VDR to be clunky, laborious, and slow compared to using EasyReader or Vision Australia Connect.
For this reason, if I want to read books on my iPhone, I would far rather use either Vision Australia Connect or EasyReader. Both these apps allow me to download books directly from the Vision Australia Library. And Vision Australia Connect is particularly seamless in its access to the library.
I sent Voice Dream Reader some feedback suggesting they add support for Daisy online, but I’m unsure if they’ve received my feedback or whether they’ll action it.
I do find the user interface in VDR to be very usable. I particularly like the swipe actions in the library window, which allow you to do things like start reading a book without actually double tapping on the book to open it.
I only wish the documentation was more clearly written. I got confused by the gestures the app uses, until I read the notes for VoiceOver users. Most of the user’s manual appears to be written from a sighted user’s perspective.
Regarding the move to a subscription-based sales model, I had no idea this had happened until I came across this episode of your podcast. Less still did I know of the reaction from users. I personally would prefer not to pay a subscription fee to use the app.
In the sighted world, software subscriptions have become more commonplace. I think particularly of Adobe Systems who, as far as I know, only sell their products such as Dreamweaver or Photoshop via subscriptions.
Your point about blindness software and SMAs is very valid. However, you’re not forced to pay for a subscription to JAWS, for instance, if you don’t want to upgrade to a newer version. Keeping software up to date is important. But if you feel that a newer version of a software product doesn’t have features that meet your needs and you’d rather stay with the current version, you don’t have to pay for the software maintenance agreement.
If you stop paying for your VDR subscription, on the other hand, you’ll lose access to the app. So a software maintenance agreement and a regular subscription aren’t quite the same thing in my eyes.
You may know that in Australia, we have what’s called the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). And I’m sure that any new VDR users who are on the scheme may use their funding to pay for the subscription fees. But not everyone’s going to have that option.
As you say, the value for money of the subscription model very much remains to be seen. I would personally want to be sure the developers are going to add features that will meet everyone’s needs before taking the plunge and buying the subscription.
On a slightly unrelated note, does the New Zealand Library for the Blind have an audiobook app that allows you to easily access the library’s catalog and listen to your books on your iPhone, or is VDR your only option?
It appears that EasyReader allows you to download books from Blind Low Vision NZ. Is that the library service you use? If so, would you be interested in trying out EasyReader? EasyReader is free. I’d be curious to know your opinion of it in contrast to VDR.”
Thanks, Lachlan! some interesting points there.
Voice Dream Reader is designed for the print-disabled market in general, so there are a lot of people who use it who don’t use VoiceOver.
But you’re correct. The manual might do with a little bit of fine-tuning.
I do have EasyReader.
To be honest, I think I’ve been spoiled by Voice Dream Reader. If Voice Dream Reader were not around, then I’m sure I’d get on just fine with EasyReader. For now, I must confess, I find it pretty clunky. But maybe I just need to use it more, and then it would become as intuitive to me as Voice Dream Reader is right now.
And Low Vision NZ no longer has an app. It used to have one called BookLink. It kind of got, I don’t know, broken. and it’s been withdrawn now, which is a great pity.
Voice message: G’day, everyone. Scott Rutkowski here from Sydney, Australia.
First of all, I want to thank Jonathan for his Living Blindfully podcast and its continuation, and we’re all very grateful and very much appreciate Jonathan’s hard work on this venture.
What I want to comment on today is Jonathan’s outstanding writing, or his actual words regarding the subscription model for Voice Dream Reader. I agree with Jonathan wholeheartedly, and agree with all the points that Jonathan made in his piece on the show this week.
What I am a little disappointed at, as Jonathan rightly said, I think the pricing model has not been thought through. Now I feel that it’s right that a developer should be compensated for all the hard work and investment that they put into the app. What I am upset about is the outrageous price of $40 USD. And right now, that equates to $60 AUD as of this particular post or piece. I feel that the price should be less than $40 USD. I feel that maybe $20 is a fair price.
The other thing is, you don’t even get a choice of paying by the month. And in other subscriptions, you either get that choice. Or some apps even let you pay every 6 months, every 3.
And I think that having to be slugged a large fee to pay for the year is a little bit much. It’s hard for the blind community as a whole right now, and not everybody has $40 USD just to put on the app there.
I have emailed Winston Chen and expressed my disappointment at the fact that it hasn’t been thought through properly, and I think that he should reconsider his pricing model.
The other quick point that I wanted to make in regard to getting refunds from the App Store is that it is actually very easy now to do so. Basically, if you visit ReportAProblem.apple.com and you sign in with your Apple ID and password, there’s an option in there that is like a couple of those drop-down type options. You select that you would like to request a refund. And then, you choose the option from the available choices, “This app does not work as expected”. And then, you click on submit. And I think there’s a checkbox to agree with before you click submit. And then within 48 hours, you’ll receive an email that prompts you to go back to the same site and log in again, and there’s a check decision.
Now, I’ve requested some app refunds in the last month (2 of them), and I was refunded.
So the process is a lot easier than it used to be. You used to have to go and email Apple iTunes support, and that was just like a pain in the neck.
So this is a much streamlined process. And for those who wish to obtain refunds, you can do it this way.
One point I did forget to mention is once you’ve logged in and requested a refund, there’s checkboxes for the apps that have been purchased recently. You tick the one that you wish to obtain a refund on. So I hope this helps the listeners out here.
Thanks very much, Jonathan, again for producing this awesome podcast and for offering a subscription-based model that is very valuable. We all really appreciate your hard work.
Jonathan: Well thank you, Scott! It makes me wish I’d charged $40 a year. [laughs] No, not really.
I see what you’re saying. I know the reporter problem thing has got a lot better than it used to be in terms of getting a refund.
But when you compare it with how straightforward it is on Android, I still think Apple’s got a long way to go, you know. There’s a grace period where if you download an app on Android and you just don’t like it for any reason, you can have second thoughts. You don’t have to justify yourself within a given window. I forget exactly how long that window is. I’m sure there’ll be Android users who will deluge firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what the window is. You can just get a no-questions-asked refund, and you just do it automatically. No one has to make a decision about anything, and the app just disappears from your device, disappears from your account. Sweet as, as we say over here.
So I wish that Apple’s process was that simple. But you’re right. It’s better than it was.
I want to give a shoutout to the team at Pneuma Solutions, who make it possible to bring you transcripts of Living Blindfully for every episode we do.
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Old Main Menu Episodes
Kelby Carlson says:
I was relieved to listen to the webinar and discover it did not involve the podcast ending.
You mentioned during the call-in time that you had most of the old episodes of Main Menu.
Is this something ACB is planning on re-uploading at some point? Or could it be made available in some other way?
While the reviews and talks are themselves out of date now, I think the show is historically important, and I would love to listen to some of the old ones.
I’m wishing all the best for the continuation of the podcast.
P.S. I may have said this before, but I can’t imagine doing some of the things you did at the age I am now, like founding ACB Radio with a normal career and small children. Your time management and productivity skills clearly were, and are spectacular, and I envy them.”
Well, thank you very much for the email, Kelby. Really appreciate that. [laughs]
Regarding the Main Menu episodes, I think they’ve released one. I think they released Main Menu episode 1 in a new podcast feed that they created for the purpose called Main Menu Legacy, but they haven’t released the others. I do need to go fossicking around because I’ve got a couple of discs with Main Menu episodes on that I couldn’t immediately find when I was copying everything onto my network attached storage device a few years ago. Maybe they’re lost forever, and maybe they’re not, and I just need to try and find some time to see.
But there certainly are a lot of episodes there that I have given to ACB Media, (as it’s called now), and I’d love to see them uploaded. Because there seems to be quite a bit of enthusiasm for these old episodes, to the extent that there is a set doing the rounds that are horrible quality because they date back to a period where many people were still on dial-up modems. And to make sure that the episodes were as accessible to as many people as possible, we used to have to stream them at this horribly low bitrate. It was 16 kbps, 11 kHz mono, and it sounds grainy and yucky.
But on Mastodon, people have been geeking out over some of these old episodes in terrible quality. And it sort of breaks my heart a bit to know that a lot of these episodes are out there in much better quality.
And those of you who remember the kind of interregnum between incarnations of MushroomFM will recall that I ran a thing called the Mosen Channel for a while, and I was playing some of those high-quality main menu editions. It would be great to see them out there, even though the set is not complete.
Caller: Hi, Jonathan! Michael Massey here in Pueblo, Colorado.
Thanks for reading my email at the beginning of the podcast. And I didn’t even realize that my name was not in the from field because I usually never have put the name in the from field. So I guess I learned something.
I liked your discussion of area codes and country codes, and you brought up Pennsylvania 6-5000 by Glenn Miller, which I really like very much.
So what that was referring to is that at least up until 1964 that I remember, phone numbers had prefixes. Like for example, my phone number here in Pueblo, Colorado, was Lincoln 28529. And then in the rural areas around Pueblo, there was Whitney 8 and Whitney 7. So for example, it might be Whitney 83371, or Whitney 74826, or whatever.
And in Colorado Springs, their prefix at first that I remember was just one, Melrose. So there was Melrose 2, Melrose 3, Melrose 4, 5, and 6, and the remaining five numbers. So that’s how people knew their numbers then.
In Denver area, there was Harrison. And somebody else over there was Grace. I don’t know all the other prefixes.
And then in Hutchinson, Kansas, my aunt and uncle had a prefix called Mohawk – Mohawk 34175. And then other parts of Kansas, there was Wells, Swift, and various other prefix names.
So the prefix name was given along with the remaining 5 digits. So Pennsylvania 65,000 would be PE, meaning 736500. But Pennsylvania was a prefix apparently then.
So that’s how phone numbers were given, with prefixes and then the remaining 5 digits. That’s what was going on at least here in the US. Of course, I don’t know about other countries because I don’t know how their phone services were different.
So that’s what those prefixes they were called that I remember. And some people still say, well, refer to the 7 digits as, it’s a 5-4 prefix or a 5-6 whatever prefix now.
But nowadays, of course, phone numbers here in the US are 10 digits now. Like your phone number we call, it’s 10 digits.
And in my area, anybody I call here in my local area, I have to dial all 10 digits – the area code and phone number. And that was a bigger city. Now it’s pretty much everywhere.
Colorado has multiple area codes now, which you’ll discover you get into the later numbered podcasts. Colorado now has at least four area codes.
Colorado’s area code used to be 303. So now there’s 303, there’s 719, there’s 720, and 970. So at least four area codes in Colorado now.
And New Jersey, of course, has multiple area codes. A lot of the other states, … As you mentioned, Pennsylvania and others have multiple area codes now. So things have really changed.
Keep up the good work on your podcast, and I look forward to the next one.
Caller: Hey, Jonathan! this is Greg in Pennsylvania.
You asked how do we dial Pennsylvania 6-5000.
Well, in the days before area codes, we had just a 3-digit exchange and a 4-digit phone number. Mine was MU8, or Murray 8, they called it. So Pennsylvania 6 would have been the 7 key for P, the 2 key for A, 6, and then 5,000 would be the phone number.
As far as putting your plus podcast on the Victor Reader Stream Type 3, it works exactly the same way as the Victor Reader 2. You export using Humanware Companion to a SD card, which makes an OPML file, which the Stream 3 can then import.
And the SensePlayer sounds like a great device. I wish it would have a browser. That would make it really outstanding.
Jonathan: Thanks guys for the interesting information about the phone number system in the United States. Man, the phone system in the US is just full of fascinating little facts.
And if anybody’s interested in the phone system in the US and the way that blind people used to do cool stuff with it, you really need to read Exploding the Phone. We talked on the Blind Side to Jim Fettgather, who was one of the phone freaks mentioned in that book.
But anyway, I looked it all up. And that phone number, Pennsylvania 6-5000 actually belonged to the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York. So it was 212-736-5000.
I haven’t called the number to see if it’s been reallocated, but the Hotel Pennsylvania closed on the 1st of April, 2020. It was a bit dilapidated and had been left to run down. And I guess it had been eclipsed to some extent by some newer luxury hotels. But before that, certainly it was the longest running phone number in the United States.
I wonder if the BBC banned that record, because they’ve got quite a strict ban. Perhaps it’s a bit less strict than it used to be. But they used to have a strict ban on product mentions on the BBC.
The Andrews sisters, for example, who had a big hit back then with Drinking Rum and Coca-Cola, had to re-record it for the BBC, and they did a version called Drinking Rum and Lemonada, because the BBC wouldn’t play a song with a product mention in it.
And even more recently, a bit more recently anyway, Lola by the Kinks. There are two versions of that. The one recorded for BBC Airplay mentions Cherry Cola, and the original version that most people know mentions Coca-Cola. But I think the Cherry Cola version has sort of acquired some mystique, because it was pretty rare. But you can get it on some Kinks compilations, or some compilations of British pop music from the era. So I do wonder if it ever was played on the BBC.
I do have an excellent recording of the BBC Big Band Orchestra doing Glenn Miller tunes, and Pennsylvania 6-5000 is on there. I can’t resist trying to call it. [laughs] I want to see what happens.
Siri: Calling +1 212-736-5000.
IVR: Hello! You have reached Hotel Pennsylvania.
We are permanently closed.
For human resources, please press 1. For finance, please press 2. For general information, please press 3.
Jonathan: Oh. Shall we press three for the general information?
I don’t think anybody’s going to pick up. Will it go to voicemail?
It’s an eerie sound (the US telephone ringtone), you know, when no one picks up. It’s an eerie sound, I reckon. Very different from the way the phones ring in New Zealand.
I don’t think anyone’s going to pick up, and I don’t think it’s going to go to voicemail. But the Hotel Pennsylvania still has that iconic phone number.
song intro: [phone ring sound] Pennsylvania 6-5000.
Voiceover: On Living Blindfully, we hear the opinions of blind people from all over the world.
So why not share yours?
Or if the phone is more your thing, phone our listener line in the United States: 864-60Mosen. Thats 864-606-6736.
ChatGPT on iPhone
Jane Carona is writing in. Wow! That brings a song to mind.
song intro: My Sharona.
Je-Je-Je-Jane Carona. Jane Carona.
And she says:
I’m coming very late to the chatGPT craze.
I didn’t think I’d want to use it. But now, I’m rethinking the situation and would like to try to use it on my iPhone.
I don’t use Be My Eyes much, so I’m comfortable waiting ’till their virtual AI gets out of beta.
But what other ways can I use chatGPT on my iPhone? I downloaded Microsoft Bing to my phone, but can’t seem to get answers to my questions, except that it says it’s found me some images.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Also, thanks so much for the mini tutorial from Joe Norton on getting the podcast on the Stream. I’m a plus subscriber, and was prepared to forego the ability to get the podcast early. But now, I may go and get Humanware Companion and try that.”
Well, Jane, thank you very much for subscribing to Living Blindfully plus and keeping the podcast viable. I certainly hope that you are able to take advantage of that primary perk of being a Living Blindfully plus member, which is to get podcasts 3 days before they’re made available to the general public.
There are several ways that you could use chatGPT on your phone, and we’ll cover some of them.
I think the easiest way is probably to just get onto the new Bing, which is powered by chatGPT 4, so you have the latest chatGPT technology there. Because I’ve been on the new Bing for some time now, I can’t verify that this is still the process, but I’m led to believe that approval is pretty much instant these days.
If you’re signed into your Microsoft account, then go to bing.com/new. And if it’s not showing you that you already have access to the new Bing, then you can press the button to be put on the waitlist. My understanding is the approval will be pretty much instant.
When that approval has come through, you’ll then be able to go to the new Bing app on your phone. When you get into the search edit field, you will find near to that edit field a chat button. And when you double tap the chat button, you’ll be able to have a conversation with chatGPT, either by voice or by typing in your query. We did demonstrate this back in episode 217.
I think that this implementation of chatGPT is the best. It’s right up to date. You can use voice. You can also type. So it really is worth getting up and running.
Other ways of using chat GPT on your iPhone are more complex, for various reasons.
You can simply go in your browser to chat.OpenAI.com and you can sign in. If you don’t have an account already, you can use existing accounts such as your Microsoft account and you can type text into your browser and get things back. That kind of works okay.
Other ways of using chatGPT involve either paying or getting an API key, which could be a little bit of a hassle.
But let me talk about 2 other ways that I’m using chatGPT on my phone, in case they are of interest to some.
One is by using a shortcut, which has been produced by MacStories.net. And if you go to MacStories.net, you’ll find it there. It is called SGPT. And this shortcut works with all Apple things. It works with the Mac, it works with the iPhone, and it works with iPad.
What you have to do is follow the instructions very carefully. They are detailed instructions. If you skip any, if you think you can skim past this, it is not going to work.
It actually involves installing 2 shortcuts. And then, it involves obtaining an API key from OpenAI and inserting that API key into the shortcut. So it’s not for the faint of heart, but it is worth pursuing if you really want to get into chatGPT. Because when it’s done, it actually integrates chatGPT right into Siri.
Let me show you how easy this is now that it’s set up. So I’ve got my phone here with Siri and we’ll invoke it.
Siri: What do you want to ask?
Jonathan: Make up a story about a little puppy that wanted to become a seeing Eye dog when it grew up.
Siri: [silence] One moment.
Jonathan: How long is a moment, actually? Because in my experience, it may take some time to get the…
Siri: Still on it.
Jonathan: Yes, exactly. So we’ll just take a quick commercial break or something, or you can brew your favorite beverage.
Siri: Once upon a time, there was a little puppy named Charlie who dreamed of becoming a Seeing Eye dog. From an early age, Charlie was intelligent, well-behaved, and loved to help people.
One day, Charlie met a blind man and instinctively guided him to safety.
From that day on, Charlie knew that helping people was his life’s purpose. Charlie spent countless hours training with his owner and a professional trainer to hone his natural sense of direction and ability to stay calm in high-pressure situations. He never gave up, even when the training got tough.
Finally, the day arrived for Charlie to take the test to become a fully certified guide dog. Nervous but determined, Charlie aced every test with flying colors, impressing even the most seasoned trainers.
From that day on, Charlie became a full-fledged Seeing Eye dog, helping countless people with visual impairments navigate their daily lives with ease and confidence. The little puppy had fulfilled his life’s dream and had become a true hero to many.
Want to follow up?
Jonathan: Okay, we’ll leave it there. But that was integrated right into Siri.
This also, by the way, works on my Apple Watch. It takes a bit of setting up. It takes obtaining of an API key. But when it’s done, it’s slick because you just have to give that SGPT command to Siri.
And it’s also quite deeply integrated into your calendar and other Apple functions as well.
Another app that is also very good on your phone for ChatGPT is called Petey. And it’s spelled P-E-T-E-Y. It started off as an Apple Watch app. And now, it’s stayed on the Apple Watch, but also gone to iPhone as well.
The big advantage of this is that if you’re willing to pay a monthly subscription, you don’t have to fool around with obtaining a ChatGPT API key. And you don’t have to set up a pay-as-you-go plan for the API, which you also need to do to get the most out of SGPT that I just showed you.
You can do both of those things with Petey as well. And if you are willing to put the work in and get the API key and pay for a pay-as-you-go subscription, then it’s going to be a lot cheaper than it is to subscribe to the monthly Petey plan.
The thing is that the developer is simply passing on the costs of making requests to ChatGPT. So that’s why he’s charging.
So let’s just quickly show you this.
VoiceOver: Petey. Text field. Is editing. Inserting point at start.
Jonathan: All right, fair enough. It might be pronounced P-E-T-E-Y. So yes, it very well could be P-E-T-E-Y. I could be mispronouncing it there.
I’m in an edit field now because I’ve given it my ChatGPT API key and I can type something in. I can also dictate something.
Petey can respond in two ways, and it seems to be accessible either way. VoiceOver will speak the responses automatically. But you can also make it speak.
What I’ll do is dictate to it, and then I will turn speech off so we don’t get double speak and you’ll hear it speaking back.
So let’s try this.
Write a poem about Jonathan and Bonnie eating a lovely meal by the waterfront on Jonathan’s birthday.
VoiceOver: Inserted. Write a poem about Jonathan and Bonnie eating a lovely meal by the waterfront on Jonathan’s birthday.
Jonathan: That’s VoiceOver speaking that back.
I’ll flick write.
VoiceOver: Send button.
Jonathan: Double tap, …
Jonathan: And turn speech off.
VoiceOver: Spot icon. Speech off.
Jonathan: And see, this silence could be owned by you if you want to advertise on Living Blindfully, you know.
You could go to LivingBlindfully.com, and check out the advertising page, and we’ll see.
Petey: Jonathan and Bonnie,
By the waterfront they dine.
Celebrating his birthday,
With a lovely meal so fine.
The gentle breeze whispers,
Secrets to the sea.
As they savor each bite,
With infinite glee.
A platter of fresh seafood graces the table.
Lobster, fish and prawns that’s more than able
To delight their taste buds and fill their bellies.
A symphony of flavors that make their souls jellies.
The sun starts to set,
Casting colors of gold.
A magnificent sight,
That leaves them in awe.
Behold, they raise their glass,
and toast to life, to love, happiness, and all things nice.
As darkness descends,
the stars come out to play
A magical moment,
That takes their breath away.
Hand in hand,
They walk by the sea.
So grateful for each other,
And their destiny.
Jonathan and Bonnie,
Here’s to another year.
May your love grow stronger,
With every cheer.
May happiness and joy follow you both,
And may this memory always be.
Jonathan: Well, it wasn’t a particularly good poem, really. And the speech didn’t even do it justice. [laughs] That’s saying something. But that’s how it works.
And you can go into the settings of the Petey app. You can specify whether speech is on or not. I don’t believe you can change the text-to-speech engine that is being used.
You can define the personality of the chatGPT. And you can do that with the SGPT shortcut as well by giving it some parameters.
So those are 4 ways. You could use the Bing app, you could use Safari and just go to the chatGPT site in your browser, you could install the SGPT shortcut, or you could use Petey. And there are other ways of using chatGPT on your iPhone as well.
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More Quality Control Issues With the Focus 40 Blue
Unfortunately, more horror stories about the Focus 40 Blue 5th generation. Here’s Kelly Sapergia writing in. He says:
I hope all is well with you and everyone listening.
Here in Saskatchewan, Canada, it’s been snowing yet again. We had a few nice days with temperatures around 15 to 20 degrees Celsius, but then it dropped back down to -2 or so and winter struck again. I really wish the weather would make up its mind.
I’ve been following the discussion about issues people have been experiencing with the Focus 40 Blue 5th generation display with great interest. You may recall that I, too, had issues getting mine repaired, which I discussed in episode 110 of Mosen at Large. Given what’s been said recently, I figured this would be a good opportunity to send a follow up.
Shortly after the episode aired in April, 2021, I sent the Focus back to our Canadian dealer for Freedom Scientific products for what will be the third and final repair.
Upon its return a couple of weeks later and having carefully removed the unit from the box, I wondered if they had even looked at it, let alone repaired it, as I discovered ghost dots already appearing on the display. The moment I powered it on, there were even a few faint dots that appeared to be stuck on cells I hadn’t even reported as needing repair. But what really made me livid with rage was when I noticed that one dot wasn’t showing at all.
I could understand this behavior occurring over a period of time. But in just a few days? Either it was a poor repair job, or there’s something very wrong with the unit.
Given what I’ve heard in previous episodes, I’m going for the latter possibility. I’ll admit that I hoped I could send the display to Freedom Scientific themselves to have them look at it. But am now glad I didn’t, especially after hearing Doug’s comment in episode 219 where he mentioned sending his display away 6 times.
I’m still using the Focus for the moment, but it hasn’t been easy. On one of the cells, the letter G might look like a Q. On another, if you have a TH contraction, for instance, it may not look right as dot 1 is missing. I actually got distracted by this during the recording of a script a few days ago.
I honestly don’t know what FS was thinking, selling an obviously defective product like this. Assuming they knew something was wrong, it should have been recalled and their customers reimbursed. In my opinion, this situation doesn’t make them look good. One thing’s for sure, I’ll never buy a Braille product from them again, nor will I recommend the Focus line to anyone.
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I’ve just ordered the Brailliant BI20X display from Humanware and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. I’ve heard plenty of good things about it on the podcast, and have a friend who’s been using it without any problems. Humanware’s customer service has also been wonderful so far.
I would have loved to have gone for either the Brailliant BI40X or Mantis, but am afraid both are out of my price range.
Keep up the great work with the podcast.”
Thank you very much, Kelly.
I’m obviously very sorry to hear that you’re experiencing those issues.
Disabling Braille on BrailleNote Touch Plus
Caller: Hey, Jonathan. It’s Wesley calling.
I was wondering. I discovered a strange, I don’t know if it’s a bug or a feature of the BrailleNote Touch Plus. I discovered how to turn Braille on and off, which was something no user guide or resource that I could find mentioned anywhere.
Now I found this completely by accident. I was fooling around with it and pressing random keys to get it “unfrozen”, and I happened to discover the Braille on off feature.
So what are you and your listeners thoughts on this?
Jonathan: Well my initial thoughts are it takes me back to my product manager days, when kids would play with the BrailleNote MPower to see what things did, and they would come up with all sorts of interesting things.
I’m trying to remember now whether there was a thumb key combination on the BrailleNote MPower and BrailleNote of that era which I product-managed that turned Braille off. I seem to recall in the back of my mind that you could turn Braille off in those days. So perhaps it’s a Keysoft legacy feature, but I don’t know for sure.
But good on you for having an insatiable curiosity. Never lose that.
Impressions From a New Victor Reader Stream 3 User
Amanda Crouch from Michigan here.
I just started listening to your podcast this year, and I absolutely love it.”
Thank you so much, Amanda!
“A couple of things I want to write about here.
- I just recently was able to purchase the new VR Stream 3. I’m upgrading from the 2nd Stream, which finally bit the dust after two years of use. Here’s my thoughts:
I love the rubber buttons. I love that they are more tactile and bigger.
The new speaker is fantastic. With my hearing impairment, I no longer have to turn the stream up to high volume.
Battery life is outstanding. I’ve been able to hook up my AirPods to Bluetooth on it, and that works wonders.
I’m with the people who don’t mind that the stream doesn’t have a removable battery. I’ve never had to replace it, so why complain?
With all the good things to say about the Stream 3, however, I have encountered up to 5 bugs. I have reported these to HumanWare, so hopefully we will see a software update soon. I will list said bugs in a separate email to see if I can get user feedback.
- The other thing I’d like to write about is the outstanding voices from ElevenLabs.
Wow! So I was able to successfully clone a voice, and wow, am I beyond amazed! He reads exactly how this person would read, and the voice is scarily accurate.
Since he’s done interviews and whatnot, those are the samples I used. And I feel okay saying who this person is. Shawn Mendes. He’s a young Canadian pop singer.
Thanks for taking the time to read this long email. Keep up the awesome work on the show.”
Thank you, Amanda. I’m glad you’ve discovered the podcast.
It’s good that you’re happy with your purchase. That’s always nice.
Installing Kurzweil 1000 on a New Machine
Caller: Hi, Jonathan. It’s Shaun.
I believe you had someone who was asking about Kurzweil 1000 version 14 and having difficulty installing it on a new machine.
So if you have a valid version 14 serial number, you can call their customer care. They will verify that it’s version 14 and give you an encrypted link that will last for 48 hours, and they encourage you to put it, you know, in Dropbox or somewhere like that so you can get to it at a later date.
I think they must be in Massachusetts because I called them at 5 Eastern, and they were still open.
Their telephone number is 1-800-894-5374. Then you choose 3 for technical support, and 2 for Kurzweil 1000 support.
I did this quite a while ago, but I couldn’t remember the exact process, and I wanted to make sure that I had correct information for your listener. So hopefully, that helps.
I know I took my installer and put it in Dropbox, and that has been very helpful. So long as you have valid serial for 14, you’re good to go.
I Want Microsoft to Offer Somali Text-to-speech
Jonathan: We’ve got an email from Ahmed Alasow. He says:
I hope this email finds you well. As a long-time listener of your podcast, I am reaching out to you for the first time.
As a first-time emailer, I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for your hard work and dedication to your podcast. Your commitment to producing high-quality content that is both engaging and informative is admirable, and I look forward to listening to each new episode every time.
I particularly appreciate how you cover topics related to accessibility and disability rights, which is why I am writing to you today.”
Well, thank you for those very generous comments, Ahmed. I appreciate you listening.
“I am an advocate for accessibility and disability rights, and I have been working on a campaign to address a critical issue affecting blind individuals in Somalia. The campaign/open letter, aims to request Microsoft to develop a Somali text-to-speech (TTS) tool that will enable blind individuals in Somalia to access critical information.
At present, there is no TTS tool available for the Somali language, leaving blind individuals in Somalia without access to essential information, education, and job opportunities.
As a result, I created a petition to urge Microsoft to develop a Somali TTS tool.”
I will put a link to this Open Letter in the show notes for those who would like to sign it. The URL is a little long to read.
“I contacted Microsoft,” says Ahmed, “and a gentleman there informed me that the Somali language is currently in development. However, there are several other languages ahead of Somali in the development queue, which means it may take a while before a Somali TTS tool is available.
Given the urgent need for this tool, I would like to suggest an alternative solution. I believe that it would be possible to convert the current Somali neural voices to TTS as SAPI-5. This solution could serve as a temporary fix for blind individuals in Somalia while waiting for the development of a full-fledged TTS tool.
I am passionate about this cause, and I would be grateful if you could help spread the word about my campaign with your listeners or contacts. Moreover, I am curious if you have any suggestions on how we can ask Microsoft to expedite the development of a Somali TTS tool, given the enormous need and lack of alternative solutions for blind individuals in Somalia.
Thank you for considering my request, and I look forward to hearing from you.”
Well, I wish you luck with your advocacy on this question. I did reach out to contacts at Microsoft to see if I could get them to engage with me on this and tell me how speech engines are prioritized, what would be involved.
I did not receive a response, but I hope that your advocacy bears fruit. It must be very frustrating not to have text-to-speech in the language that you speak as your primary language.
Comments on the Adrian Spratt Interview
In episode 225, I spoke with novelist Adrian Spratt, and Amy Ruell has some comments on that interview. She says:
Happy to be a part of the Living Blindfully plus community.”
Well, I’m happy that you’re a part of it too, Amy. Thank you so much for your support.
“Following your discussion with Adrian Spratt, I read Caroline.
One of the many thoughts that this book engendered for me was the disparity between the perspectives of those who lose vision, and those who are congenitally blind. It also made me consider the challenge that you posed recently about assisting those who are experiencing visual disability later in life.
I run an adjustment counseling program in Massachusetts that provides clinical services to persons who are losing vision. Our program is somewhat unique in that all of our clinicians are blind or visually impaired. This paradigm provides an opportunity to provide peer support and role modeling, in addition to quality clinical services.
One impact of working with this population, however, is that we work with people who, in many instances, will always see their visual impairment as a significant loss of quality of life, irrespective of their level of adjustment. However, in meeting them where they are, which is an integral component of our services, we are still able to offer them compensatory techniques and tips that aid them in regaining functionality, and assist them in learning self-advocacy skills and gaining strength and hope from our example.
In my involvement with the traditional blind community and consumer organizations, I have often seen evidence that many of us who have been blind since birth tend to minimize the losses and concerns of those who experience visual impairment later in life. I confess that I did not take their perspectives sufficiently into account prior to working with this population.
I sometimes wonder if, for some people, acknowledging the loss that visual impairment often represents feels threatening to a population who must constantly fight for inclusion and acceptance, and must prove our worth as equal citizens in an ignorant society.
I would love to see the traditional blind community provide those who are experiencing visual impairment with alternative tips and strategies that may help them to transition from using vision when it is no longer effective to using other more efficient techniques.
I can think of many examples that might work. You might consider having a segment of your podcast devoted to this kind of information. This might increase the listenership and provide a powerful vehicle for giving the gift of our knowledge to an underserved part of our community who need this information and encouragement.”
I appreciate you sharing this perspective, Amy. Thank you very much. It resonates with me for a couple of reasons.
I worked in the rehab field briefly in the mid-1990s, and it was a really important learning experience for me because right throughout my life, I did not consider blindness a particular barrier. I considered other people’s perceptions of it a barrier, but not the blindness itself.
So working with people who had gone blind later in life, who may have been experiencing a range of age-related disabilities, and blindness for them was the final straw, or people who had gone blind even in midlife and were trying to put their lives back together, that was incredibly instructive for me and helped to round my perspective.
In the organization where I now work, where I’m CEO, we’re a pan-disability organization, and we help a wide range of people with impairments and health conditions into employment. And your discussion about meeting people where they are is very important because some of the people that we work with do not consider themselves a disabled person.
In New Zealand, the social model of disability is dominant. and I thoroughly support the social model and embrace the social model. So that makes the point that we are not disabled. Society disables us as a result of lack of accommodation and poor choices.
But disabled is a pretty loaded term, and some people just don’t consider themselves to be disabled. And we want to work with them. We want to help them into employment.
So it doesn’t really matter what they call themselves. What matters is that we can provide that assistance and hopefully, make an enormous difference in their lives with the dignity and economic independence that comes from work.
So you’re right, you do have to meet people where they are, and it sounds like the program that you’re doing is really important work.
There are so many attitudinal barriers to overcome. I have seen people take a very long time to read an email the “normal” way when they might use text-to-speech and get the same job done really quickly. So there are many stigmas, barriers to overcome.
I hope that living blindfully, (which takes both a positive but also realistic view of blindness in the sense that we talk about ways that we get things done, but we also talk about the impediments to getting them done as well), I hope that can serve a purpose.
And certainly, people are very welcome to share tips and tricks; not just about total blindness, but about low vision as well, and working most effectively.
Voiceover: Living Blindfully is the podcast with big dreams, and no marketing budget. Oh, dear, dear, dear.
This is where you come in.
If living blindfully is something you value, we really would appreciate you taking a few minutes to write a positive review of the podcast. Positive testimonials help spread the word and encourage new listeners to give us a try.
If you have a moment to give us a 5-star review, we really would appreciate that. Thank you for supporting Living Blindfully.
Jonathan: Always persuasive, isn’t he?
Are you going to do it? I hope you’re going to do it. I really do appreciate the reviews that are coming in.
Google IO Recap
All right. Let’s talk now about Google IO’s keynote, which happened last Wednesday.
I can’t help thinking they need to change the name. Given what a buzzword AI has become, they need to call it Google AI, not Google IO. They’re really getting into this AI stuff, as we’ll talk about during this recap of what happened there.
I can’t help thinking that the primary audience for this keynote was Alphabet shareholders (Alphabet is the parent company of Google.), because Alphabet shareholders were spooked by Google’s really lackluster entry into this latest AI craze, which was prompted by chatGPT taking the world by storm. It caught Google on the hop. They were on the back foot. They had to do something, and they didn’t come up with something initially very compelling.
The first version of Google Bard was half-baked. It was underwhelming.
After its unveiling, Alphabet shares briefly plummeted by about 8%. A clever journalist made the point that perhaps, it was time for Google to stop throwing good money after Bard. [laughs] That’s a good pun.
No doubt that AI is the big buzzword at the moment, and the Google keynote used it over and over again. In fact, a journalist who was there counted 100+ times that the word AI was used in that single keynote.
I wanted to summarize it for you. And then, I remembered AI is supposed to save us lots of time, (Right.) to change our lives, to prevent us having to get involved in these mundane tasks.
So I thought I’d have a go at simplifying my life, and asking one of these fancy-schmancy AI tools to do the work for me.
Now, Bard is now available worldwide. You remember I mentioned this when Ali, (I believe it was), was singing Bard’s praises a few weeks ago. And I said, “Well, that’s all very well for you, Ali, because you are in the UK.”
But I didn’t have access to it here. It was only available in the US and the UK.
Google even realizes that New Zealand exists now, (which is quite rare for Google), and I can use it here. There is no waiting list.
So if you want to try this out, all you have to do is go to bard.google.com, (as in B-A-R-D). And then, it will ask you to complete a brief and very accessible sign-up process, and you’ll be right in.
So the very first thing that I asked Bard once I got access to it was to write me an essay on the key announcements at Google IO, and here is how it responded:
“Google IO 2023 was a major event for the company, with a wide range of announcements covering everything from new hardware to AI advancements. Here are some of the biggest announcements from the keynote:
The Pixel Fold
Google’s first foldable phone is finally here and looks like a major contender in the market. The Pixel Fold features a 7.6-inch OLED display, a powerful Tensor chip, and a long-lasting battery. It’s also water-resistant, and comes with a built-in stylus.
The Pixel Tablet
Google is also entering the tablet market with its first Pixel Tablet. The tablet features a 10.9-inch display, an octa-core processor, and 8 gigabytes of RAM. It’s also powered by the Tensor chip, and will be available in both Wi-Fi and LTE models.”
I’m just going to break into the summary that Google Bard provided to make a couple of comments of my own.
First, about the foldable phones. It’s interesting how these things are coming back. Just goes to show if you keep something in your closet long enough, the fashion will come back around again. And flip phones, albeit they very advanced touch-screen-based flip phones, are cool again.
And Apple is also working on one behind the scenes. We don’t quite know when it will be released, but the foldable iPhone is a thing.
I have also tried a Google tablet before.
Way back when I was dabbling in Android, I got one of these Nexus tablets. Was it the Nexus 6, or Nexus 7? I can’t remember what it was called.
I found the touch on it quite difficult, quite sort of sluggish compared to iOS. And also, of course, TalkBack was way behind then.
TalkBack has improved quite a bit, undoubtedly. And before this Google IO keynote, there were 2 show-stoppers for me. One of which has now been addressed. I don’t think the other one has.
Let me start with the first one. And that is, I use made-for-iPhone hearing aids.
Replacing hearing aids is a really expensive proposition, especially when they’re working well for you in every other respect.
And so, I can’t connect those directly to any Android smartphone that I’m aware of.
I think that some of the new Oticon aids work with some Samsung devices, but the ones I have do not. They only work with iPhones. So that’s a bit of a biggie.
The other one is this business of HID Bluetooth Braille support. You will remember that we covered this extensively when we were trying to get an answer from Google on this question. Are they going to support Braille HID via Bluetooth? And at the time, the answer was no.
But it’s quite commical, looking back on it, how difficult it was to get a straightforward answer to a straightforward question. [laughs] You might remember that. It was hilarious, actually.
Well, the good news is, it looks like that one is resolved. In an accessibility keynote the day after the main Google IO keynote, they talk about support for the NLS Braille displays, which of course, use HID. They’re made by Humanware. And it sounds like, then, that this business of the HID protocol for Braille displays is being resolved in Android 14.
That is great news, and I commend Google for that.
The thing is, though, it’s something that iOS has had for a long time. iOS was a pioneer in Braille HID. It was right there very early.
Similarly with another feature that is an excellent innovation from Google, which is that you’ll be able to select text from the Braille keyboard. You’ve been able to do that in iOS for quite some time.
And the thing is, you see, Global Accessibility Awareness Day is coming up. In the last few years, Apple has used that day to make a bunch of accessibility announcements.
So just as Google catches up with these things, it had been available on iOS for a while. We may find Apple doing something new and innovative again.
But I’ve always said that I want blind people to have the same choices as sighted people. There are various reasons why people choose iOS, and why they choose Android. And if both operating systems can be equally accessible so blind people can make those choices on terms of equality, then that is something that we should celebrate.
So to continue with Google Bard’s summary, …
Google’s next major version of Android is packed with new features including a refreshed design, improved performance, and new privacy features.
Android 14 will be available on Pixel phones later this year, and other devices will follow suit in coming months.
Google Maps is getting a number of new features, including Immersive View, which lets you explore a location in 3D before you go there. Maps is also getting new features for cyclists and drivers, as well as improved public transportation information.
Google Search is getting a major overhaul, with a focus on generative results. This means that Google will now be able to generate more creative and informative results, such as poems, code, scripts, and musical pieces.”
I’ll talk a lot more about this a little bit later, but let’s continue with the Bard summary.
“AI for Business
Google is also making it easier for businesses to use AI with a number of new tools and resources. These tools include a new AI-powered coding bot, a new AI-powered image search tool, and a new AI tool for identifying AI-generated games.”
And Bard concludes, “These are just some of the biggest announcements from Google IO 2023. For more information, be sure to check out the full keynote video.”
So in the interest of comparison, I asked the same question of the new Bing, and here is its answer to the same question:
“Google IO 2023 is over, and there were quite a lot of exciting announcements at the event. Here are some of the major announcements made by Google:
- Pixel 7A. Google announced the mid-range Pixel 7A smartphone with a 6.2-inch OLED display and a SnapDragon 778G processor. The phone also has a 50-megapixel camera, and a 4,500-milliamp battery.
- Pixel Fold. Google announced its first foldable phone, the Pixel Fold. The phone has an 8.1-inch foldable OLED display, and is powered by a SnapDragon 888 processor. It also has a triple camera setup with a 108-megapixel main camera.
- Bard AI. Google announced Bard AI, an AI-powered tool that can help people with disabilities communicate more effectively.”
Now don’t blame me for the grammar in the next sentence, I’m just reading what this thing generated.
“The tool is available in almost over 180 countries.
- Android 14. Google announced Android 14, the next version of its mobile operating system. The next version includes new privacy features and improvements to notifications.
- Google Maps. Google announced that it is bringing augmented reality, (AR), directions to Google Maps. The feature will allow users to see directions overlaid on the real world through their phone’s camera.
- Google Assistant. Google announced that it is bringing new features to Google Assistant, including the ability to make restaurant reservations and book flights.
- Google Photos. Google announced that it is adding new features to Google Photos, including the ability to create photo books and order prints directly from the app.
I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.”, concludes Bing. Not bad.
So when you use them both, you get quite a good snapshot of what went on at that keynote.
And it’s intriguing to read Bing’s reference to disabled people when it comes to Bard. I wanted to find out more about this, so I went back to Google’s Bard itself to ask it. “What are the benefits of Bard for disabled people?” And here’s what it said. [laughs]
“Here are some of the benefits of Bard for disabled people. Bard can provide access to information and entertainment in a variety of formats, including audio, braille,” (with a lowercase B. I’ll never use it again.) “and large print. This can be helpful for people with visual impairments or other disabilities that make it difficult for them to read standard print.
Bard can be used to communicate with others, regardless of their location. This can be helpful for people with disabilities that make it difficult for them to travel or socialize in person.
Bard can be used to complete tasks and activities such as shopping, banking, and scheduling appointments. This can be helpful for people with disabilities that make it difficult for them to do these things independently.
Bard can provide companionship and support. This can be helpful for people with disabilities who feel isolated or lonely.
Overall,” concludes Bard itself, “Bard can be a valuable tool for disabled people. It can help them to access information, communicate with others, complete tasks, and feel more connected to the world around them.”
So as you’ll no doubt have worked out, it’s not making a distinction between the service that has been running for yonks! Yonks, I tell you, in the United States, and Google’s own new product, which is also called Bard.
The new image tool is going to be particularly interesting for blind people to try. This is powered by Google Lens, and I’ve no doubt there’ll be some very interesting comparisons made between ChatGPT and Bard on that critical point.
One thing that’s clear is that the depth of descriptions that we’re getting from these tools is increasing dramatically. That’s a great thing, but it is prudent for us to be skeptical and wonder whether and when we can trust them.
So there is plenty more experimenting to do, and my hope is that the blind community is able to engage with the producers of this technology, because it’s not so much that we might be getting inaccurate information from time to time, we may actually be getting dangerous information because of its inaccuracy in certain situations. We just don’t know yet how much we can and should depend on this technology.
If you’re an Android user and you use Google Messages, Google has announced the new AI tool called Magic Compose. If you want to get started with this, (and I’m not sure if it’s available quite yet), but when it is, you will go into the Google Messages app on your Android device, and then you will type your message as you normally would. But then, using this new feature, you’ll be able to select how you want the message to sound, and Magic Compose can adjust the text accordingly.
For example, the feature could make the message sound more positive or more professional, if you’re in a work environment. Or you could do something really freaky like make it sound like Shakespeare and people will wonder what substance you are consuming.
Google is going all in on AI with its Workplace Productivity Suite. There’s been a small beta for a while now, which has involved AI helping some users rewrite text in a Gmail message or a Google Doc.
And now, Google is signaling that they’re going much further with the automatic generation of some contents in other apps like Sheets and Slides. This also includes tables, so this might assist some screen reader users who have difficulty generating this kind of content. The way it works, as I understand it, is that you will just write in sentence form what you want these tables to contain, (and this is a Google Sheets feature), and then Google Sheets goes away and makes the table for you.
Google says it’s also going to generate speaker notes from the bullet points in Slides. So if you use PowerPoint or Google Slides, you’ll know that you write your bullet points, then you write your speaker notes. Or you could do it the other way around, of course, whatever works for you, and you look at your speaker notes while the slideshow is running.
So if this works well, it will save a lot of time for those of us who spend plenty of time working in these sorts of apps.
I am a Microsoft PowerPoint user myself, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But of course, Microsoft is also working on this sort of thing with its co-pilot project for Microsoft Office.
So this AI race is quite interesting, as we see how these companies are starting to differentiate themselves.
Google’s getting into image generation as well. This is something that Bing and ChatGBT already have. If you can describe the kind of image that you want, Google will generate it for you.
The thing about this is I always have some nervousness uploading or publishing, in any way, content that I can’t verify. So those of us who are totally blind will have no way of verifying how accurately Google has carried out our instructions when we’ve asked it to generate an image. So you might want to use something like Aira in that instance to just get a sighted person’s opinion on the image that Google has generated.
If you follow Living Blindfully on Mastodon, you may remember that some time ago, I have been posting about this next technology I want to discuss. Google is gradually making its Music LM service more public. This is something they’ve apparently been working with the musician community on to try and minimize the possibility of copyright infringement. But this is very intriguing. I want to see this thing going.
The idea is that it turns text into music. So you give it an instruction about the kind of music you want.
You might say, generate me something relaxing to help me unwind at the end of the day, or up tempo to exercise with, or whatever you want. You can get specific about the instrumentation you want as well. And you can go into details about the mood, tempo, all kinds of things like that.
So I really am interested in having a play with this, and of course, demonstrating it for you on Living Blindfully.
You have to get on the waiting list with Google’s AI Test Kitchen. I’ve done that. And so we’ll see if or when my number comes up. Anyone listening from Google? Help!
Project Tailwind is the next thing I want to talk about from Google IO. This is an AI-powered notebook tool. It’s built with the aim of taking a user’s free-form notes. And then, it automatically organizes them and summarizes them. This could be quite good if you’re doing research for a book, or an academic essay, or something like that.
The tool is available through Labs, which is Google’s refreshed hub for experimental products. It’s integrated with Google Drive.
So you would pick the files that are relevant to the project from Google Drive. And then, Project Tailwind creates a private AI model with expertise in that information, along with a personalized interface designed to help sift through the notes and documents. Could be genius if it all works as advertised, I suppose.
Also at Google IO, Google said they’re testing a powerful new translation service that puts video into a new language while also synchronizing the speaker’s lips with words they never spoke. This is called Universal Translator, and it was shown as an example only recently made possible by advances in AI.
So we don’t know if this will ever come to market. But of course, they made the point that they’re showing it because it also presents some serious risks that have to be reckoned with from the start. This is the thing about all this AI stuff. I think people are still reckoning with the ethics of some of this, and how we just make sure we keep it under control.
The experimental service takes an input video. And in the case of Google IO, they showed a lecture from an online course that was originally recorded in English. And then, it transcribes the speech, translates it, regenerates the speech using the same style and tone that was used in the original language in that translated language. And then, it edits the video so that the speaker’s lips more closely match the new audio. [laughs] I mean, that’s quite incredible.
As you will have heard in our interview with ElevenLabs, this is also an area that they are interested in. Although I think at the moment, they’re strictly on audio, no video at this stage, to the best of my knowledge.
But they do now have a solution for this in early testing. So if you want to, you can go to ElevenLabs.io. That’s the word eleven, all written out in full. ElevenLabs.io, you can get an account with them, and you can send it some text. And then, it will translate it into another language.
If you supply your own voice for the audio that it generates, then it has the effect of you speaking any language that ElevenLabs supports.
All this stuff is cool. And sometimes, technology comes along that’s clever.
But it doesn’t stick. It doesn’t resonate because it doesn’t solve a problem people think they have.
So for me, one of the most interesting announcements from Google IO is something called Search Generative Experience,or SGE for short. And I think you’ll be hearing a lot about this going forward.
The promise of SGE, (Whether it fulfills it or not remains to be seen.), But the promise is that it’s going to try and use AI to improve the efficiency of Google Search.
If you use Google Search now, you’ll have seen that sometimes, you type something in and at the top of your results, you’ll get this featured snippet from the web where Google has sought to prioritize certain information from a specific website that it trusts that it believes will be helpful for your specific inquiry.
But what if AI could quickly examine all the search results that you pull up and come up with a quick summary of the key findings at the top of your search results, much like a good librarian would? That’s what SGE is aiming to do. And if it does it well, it’ll be super useful.
So those, for me, are some of the key takeaways of Google IO. What do you think about it? Are you excited about any of this? Is the AI craze catching on for you? Is it really making a big difference in your life at this point? Or is it all more promise at the moment than reality?
Let me know what you think about all of it. And of course, if you’ve got any thoughts on Android 14, we welcome those as well. And are you buying a new Google device? You’re going to grab that 7A or the amazing new foldable Google device?
I think what’s also interesting is how, or will Apple respond to this at its WWDC keynote next month?
Everybody’s talking about AI, and you just feel like Apple’s not feeling it. Apple has always sung its own tune. It’s played its own game. It doesn’t care if it’s last to the market with a foldable phone. It cares about the quality, or that’s how the narrative goes. So maybe we won’t see much about AI in this keynote.
But even before this latest AI craze, I’ve got to tell you, Siri is looking more and more behind. And it actually seems to be getting worse in my mind. I give Siri commands now that it used to be able to answer confidently, or execute confidently. And now, it doesn’t. It’s like it’s mishearing me. It’s like it’s me. It’s like it’s developing a degenerative hearing impairment, or something. [laughs]
So I don’t know. Apple might have to pull something out of the hat in this space, and it will be interesting to see whether Apple feels pressured to do so.
If you’d like to comment on any of this, you’re very welcome. email@example.com is my email address. You can attach an audio clip to the email, or you can write it down if you would rather. And you can also call the listener line, and that number’s 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.
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Depression in the Blind Community
This email comes from Doreen Tyler. And she says:
I have followed you for a long time, and even met you in 1997 at the NFB conference in New Orleans. If my memory is correct, Amanda was heavily pregnant with Heidi.”
I remember meeting you, Doreen. And we talked about The Archers. I made the comment that my favorite character was Elizabeth. And you said that she was too bourgeois.
But no, Amanda wasn’t pregnant with Heidi. Heidi was born by then and was actually at home. We didn’t take her with us in 1997. And Amanda wasn’t quite pregnant with Richard by that stage.
“Also, during the ’90s,” says Doreen, “we corresponded occasionally about the British soap opera called The Archers. Wonder if you still follow it?”
Would never miss an episode, Doreen. Would never miss it.
“I do.”, she says. That’s good to hear.
“Still mulling over the title Living Blindfully, which at the moment, feels a little uncomfortable to me. It seems to me to speak more to the medical model of disability than the social model, though I suspect those two concepts have long ago disappeared. I’m sure I will get used to it, though, and will certainly subscribe to the plus version.”
Well, thank you so much, Doreen. And no, for me, those models certainly haven’t disappeared. And I am a strong proponent of the social model of disability.
The term living blindfully is all about living a full life as a blind person or someone with low vision, so it very much is based on my philosophy of blind pride.
“I’ve been following your podcasts and specifically, the subject of depression in the blind community. And while I have seen references to depression in young blind people, I feel there has been limited coverage of older blind people.
I am now 72 years of age, reasonably physically fit, but mentally, not so great.
I have lived alone since 2007. Before that, living in Canada for nine years, married to an American, and leading a relatively full life.
For many reasons, the marriage didn’t work out, and I moved back home in 2007.
When people say that moving home is highly stressful, they ain’t wrong. It in fact cost me my mental health, and I was hospitalized for 2 months in 2008.
I am a pretty resilient cookie. And gradually, things righted themselves somewhat.
In the last few years, though, and after moving home 3 more times, my mental health has again taken a toll. Oh, I am nowhere near being hospitalized, but I’m finding that days are long and hopeless. I spend many hours in bed, eat poorly, have few contacts except for friends that have been friends from way back, and seem to have lost the ability to meet new people and possibly make new friendships.
This will no doubt sound strange when I tell you that I have not lost my love of traveling. I was in Thailand in January visiting an elephant nature park in Chiang Mai, where I sponsor a totally blind elephant.”
“I am very keen to visit Australia and New Zealand. This is just an idea at the moment, but I do intend it to happen.
Locally, I have tried obtaining volunteer work which would bring me into contact with other people with no luck thus far. I have done a couple of things from home – providing braille for an organization and individual friends, and helping with a website for another organization that I have links with. A lot of my time is spent trying to get to grips with technology, listening to books, and radio.
I know this sounds like a sob story, and I guess on many levels, it is.
I am a bright woman, have had some great jobs in the past. I need company and meaningful things to occupy myself with.
So maybe you could do a feature on depression and specifically, how it affects older age blind individuals?
Wishing you and Bonnie the very best of luck in all you do.”
Doreen, it’s great to reconnect with you.
I’m sorry about the circumstances, of course, and what you’re experiencing. I suppose it’s hard to know how much to attribute to blindness in a situation like this, isn’t it? I suppose that there may be isolating factors depending on where you live and how much access to public transport you have where blindness is a contributor, but it’s possible that as many people get older and find themselves in similar circumstances, blind or not, maybe they experience that isolation and a desire to participate.
So it’s a really important discussion, and I don’t have much to offer or share. But I appreciate your willingness to share it with us, and perhaps others can comment.
Wishing you all the very best.
There Is a Way to Use Living Blindfully Plus on Alexa
Iain Lackey is in touch, and he says:
I have just heard someone asking if it is possible to play the early version of the podcast, (that is, the Living Blindfully plus version) using the Amazon Soup Drinker device.
I am able to do this”, says Iain, “as I use Pocketcast as my podcast provider, and there is a Pocketcast Amazon Echo/Soup Drinker skill. Other podcast skills may be available which will do the same job.”
Iain, that is great information. Thank you for that. Pocketcast does some pretty cool things, doesn’t it? Because it integrates with Sonos, it’s cross-platform. I don’t think that its iOS app is as optimal as it could be, and I have talked to them about that. They seemed receptive, but you know, they just came back with a kind of it’s on the list thing.
But this could be a very good reason to consider Pocket Cast if you really want to hear the Living Blindfully Plus version of the podcast, which is available 3 days before it’s available to the public on your Echo type device.
And if you haven’t subscribed to Living Blindfully plus, you can do so for as little as 1 New Zealand dollar a month. If you feel able and willing to give more, we do really appreciate that. You can check out all the details at LivingBlindfully.com/plus.
Another Example of Poor Airline Service
Sometimes, I think we could do a whole podcast every week about the atrocious treatment of disabled people (and blind people in particular) on airlines.
Pauline Melham has another story about this. She says:
Recently, on the podcast, various people have talked about their experiences with certain airlines. I have to say that most of my experiences of flying both internationally and domestically have been very good; and I’ve flown both internationally and domestically quite a lot.
However, on a recent domestic flight from Auckland to Wellington, I had a less than desirable experience.
My husband and I were traveling from Auckland back to Wellington on the morning of Anzac Day. We’d been away for the weekend. And for once, we didn’t have Morris, (my guide dog), with us.
Not long after I’d boarded the flight and before we took off, the flight attendant came to speak to us. He asked my husband if he was my carer. I groaned inwardly to myself, but didn’t make any issue of it.
The attendant then went on to inform us that I would need to be the last to leave the aircraft at the end of the flight. This happens a great deal, and I’ve learned over time that the best way of dealing with this is to smile and nod. And when it comes to the end of the flight, just to get up and disembark when I am ready, regardless of what the airline has instructed me to do.
Sometimes, when we have had Morris with us and we have quite a lot of luggage, it’s easier to wait until most people have gone before we start trying to move. At other times, we just get up and join the queue of people getting ready to disembark. Even when traveling alone, I often get up and get off the plane, and wait for the ground crew to meet me just outside the plane.
Our friendly flight attendant then went on to ask the stranger next to us if she was happy to wait until last to get off the plane, because I was blind and I would have to wait. Now I started getting annoyed. Still, I said nothing.
Finally, he told me that in the case of an emergency, I would need to sit in my seat and wait. And when everyone else had left the plane, and presumably just before we were about to sink into the ocean or burst into flames, I would be assisted to evacuate.
At this point, I’d had enough, and my ability to smile and nod politely and hope he went away ran out. “If there is any emergency,” I told him, “I will get up and I will evacuate this plane at the same time as everybody else, and you will have to deal with that.”
He backed off.
To be honest, I’m not really that surprised. Although no one has been insensitive enough to say it directly to me before, it comes as no surprise that airlines think it’s okay to evacuate the disabled person last in an emergency. I wonder if they have stopped to think what this actually means in practice.
What it means is that my life as a disabled person is valued less than everyone else on that flight. Because it is perceived that I might take longer to evacuate, I don’t deserve the same help as anyone else. If there is an emergency and there are fatalities, I, as a disabled person, am considered expendable because heaven help me if I got out and delayed someone else who was non-disabled from leaving.
These policies are discriminatory and are certainly not based on a rights-based model of disability.
I haven’t yet made a complaint to the airline, but I’m seriously considering it.”
Thanks for writing in, Pauline.
I am so curious to know, was it Air New Zealand, or Jetstar that you were flying?
I took a cue a long time ago from a colleague I used to fly with on this thing about, “If we need to evacuate, you just wait there until everybody else has got off.” And he came up with a line that says, “Why? Do you think blind people burn slower than everybody else?”
It’s an absurd and insulting thing for an airline to say. It is also humiliating when you can just be sitting next to a passenger, and you don’t know this passenger, and the flight attendant just says it random to the passenger without consulting you. “Oh, do you mind helping this person in the event of an emergency?”, and everything, like you’re some sort of unaccompanied minor or something? There really is a serious disability confidence problem we have here.
Now, I actually took Air New Zealand to the Human Rights Commission back in 2020 because they have a policy, which sometimes they enforce and sometimes they don’t, that says that a blind person with a guide dog must be in the window seat. And when Bonnie and I travel together, I like the window seat. I like to curl up in the window seat. Believe me, it’s not for the view. And she’s quite happy to go into the middle seat or the aisle.
So we have this sorted. We’re quite happy to put Eclipse, the dog to eclipse all dogs, in the center so her paws aren’t blocking the aisle or anything like that. Bonnie’s happy to go in the aisle, and I go in the window seat.
To the best of my knowledge, Air New Zealand is the only airline that prevents us from doing this. Jetstar doesn’t prevent us from doing it even, but Air New Zealand does according to their official policy.
They tried to tell me that it was something that the Civil Aviation Administration decreed. And I checked this out, and the Civil Aviation Administration says, “Oh no, we don’t.”
So I took them to the Human Rights Commission to this mediation session that I got set up so that they could tell Air New Zealand that they don’t do such things. Because what it’s actually doing is saying to a blind person, “You can’t sit where you want. If you have a seating preference and you’re traveling with another person who has a guide dog, you cannot sit where you want.” So we get a lesser amount of discretion, a poorer quality service.
When I first went to the Human Rights Commission to complain about this, they actually refused to take the case, and I had to protest pretty vociferously and say this is clearly discriminatory. If I were not blind, if I were not traveling with somebody who has a guide dog, this would not be coming out. This is clearly discrimination on the grounds of disability.
The guy that I dealt with at the Human Rights Commission was obnoxious.
And finally, I just pushed ahead and we got it to mediation. Now, when the mediation took place, there was Bonnie and me on one side of the table, and then New Zealand brought this whole group of lawyers to the table. I mean, I’ve never seen such an extreme reaction. And they were very aggressive. But I was prepared to take it all the way to the next steps if I needed to, if mediation couldn’t solve it.
And then the pandemic hit, and we were all locked down. And Air New Zealand were going through a rough time. And I felt that it was the right thing to do to withdraw the complaint, for now. It hasn’t come up again since.
Bonnie and I try to fly Jetstar when we can, (when we travel together), precisely for this reason – because we can’t sit where we want to sit on Air New Zealand.
So this speaks to the toothless nature of our human rights legislation in New Zealand. But also, it speaks to the poor training that airlines in New Zealand have when it comes to disability confidence.
So I hope you complain, Pauline, and I’d be interested to find out how you get on.
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Following Pneuma Solutions on Mastodon
And speaking of NumaSolutions, magical Matt Campbell has been in touch from Pneuma Solutions, telling me that actually, the best way to follow the main Pneuma Solutions account on Mastodon is just to use PneumaSolutions@PneumaSolutions.com. So don’t worry about the social thing. It all resolves itself.
So if you want to follow them on Mastodon and keep up to date with everything they’re up to, PneumaSolutions@PneumaSolutions.com.
Do you speed up your audio?
In recent episodes, we’ve been talking about whether people like to speed up their audio – not just for audiobooks, but for podcasts as well. And we had a poll on this when I put the Mona tutorial together.
Tracey Duffy is writing in on this subject. She says:
“Yes, I do speed up audiobooks and podcasts as well.
It helps to use a player that does not distort the audio as you play it on faster speeds. As long as this is the case, I find I do not lose the expression of the narrator or speaker.
I find that I listen to most things at approximately twice “normal” speed.”
Appreciate the perspective, Tracey. Thank you.
Voice message: Hi, everybody. My name is Abbey Taylor in Sheridan, Wyoming.
I just finished listening to Episode 225 – the Area Code that Encompasses Parts of Louisiana.
So on that subject, sort of, the first version I heard of Me and Bobby McGee was by Gordon Lightfoot. This is back in the 1960s, when I was about 8 or 9. And one of the first 8-tracks I had was his album that had this song on it. Later on, I acquired Janis Joplin’s album on 8-track that also had this song on it. But frankly, I like the Gordon Lightfoot version better. I haven’t heard, I should say, the Charley Pride version. At some point, I will ask the Soup Drinker to play that.
But right now, I’m sitting here in my backyard on a sunny Saturday afternoon, April 29th, 2023.
And by the time you all hear this, the latest update, firmware update, or not, well, 1.2, whatever it is, update to the Victor Reader Stream 3 will have come out. And one of the features of this update, according to an email I received through the Victor email list is that it will support [music] chapters in podcasts. [applause sound effect]
And I’m looking forward to that because then, I can listen to the Living Blindfully podcast on the Stream instead of on the phone. Although I don’t mind listening to podcasts on the phone. And some of them, I still listen to because they have chapters or for some reason, the Stream won’t play them. I actually prefer this Stream because it seems to be the most intuitive.
Now I have tried on the iPhone. I use Overcast right now, but I’ve tried Castro, and I’ve tried the Apple Podcasts, and there’s another one I tried, (I can’t remember the name of it), that I heard through Applebiz. But Overcast seems to be the most intuitive app on the phone.
But the Victor Reader Stream is the most intuitive way altogether, I think, to listen to podcasts.
But the important thing is it’s okay to listen to your podcast on whatever app or device that’s comfortable for you. And just because other people say, “Well, I like to do this, I like to listen to this, use this app, or that app.”, that doesn’t mean you have to use that app. You use what you’re comfortable listening to, using, and it will make your podcast listening more enjoyable.
So on the subject of speeding up books, I usually don’t do that, except in the rare instance when [talks on a slower speed] an NLS narrator reads very slowly. Either this person is on downers, or this person doesn’t read very well to start with, or this person thinks that blind people can only understand material if it is read at a slower speed.
Now, you don’t need to increase the speed at this point because I will go back to talking at my usual speed.
Now, one drawback with the Victor Reader that I wish Humanware could fix is that when you set the speed on the device, it’s global. So if I speed up the narration in NLS because the reader is slow, but then I want to go and listen to a podcast, I slow it down because it’s too fast.
Jonathan: Well thank you, Abbey.
I did check out the Gordon Lightfoot version of Me and Bobby McGee which I hadn’t heard before. And not long after you sent your message in, sadly, we got the news that Gordon Lightfoot had died. His music was a huge part of the soundtrack to my life.
So even though he was a good age, and I know he’d had a few health scares before, I was really saddened by his death.
Sara Hillis did a fantastic 3-hour tribute to Gordon Lightfoot, a real Canadian and folk icon whose music will live on forever.
Can’t Disable Effects on My Asus Laptop
Thomas Upton is writing in. He says:
I have an Asus laptop running the latest version of Windows 11.
I’m having a problem where when I plug in headphones, I would have a less bassy sound, whereas I wanted to get the full bass of the audio on my laptop with headphones plugged in. I’m not sure if that has something to do with the Realtek audio drivers or what.
How do I fix this problem?”
Thomas, you may well find that some weird effect is turned on. Sometimes when you plug in headphones, the laptop detects them as a different device and they apply different effects.
So with the headphones plugged in, try going into the full Windows volume control, and bring up the properties for the headphone playback device. See if there’s anything checked under advanced. It might be something funky like 3D settings or some sort of spatial audio effect. I always turn those off because they don’t seem to play nice with screen readers. They seem to make things sound odd. So see if you can find anything in there and that might do the trick.
If there is nothing enabled in there, you might be looking at fun and games with installing an alternative driver, and that is not for the faint of heart.
The Dangers Posed by Electric Cars
“Hi, from Dawn in Sydney,”, begins this email.
“Recently, I visited Norway, Germany, and Amsterdam.”
That must have been a wonderful trip – a long one all the way from Sydney, Dawn.
“In Norway in particular, the prevalence of electric cars and other vehicles is amazing. It made me think very seriously about the possible consequences for blind pedestrians of navigating road crossings, etc. among these vehicles, the only real sound they make is that made by their wheels on the road.
I would like to see some advocacy made by organizations representing blind people, and blind people themselves, for the inclusion of some sort of audible signal made by them.
I feel very strongly that the risk of serious accidents could be very great. I have not seen any statistics from other countries to back up this opinion, but I’ll be interested to hear what others think.”
We’ve seen a lot of advocacy on this, particularly in the United States. And I believe there has been considerable progress.
So I’m hoping that some of our friends in the US who are involved in the advocacy movement, or perhaps anybody around the world who’s been dealing with this quiet cars issue can chime in and tell us where we’re at with the advocacy on this. Because you’re right, Dawn. It is a serious issue.
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Having a Major Frustration With Audible
Hello once again to Rebecca Skipper. And she says:
“I am very disappointed with Audible, and I have downgraded my membership to Audible Plus to get a few of their podcasts.
I have switched my membership to Libro.fm.
Audible had a sale, and I bought the Anne of Green Gables collection.”
“Oh, it’s fantastical, Marilla.” Yeah.
“I could download the book to my phone, but I could not download the book from my Audible library, or Audible sync. Therefore, I could not put it on my Stream 2nd Generation.
During the course of 3 days, I chatted virtually with 4 representatives who told me that I should try using the Android app. They said the book was working fine on their end.
I do not own an Android device, so tried the Windows subsystem for Android. This wasn’t an ideal experience for me, though I was able to download the book to the Android app on Windows.
Now, Audible is investigating the issue and told me on Thursday they would get back with me in 5 business days. They gave me one extra credit.
I was able to buy the same book and download it without any issues on Libro.fm.
In addition, I can only listen to Audible original content on my phone or Android app on Windows.
I love my Victor Reader Stream 2nd Generation, but I’m concerned about the direction Audible is taking. Remember when we had Audible Manager and how accessible it was? Now it is gone. You can’t even use the Audible app on Windows 10, and you have to go through the Android subsystem on Windows 11, or use the Audible Sync app.
HIMS has said that they are developing a mobile screen reader so users can download Android apps, potentially giving users the ability to read Kindle books, use BARD and gain access to Audible. The SensePlayer also has a connect feature so you can use its keyboard with Android or iOS.”
I’ll just stop to say we have, of course, covered this extensively, including a demonstration of the SensePlayer and an interview with HIMS.
“Are we getting to the point where Audible may stop supporting companies like HIMS and Humanware? Would you consider showing listeners how to access Audible another way, or would you consider promoting Libro.fm as an alternative for some? This site doesn’t lock down books and offers some of the same titles you find on Audible.”
To answer the second part first Rebecca, because it’s probably the quickest and easiest, already done. You can go back to Living Blindfully episode 62, when we record Mosen at Large, but you can go there by going to LivingBlindfully.com/62 on the web and you will hear an interview with Libro.fm. We had a little promotion going at the time as well, where people could get some books for free or I think, a subsidy on the membership, or something like that.
This was actually in response to another Audible snafu at the time. I forget the specifics about it, but then, we talked about the benefits of having just open MP3 that you can download and play on any device.
I’m curious to know whether others are having any issues because historically, when something’s gone wrong with Audible and the Stream, and I’m talking of course about the 2nd generation Stream, we tend to hear about it big time. So I don’t know whether your situation is unique, whether you’re just getting poor support from Audible, or whether there’s a wider problem that this points to.
I think the reality that we have to face is that most people consume this content on their smartphone. I personally don’t use Audible very much anymore because I’ve kind of gone off audiobooks, and I can’t really explain why. I just prefer to read my books rather than listen to them, for the most part.
But when I do use Audible, the iOS app is normally in pretty good shape. And most people, the vast majority of people, are using iOS or Android devices to read their books.
People don’t necessarily want to be tethered to their computer to read their books. That means that it is probably going to take a while to get the development resources to fix any issues that might break Stream compatibility, for example.
Of course, in principle, I thoroughly support the idea that people should be able to consume content on any device that they like with minimal fuss. So the whole digital rights management stuff around Audible is a bit problematic. And we see this with the compatibility problems with the Stream 3.
And I, of course, started an open letter on behalf of Stream users to express solidarity with them that people should be able to use the content they downloaded on the device that works for them.
Now if you go with Libro.fm, you don’t have any of these problems because it’s good old fashioned MP3. And as you’ve discovered, you can just download the content.
But if you have an iPhone, I have to say the Audible experience is pretty good.
Now in terms of the SensePlayer, I think they are trying to get around this issue of having to ask Audible to directly support compatibility with their device by putting a screen reader directly in the SensePlayer, so they’ll be able to use the Android app directly. And with that approach, they’re not going to have these perhaps bottlenecks with Audible that more proprietary solutions are going to have. Whether they work as well as those proprietary solutions remains to be seen.
Trouble With iOS Medicine Reminders
This email comes from Haya Simkin, who says:
Congratulations on revamping the podcast. I like the closing line, especially.
Please tell Bonnie that back in 2012, I went to guide dog school in California instead of Israel, where I live, because my father is allergic to all dogs except poodles, and they didn’t train poodles here back then.
I got a wonderful, smart, sweet poodle who was good at going around obstacles, and intelligent disobedience, and teaching me how to love people, and that tomorrow was another day with adventure just around the corner, no matter how many mistakes I made today.
All this to say that I flew EL,” I presume that’s how you say it, “and they gave us a bulkhead seat so that my dog could have all the room she needed.”
Oh boy, Haya, you’re going to start a controversy. If there’s one thing that gets guide dog users going, it’s this bulkhead seat thing. Some people say that they do not ever want a bulkhead seat, that it’s a myth that you get more room in them, and they’re sick of airlines forcing blind people into them. Oh boy, where do people sit on this whole bulkhead seat debate? I have seen many guide dog handlers getting extremely animated on this subject.
“Anyway,” Haya continues. “She was a joy to work with.
The flight from LA to Tel Aviv lasted 15 hours. As per the dog school’s advice, we limited the dog’s food intake and relieved her whenever possible.
About an hour before landing, we started giving her ice cubes to rehydrate her. This may sound extreme, but you don’t want her needing to go to the bathroom thousands of meters in the air.
Luckily, there were no layovers, and the staff loved her greatly, as did everyone who ever got to know her.
She passed away almost 2 years ago, and I miss her every day.
I am working on getting another poodle dog. They’re so intelligent and curious.
That’s a whole other story, though. If you should consider EL and if you have trouble filling out forms or anything, perhaps I could help, since I work in translation.
I would rather be paid, though, but I do support you guys. So if it’s not very long, I might do it for free.
Here’s to the best dogs.
What I really wanted to ask was about the medicine reminder feature in the iPhone’s health app. I had previously set a reminder for my evening meds at [20:00].
Somehow, with the switch to daylight saving time, it got to be an hour behind. The reason for this is a bit complicated and has to do with local politics and territory issues indirectly. But suffice it to say that whenever I visited my parents’ house during the past month, it would tell me that the timezone had changed, and ask me if I would like to change the timing of my meds reminder.
In order to not have it be an hour behind what it was supposed to be, I would change it. But somehow, the last time it happened, it ended up an hour behind.
I recently tried to fix this, and it’s not easy. It’s hard to find where you edit the schedule in order to change the time.
I only need one reminder, and now I can’t figure out how to get rid of the extra reminders. I also don’t see how to change dosing information, or any explanatory notes I may want to write down, in case someone has to read this in an emergency situation.
Do you have any tips? It’s very unwieldy.”
That does sound like a bit of a difficult thing you’ve got going on there.
The only thing I can suggest is checking out episode 197 of this podcast when I looked at iOS 16, and I did a demonstration on that episode of these features, the medicine reminders thing.
I have not touched that since, because I don’t take medication that’s time dependent. The only things I take are supplements, and if I want those to be taken every day, if there’s one I really don’t want to miss, for that, I use an app called Streaks. I’m not sure if this will work for you or not, but it’s a third-party app, and you can put all sorts of things in Streaks that you want to be reminded about.
For those of you who know the old Ray Stevens song, The Streak, you’re probably going, “Don’t look, Ethel”, at this point.
The psychology of Streaks is really interesting because once you get into a streak long enough, if you’ve been doing something for a few days, you really don’t want to break the streak.
It does rely on your honesty. I mean, there’s nothing to stop you from saying you’re continuing the streak when you’re really not, but if you get to do that, I guess there’s no hope for you and you may as well not use the app.
But I use the Streaks app to encourage me to do all sorts of things I know I should do and that I might be tempted not to do when life gets busy, like I have a streak that requires me to do meditation for at least 15 minutes every day. Most of the time I get 30 minutes in. But if I’ve done 15 minutes a day, I feel like I’m at least on some sort of track.
And that is directly linked to the Health app. So you might use an app like Calm, or Headspace, or one of those guys that’s integrated with the Health app. And if you do 15 minutes of meditation with one of those apps, it will increment your streak automatically. Or you can just set a timer and meditate for 15 minutes, and it will increment your streak. So I use it for that.
I use it to make sure that I stay on the low carb wagon. And so I’ve got “Eat a low carb meal for 2 meals a day.” I only eat 2 meals a day. And I push the little button, and mark the streak off.
And if I deliberately go off the wagon because I want to do something for some reason, then the streak ends. And that’s quite a disincentive for me to do it, unless I really have a good reason to.
So Streaks is a really cool app. I highly recommend it. Maybe it will help if the Health app thing is being unwieldy.
But if anybody else is using the Health app to remind you to take medication at a certain time, how are you getting on? Have you found it unwieldy like Haya has?
By all means, share your thoughts and your expertise on this.
Closing and Contact Info
What an eclectic mix of subjects we’ve covered, thanks to our amazing Living Blindfully community, people like you. I really appreciate everybody getting in touch.
Keep it up, and we’ll do it all again next week. But for now, it’s time for me to go.
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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