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Welcome to 275.. 2

Voice Dream Reader to Charge a Subscription to People Who Paid for the App.. 3

Kishin Manglani From Applause Group Discusses the Voice Dream Reader Subscription Controversy, and the Future of the App.. 10

Living Blindfully Plus. 23

Joining a Zoom Meeting When Recording Is in Progress. 23

The Zoom H Essential Handy Recorders. 25

Blind People Using Linux. 31

Running Old DOS Programmes on Today’s Windows. 35

Help With Oticon Hearing Aids. 44

It’s New Hearing Aid Time.. 45

Closing and Contact Info.. 48




Welcome to 275


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

Hi again!

Voice Dream Reader users are being asked to pay a subscription if they want to keep adding content to the app. The company explains why they’ve made the decision and what the future holds, we’ll geek out on Linux and old DOS apps, and for me, it’s new hearing aid time.

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the 275th episode of Living Blindfully.

[dude sound clip]

Oh, it’s been a while since we heard from you, Boris.

But yes, it is worth saying, dude, about 275 episodes. And whether you’ve been listening since the beginning or you’ve just joined us, a very warm welcome to you.

And we like to look at the area codes and country codes corresponding to our episodes, now that we’ve got to a certain number. but I can tell you, there is neither an area code nor a country code for 275. So that was easy, wasn’t it?

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Voice Dream Reader to Charge a Subscription to People Who Paid for the App

Caller: Hey, Jonathan. It’s Dennis Long. I just wanted to comment on Voice Dream Reader, which Winston, the original developer, had sold to a new company.

They are now charging $60 a year. That’s more than 50% of a JAWS for Windows yearly subscription. Moreover, 11 months ago, when they bought Voice Dream Reader, they said current users that had purchased the product would not have to pay.

So this is not a company we can trust, and I recommend everybody boycott this app, and contact them and let them know their displeasure.

So they’re telling me their app is more valuable than my screen reader? That is them just being greedy and trying to make a profit on the blindness community.

Moreover, they did not bother including a monthly option. The $60 a year for the Mac and the iPhone version is fine. But what if you just want to use it on the iPhone? They didn’t include a separate price tier just for one or the other, which they should have done. They didn’t include, as I said, monthly options. They have their greedy paws out, and they want all their money up front.

We as a community need to take a stand. We need to take a stand and say no, this is not going to fly.

Jonathan: Thanks for getting in touch, Dennis.

We’ll shortly speak with one of the founders of Applause Group. That’s the company that owns Voice Dream Reader. But before we do that, the story so far to make sure that everybody’s up to speed.

If you use an iPhone and you’re blind, you’ve probably heard of Voice Dream Reader. It was developed by Winston Chen and first released, I think, around 2011 or 2012. It’s been around a while now. It allows you to read a wide variety of content, and I’ll cover some of those formats a bit later.

Winston, in my view, was an example of indie mobile app developers who get it right. He engaged with his users, and he seemed to understand that many of us in the blind community have certain cultural expectations around the technology we use.

It sounds like a bit of a cliche and it’s said a lot, but it’s true. Nothing about us without us is important to many of us. We want to be listened to. We want to have a hand in where the product goes. And if a developer is willing to engage with this properly, great things can happen.

Winston issued frequent updates. The app’s feature set grew in response to the feedback he got from people like us. And by 2013, he was making enough money from what started as a side project that he quit his job and worked on Voice Dream full-time.

He developed some other products, some of which stuck around and some did not, but Reader was always the flagship.

Voice Dream Reader doesn’t just cater to the blind community. There are also features of benefit to those with dyslexia and other impairments that can make reading the printed page difficult. And of course, there are some people who are not disabled who just want to be read to. Voice Dream Reader is a classic example of the old adage that accessibility features or apps benefit everyone.

If you want to get your meeting papers read while you’re in your car stuck in a traffic jam, Voice Dream Reader can do it for you.

Voice Dream Reader is one of the apps I use most on my phone, and I would definitely feel its loss because there’s no other app that I have found that does all the things in one app that Voice Dream Reader can do. I often get asked the question, “How do you fit everything into your life?”, and the answer is that I try to find the best technology to help me maximize my time. Voice Dream Reader is a critical part of that strategy.

In my day job, I use it before meetings. I often take a whole lot of papers that my staff have sent me or that have been sent for boards that I’m on. And when I’m on the treadmill or just moving around the house doing chores, I’m rocking the papers using Voice Dream Reader.

People can send me material in a wide variety of formats and Voice Dream Reader handles it, as well as allowing me to organise it. I have folders based on different projects, and it’s easy to find things. I’ve even had late-breaking documents sent to me while I’ve been in an Uber on my way to a parliamentary meeting with a minister, and I can be up to speed by the time the Uber pulls in for my appointment.

For tasks that might be either business or pleasure-related, within Voice Dream Reader itself, I can read MP3 audiobooks. I can read the books from our local DAISY library here, from our blindness agency. EPUB, PDF, Word documents, they all work as well.

I can seamlessly download from Bookshare, and I have my own talking newspaper that I can take with me on the go. I do this by looking at news in my favorite RSS reader app, which is called Lire.

When I find an article that I want to read later, I send it to Instapaper. Voice Dream Reader has Instapaper integration, And that means I can build my own customized news feed of articles and have Voice Dream Reader read them continuously.

So I’m kicking the tires of Voice Dream Reader pretty hard. I use it every day without exception.

Now last year, Winston Chen, the developer of VoiceDream Reader, sold it. Now, I haven’t been in touch with him since the sale, but I’ve been told by a couple of people I consider reliable sources that Winston had come to the conclusion that the only way for Voice Dream Reader to survive would be making a change to a subscription model. He’d been working on the app for over a decade by then, so who can really blame him for cashing in and having another company taking it to the next level?

That company, the one that now owns Voice Dream Reader, is called Applause Group.

Now, if there’s one lesson that anyone running a business or making any kind of public-facing decision can take away from the firestorm now surrounding Voice Dream Reader, it is this. When you have news to share, share it clearly before anyone else has the opportunity to tell your story for you. Members of the online blind community didn’t find out about the sale of Voice Dream Reader last year from either the buyer or the seller. They actually found out as the result of an indie developer who offers a product that competes in some ways with Voice Dream Reader’s features, discovering a new in-app subscription option in the latest version of Voice Dream Reader. He spread the word to the blind community that some sort of subscriptions were on the way.

When a developer makes a change like this, it always upsets a lot of people. But here, Here, you had the perfect storm.

First, there were rumors about a change of ownership, and many users felt they knew Winston well. Naturally, there were going to be fears about a change of owner and what it might mean for an app that a lot of people depend on. Who were these new people, and what did they have in mind? No one was talking.

Where there’s a vacuum, speculation is sure to fill it. Through their silence, they lost control of the narrative. A business should never do that.

It was a big change because if there was a change in the past to Voice Dream Reader, if you were a customer, you got an email from Winston, or you could also see his posts on social media where he was pretty active. Yet, there was silence about the new subscription model when it was introduced last year, leaving people to assume they were about to be charged.

Naturally, many people were concerned and confused. Some of them, of course, were angry. For the new owners, it wasn’t a good way to begin building a relationship of trust with your customers.

Applause Group must have heard somehow about the depth of feeling on the issue because they posted to a forum topic discussing the matter on AppleVis, which is a site primarily covering Apple issues from a blindness perspective.

And this is what Applause Group wrote back in 2023:

“Hi all,

Voice Dream team here.

Existing users should not be affected and will continue to have access to the app. We are migrating to a subscription model only for new users.

If you have any issues, please feel free to contact our support team.”

And that was the end of the message.

So the fuss died down, and a good number of people felt that this was a reasonable approach to take.

But earlier this week, as I record this at the end of March, 2024, word started coming through that there had been a policy change. And now, all Voice Dream Reader users would be charged a subscription starting on the 1st of May. It’d be $59.95 per year, which they say is actually a discount on the $79 price they’ll usually charge.

Now again, I used to get emails from Voice Dream pretty regularly when Winston was running it. I personally have received no email advising me of this. I understand some users now have, so perhaps those emails are being staggered over the next few days. I also checked on X (something I don’t do often these days), and could find no announcement there either, even though the company used to be very active when Winston was running it.

So again, this information trickled out. And it does feel like there’s a bit of a vacuum here. We’re not sure who these people are. They’ve put out a blog post making some pretty attractive promises, but we don’t really know them in the same way that we felt like we knew Winston Chen.

And this app is important to many of us. So I appreciate the fact that on Living Blindfully, we’re able to hear direct from the source and ask some questions of Applause Group.

Rich Beardsley has written in with a comment.

“I never purchased the app, and I’m glad I made that choice. It may have been the only decent option in the past. But now, the app is essentially an overpriced version of EasyReader.

EasyReader lets you access books from various sources and import files, so there’s really no difference.

Like I said in a reply on Mastodon, this decision is a real slap in the face to people who bought this app and supported the developers.

On the topic of accessible apps, another big one was Read2Go. The school for the blind in my state used to use it, but I think they switched to EasyReader. Read2Go is still on the App Store last time I looked, but it hasn’t been updated in 4 or 5 years.

I realize that people who make Voice Dream are a business that has to make money, but this is a complete rip-off when you consider what you’re getting and compare it to the other alternatives.”

Thanks, Rich!

And given that you haven’t purchased the app, I understand why you may not be aware of all that Voice Dream Reader does. But I’m quoting now from the Dolphin EasyReader documentation. I do have this on my system because it does integrate seamlessly with Blind Low Vision NZ’s Talking Book Library.

I found that the user interface is quite clunky, and I got to the point where I just would rather download the books on the web, and then put them in Voice Dream Reader rather than use EasyReader. I just don’t like the user interface.

I’ve got spoiled by the way that you can navigate around content so effortlessly in Voice Dream Reader. but I think what I’m about to show you is that there is no one app that can replace Voice Dream Reader. You can definitely replace it with a combination of apps, but not one app.

So the documentation says this:

“The following file formats will open in the Reader:”

Remember, we’re talking about Dolphin EasyReader at this point.

“DAISY 2, DAISY 3, EPUB 2, Unprotected, EPUB 3, Unprotected, Clipboard Text.

The following formats will not open in the reader, but will open in their default app instead: PDF,” (Voice Dream Reader supports this.) “Word,” (Voice Dream Reader supports that.)

And that’s all they say. So there’s no reference to MP3 files or other media, which you can also add in Voice Dream Reader. And there’s no mention of cloud services – OneDrive, iCloud, Dropbox, and Google Drive. There is no mention of Pocket, which is an alternative to Instapaper.

And you can’t save a webpage to EasyReader, nor can you open a PDF file and share it to EasyReader in the same way that you can Voice Dream Reader.

And of course, there is that integration with what they call VDScan. It used to be called Voice Dream Scanner. So if I want to do OCR on a PDF file, I can absolutely do that. And I can even scan a document from within Voice Dream Reader if I want to use VOCR.

So those are just the file formats. And then, we can go on to different functions that Voice Dream Reader does. Apart from all the voices and the navigation, one thing I would highlight is that if you have MP3 books in zip files, which you can do if you buy from rather than Audible, then you can zip those books up. They already come zipped, actually, from And you put that zip file in a cloud place that Voice Dream Reader can access, like Dropbox, or OneDrive, or Google Drive, and then you import the file. It unzips the file and it creates a book.

And then, you can navigate by file. Each file effectively becomes a heading in Voice Dream Reader, and you can just swipe through to move from chapter to chapter.

It also has an excellent speed control, so you can speed the audio up and it sounds pretty reasonable. So you can do all of that with MP3 books. And sometimes, I will download content from YouTube using one of the many downloaders that exist out there, put it in Voice Dream Reader if it’s a very long bit of audio, and it remembers my place and I can come back to it. So that’s pretty nifty as well. It’s kind of like a Swiss army knife of audio and text consumption.

Now, I completely get that not everybody cares about any of this. And if EasyReader meets your needs, it’s a fine product. And the price is right, for sure. No doubt about that. And they do a great job.

But for those of us who need more, it is not a complete replacement.

Voice message: Hi, Jonathan and listeners of Living Blindfully! This is Lynette coming to you from Nova Scotia, Canada.

So when I first read this announcement, it was first thing in the morning. I hadn’t had my coffee yet. I just opened the notification center on my phone and I’m looking through to see if there are any big news, events, or weather events happening in my area, things like that. You know, what did I miss while I was asleep? And I found that announcement.

And initially, I was disappointed. I really was. I guess that I am used to having this great app for free, and I was sad that I now have to pay for it. [laughs]

However, I let it sit with me and I said that I’m going to think about it, and I’m not going to make a rash decision. So after I had had my coffee and I started to really think about it, I realized that the company that owns Voice Dream doesn’t owe me anything as a blind person. I work in tech. I know how much developers cost, and I also know the amount of time and effort it takes to create new features, so I’m not surprised that they have implemented a subscription for everyone.

I have used Voice Dream for 12 years, and I have definitely gotten more than my money’s worth out of it many many times over.

And I would like to see them develop these features that they mentioned. I don’t know if it’s possible for them to integrate with Kindle, but I certainly hope that they wouldn’t make that kind of claim unless they thought it was very likely because there is a trust issue here, and many people have said on the Fediverse…

Winston was very engaged with the blind community. I don’t know about the dyslexic community, but he certainly did engage with us. And that meant a lot to people.

We buy products and subscriptions every day from companies who don’t engage with us at all. We’re just a consumer. We’re just a dollar figure to them.

And so when somebody puts forth that effort to say, “Hey, I’m making this product for you, but I also really care about your community and the things that affect you.”, it means a lot to us.

And when you have a new company that takes over, and yes, they may be a small company. Maybe Voice Dream is not the only app that they are working on. They may not have a lot of time to devote to engaging with the community. But it exacerbates the trust issue because It makes it seem like they don’t really care and we’re just, you know, a part of their profit margin.

But as I said, you know, I do work in tech. I understand how much these things cost, and I want their developers to be well-paid so that they can give us all these great features.

I found the new feature list was kind of vague. It just pretty much mentioned new voices.

I don’t know that they can say from where (maybe they don’t even know yet), but having new voices would be great. I spent a lot of money on Voice Dream voices. I didn’t buy all of them, but it was pretty close.

Also, I found that the list of features that they built in 2023, if you look at it and you think, “Oh, this isn’t very much.”, you know, um, let’s see. We have canvas customizations, customizable margins, notes exporting, synced iOS and Mac apps, integration with OneDrive, and dozens of bug fixes. Well it would have been nice to know what bugs they fixed. Were there ones that were particularly troublesome that maybe a lot of people had talked about? But again, this kind of goes back to the issue with their release notes in the App Store. They have gotten better, but there’s still room for improvement, for sure.

And so when some people look at that list, it may not seem like a lot to them, but it is. You don’t just snap your fingers and a new feature appears. It takes time, It takes planning. You’ve got to write the code. You’ve got to QA it. If there are bugs (which, I mean, it’s technology, so there’s always going to be bugs), then you have to work those out before you can release an update to a product that is mostly stable. Of course, there’s always going to be bugs. But you want something that works reasonably well that isn’t going to give people too much trouble.

So I signed up for the free trial this morning. So there is a 2-week free trial. I did it the Apple way and not the Stripe way. And I did it because I’m not sure if you sign up through Stripe if that will allow you to share your subscription with a family account, and I have members of my family that are dyslexic that would use Voice Dream Reader as well as myself, so I wanted to have that ability.

It works out to be a little bit more expensive for me than just $5 a month. I believe it’s like $7.50. But again, there’s more than one person using this. And even if there wasn’t, to be honest with you, I would still pay it because I’m over my frustration and my disappointment.

And I realized that we have a lot of great apps that are free such as Seeing AI. That’s the first one I can think of off the top of my head. Maybe Soundscape as well. I know somebody else is developing that. We have a lot of great apps for free, and we shouldn’t feel entitled to have apps for free. We should be putting our money towards these developers to help these apps grow, and thrive, and develop new features. Basically, no one owes us anything.

So I’m over my shock and my little bit of disappointment that I had, and I’m ready to pay for this app that has served me well over so so many years, and we’ll just see what happens over the course of the next year. And if I don’t feel like Voice Dream delivered on what they promised, then I have the option to cancel my subscription. As you said, vote with my wallet.

But even if I do that, I don’t think I will find an app that is comparable to Voice Dream. [laughs] It’s just such an amazing app.

I really hope that someone from Voice Dream does agree to come on the podcast. I think that extending an ear and listening, and being willing to talk about this issue and maybe, you know, some of the other issues that people have expressed including the release notes, would go a long way towards building some trust with the blind community.

Kishin Manglani From Applause Group Discusses the Voice Dream Reader Subscription Controversy, and the Future of the App

Jonathan: Thank you very much for your feedback, Lynette.

And hopefully, these and quite a few other questions will be answered now because we’re joined by Kishin Manglani, who is one of the founders of Applause Group. And Kishin, this is your first podcast interview, ever, so I’m really thrilled that you could do that on Living Blindfully. Welcome!

Kishin: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me.

Jonathan: In the blind community of iOS users, Winston’s name was a very familiar one when he owned and developed Voice Dream Reader. But many of us feel that we don’t have the same relationship with Voice Dream Reader’s new owners, and I hope that our chat today might help with that.

What does Applause Group do, and why did you decide that buying Voice Dream Reader was a good fit for the company?

Kishin: Applause Group operates mobile apps, and we typically work with independent developers who want to hand over their reins after working on the app for many years, oftentimes for over a decade. You know, these apps often take a lot of time, effort, and passion to build and maintain. And sometimes, the owners want to stop working on them for personal reasons, or to go work on something else, and they want to pass the torch to someone else who can build and maintain the app. We continue where they left off and build, maintain, and support the apps for the communities that they serve.

Jonathan: All right. So you made a decision that you could do this for Voice Dream Reader. You must have been cognizant, though, that this is quite an unusual app in that it caters to a very niche market, many of whom may not necessarily have a lot of money to spend.

Kishin: Yeah, I think that’s something that Winston did mention to us. But we do try to work on products where there are engaged communities and engaged users, and we felt that Voice Dream fit that description.

Jonathan: And are you a large company? Do you have lots of staff working for you?

Kishin: No. We’re actually a fairly small team that continues to maintain and operate it.

Jonathan: From the perspective of some blind people who are online and monitoring these things closely, things got off to a bit of a rocky start last year when first, there were whispers about an acquisition without a formal announcement going to Voice Dream Readers’ usual channels for quite some time. And then someone, one of your competitors, unfortunately discovered the subscription model in an updated build of the app before there’d been any kind of announcement about that either. And that was the beginning of what some users still perceive as a trust problem with the new owners of Voice Dream Reader.

In the end, back in 2023, Applause Group assured the community of existing customers that only new customers would pay the subscription, and there was no mention of this possibly being for a limited time or anything like that. People thought, “Okay, that’s the new status quo.”

So when word started trickling out some days ago that this policy was changing, it has created quite a buzz, to put it mildly. Why has the company changed its mind?

Kishin: First and foremost, I just want to apologize that the communication may not have been clear on that aspect. And you know, we really want to apologize to any users for any confusion that the initial transition could have caused.

I think in terms of what changed, we’re continuing to evaluate how to get Voice Dream on firm financial footing to continue to reinvest and maintain the product, both in terms of just actually having it up and running and working, and new features. And I think one thing that really has changed is there are ongoing costs to maintain these apps, and those costs are increasing. And that ranges from support, to engineering, to the tools that we use to build the app. Our costs have gone up across the board. And to get Voice Dream on solid footing, we decided to make this change.

And one thing to kind of highlight here as well is every year, when Apple releases a new version of iOS, there is a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to just keep the app running, let alone to build new features. So there is a lot of work that we need to do to make the app functional.

Jonathan: Winston did really well with sales to the extent that by 2013, he quit his job and he did this full time.

But it sounds like what you’re saying is that the market’s essentially saturated, that there aren’t enough sales from new customers to keep this afloat. Is that correct?

Kishin: Well, the market is definitely more competitive. I think when Winston first launched this over a decade ago, it was certainly, … I think, Voice Dream was the only product in this space.

But now, there are many more competing products, and it is a little bit more challenging. But I think that ultimately, that’s actually the best for the consumer because the consumer has more options to choose from.

Jonathan: When I look at Mastodon where there’s been a lot of discussion about this, and other forums as well, some people are expressing the view that in disabling functionality and features that they paid for in good faith unless they pay again, there’s been, at best, a breach of trust and at worst, a breach of contract. They feel that a new business model may be necessary, but they paid in good faith for functionality you’re now choosing to switch off. What are your thoughts about that?

Kishin: Absolutely. This is an important concern for us to address here. We want to restore that trust that users have in Voice Dream, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to discuss this here on your podcast, Jonathan.

Our long-term goal is to strike a balance between delivering value to our users and ensuring that Voice Dream is sustainable. And I think, we needed to make this decision to ensure that Voice Dream can be a viable product for longer.

We’re constantly evaluating our policies and how they align with our users expectations. And given that our costs have increased, this was ultimately a choice that we had to make.

Jonathan: Right. Let me push back on that a little bit because it seems to me that if you’re confident that you’re going to be adding a lot of great new features (and will come to those new features that you’re promising), shouldn’t that be enough to incentivize people to pay for the subscription if you could find a way to grandfather in the existing functionality?

I mean, after the 1st of May, somebody who paid in good faith (and they may have bought quite a few voices through in-app purchases as well. So it’s not just the base cost of the app. It’s also the cost of all those voices that they may have bought over the years.), they won’t be able to add content to their library anymore. They’ve effectively had their app disabled.

Kishin: Yeah. You know, I think in terms of whether essentially new users can keep the business sustainable, … There are ongoing costs to every single user of the app – whether that’s support, engineering, the software tools we use, there are ongoing costs to each individual user. And we just didn’t find it to be fair for new users to essentially be subsidizing the existing user base. So we thought that this would kind of deliver the most value both to existing users and to new users. So that was kind of the thinking there.

Jonathan: I’ve seen other companies go subscription. It’s always controversial.

There was a lot of noise around Ulysses, which was a great word processor app when they went subscription. Fantastical is my favorite calendar app. They also incurred the wrath of a lot of users when they switched to a subscription model.

One option that some companies do, like 1Password, for example, and Lire, which is an RSS reader that I use, is when they want to generate new revenue from the existing user base, they release an entirely new app. So if you want to get all the new features, you download a whole new app. You could call it Voice Dream Extreme or something cool like that, and you market it and say look, these are all the benefits that you get if you download this new app. But in doing that, it protects the existing feature set for existing users. Is that something that you gave consideration to?

Kishin: Yeah, we did briefly consider that approach. And one of the critical challenges with maintaining essentially two separate versions of the app is the complexity it introduces in terms of support updates and user experience consistency. On the support side, they would have to be like, “Oh. Are you using this version, or are you using this version?”, and trying to reconcile that. And you know, our goal has always been to provide all users with the best possible experience, and that includes access to the latest features and performance improvements.

And like I mentioned earlier, there has to be a lot of investment every single year just to continue to get the app running on the latest version of iOS. For example, when iOS 17 came out, there were a lot of changes we had to make to the text-to-speech engine, and there have been a lot of changes to iCloud that have caused the syncing between devices to not be as reliable. That’s something that we’re still continuing to kind of battle with.

So splitting our efforts between two apps would really probably dilute the quality and responsiveness that the user base deserves. And I think that would actually compound the issue and increase costs more, especially just given how small our team is.

Jonathan: I’ll come back to the reliability issues in a minute because it’s worth talking about that.

Other critics say that they understand the need to find a sustainable business model for the app, but that the price point is too high.

You obviously believe pricing is fair. Could you comment on how you arrived at the pricing that you have?

Kishin: We do believe that pricing is fair. And our ultimate goal is to always find the right balance between sustainability and accessibility.

We do put a lot of thought into our pricing strategy, and we try to reflect the value our service provides while also supporting the ongoing costs that we have to support continuous improvements and new features. Just for context, Voice Dream, I believe, is about half the price of computing products with no limits. You know, some other computing products do have a pretty strict limit in terms of the number of hours you can listen. And we have users that listen on VoiceStream for hundreds of hours. I think some users will listen for well into the thousands of hours.

But I think for the service that we provide, we actually do think that it’s a really great value. And we also did speak to some folks in the community to try to get some high-level thoughts on what pricing was fair, and this is kind of how we arrived at this price point.

Jonathan: So you said existing customers can pay a subscription for $60 a year, and that’s a lifetime discount. Just to be clear how that works, if your subscription goes up in future, will that subscription also go up? So it’s locked in at a 25% discount. Is that what it is?

Kishin: The current subscription is $59.99 US. I know that we have users all over the world. So just trying to account for foreign exchange, it’s $59.99. And we actually moved the pricing a little bit to kind of reflect that internationally as well. But yes, the pricing will be 25% off for life.

If we do make changes to pricing for new users, we will be very mindful, if and when we do make pricing changes to this user base. Our intent is not to. I guess to your earlier point, this price point does support the ongoing maintenance costs we have, so there’s really no reason for us to increase the prices on this user base in the future. And we do have the ability to raise prices on new customers, if necessary. That’s not our plan, and keep prices for this user base the same.

Jonathan: Okay.

There seem to be some options available through Stripe that might not be available in the App Store implementation of the subscription. Why are you also offering a Stripe option? And is there any advantage to you or to us in going with Stripe rather than using the more familiar user interface in the app itself?

Kishin: So can you actually just quickly comment on what the difference is? And I think you said there’s different availability.

Jonathan: One of the options appears to be a monthly option that’s gone around Mastodon. Somebody found a link to be able to pay $5.95 a month. And obviously, that’s a significant deal for some blind people who find it hard to scrape up 60 bucks at one time. But that doesn’t appear to be in the in-app option.

Kishin: Yeah. We actually will be launching a monthly version in the in-app option as well, so that’s kind of underway that we’re working on, and that was largely because of user feedback. Users wrote into us saying we really want a monthly option. We listened to that, and we’re working on that. So that is the intent – to have a monthly option as well.

Jonathan: Okay. That’s good. So does it help you if we use the Stripe option rather than the in-app purchase option? Do you keep more of a cut if we use Stripe?

Kishin: We do actually get a larger cut of the proceeds. I think our thinking there in offering 2 methods was just to provide another sort of form of subscription.

You know, it’s totally up to anybody in terms of which option they choose. Obviously, with Stripe, you can do it at a computer through your email, and it’s a little bit more of a straightforward checkout process. But on the other hand, you know, everyone is familiar with Apple’s in-app purchases. We recommend that users use either option. Use whatever they’re most comfortable with, with whatever they’re most familiar with managing their subscriptions, whichever they prefer.

Jonathan: But actually then, if we want to support Voice Dream Reader’s development, if we pay through Stripe, you keep more. Is that what you’re saying?

Kishin: That is correct. So I mean, all things being equal, we would probably have a preference for users paying through Stripe because of that.

Jonathan: Right. And Apple still takes a bit of a cut though. Right?

Kishin: They do.

Jonathan: Now, we know how to cancel a subscription if we pay through the in-app purchase model. How easy is it to cancel your subscription if you pay through Stripe?

Kishin: There’s actually 2 pretty straightforward methods. 1, you can always email our support team and we’ll go ahead and cancel it for you. The other option is that link that we sent out. If you enter in your email address and click on continue, it’ll actually take you to a page that will allow you to cancel it. So that way, you can’t have a double subscription. If, let’s say you’ve forgotten if you’ve subscribed or something along those lines. You just enter in your email address, the same one you used when you signed up, you click continue, and it’ll give you the option right there to update your payment method, to cancel it, update your billing information, etc.

Jonathan: One consideration might be family sharing. I understand that it is family sharing-enabled when you get a subscription to Voice Dream Reader through the app.

What are the ramifications for family sharing if you use Stripe?

Kishin: It definitely introduces some degree of complexity to handle family sharing via Stripe. So if that is of interest to the end user, we’d recommend using in-app purchases just because that process is a little bit more straightforward and familiar. But if you email our support team, we’re more than happy to help get the right access on the right devices.

Jonathan: Some people have objected to paying such a high price for a subscription when it includes access to a Mac app that they have no intention of using. Would you consider a lower tier that just worked for iPhone?

Kishin: We did consider that, initially. We just wanted to have one sort of subscription to kind of simplify the process here, and that includes all your devices – all iOS, all MacOS devices. You know, even beyond just having a separate tier just for MacOS and iOS, there was some discussion of should we have a version that allows 5 documents a month, or you know, a certain number of documents a month. But just for simplicity sake, at the moment, we’ve decided that one subscription is just the best option for us right now.

I think in the future, and if there is a lot of demand for that, that is something that we can certainly reconsider in the future.

Jonathan: Believe me, you’ll be very glad you didn’t do that number of documents a month thing because there are blind people listening to this with bulging libraries of many hundreds of books, and they would be very upset about that. [laughs] So that’s a bullet dodged there, I can tell you.

There have been some concerns expressed that the app is perhaps not as reliable as it once was, and you talked about this a little bit earlier. But it is making people a bit nervous about subscribing. What assurance might you be able to provide about the reliability of the app?

It seems to me, by the way, that maybe Voice Dream Reader’s iCloud implementation is quite old because you’re still required to sign into OneDrive, and Dropbox, and all those other services separately. But with the newer iCloud implementation, that would all just come as I understand it, if Voice stream modernized its interface. Is that all happening?

Kishin: Yeah. We’re continuing to reinvest in engineering and support to help bolster reliability. Part of this transition is we want to be able to reinvest into the business and understand where users’ pain points are, and what we can do to make the app better. That’s always the most important thing to us. And it’s really just reinvestment into engineering. That’s the main focus.

Jonathan: And when you do the bug fixes, we really would appreciate seeing detailed documentation in the release notes about what you fixed. Maybe this is a blindness thing, I’m not sure. But people do look at those release notes, especially if they have an increased stake in the app because they’ve just paid a subscription. They actually want to know in precise detail what it is that’s been fixed.

Kishin: Yeah. I think that that’s something we can certainly do. And if people value that, we can certainly have more detailed release notes highlighting what we do.

I think we’ve certainly increased the cadence at which we have updates. And you know, I can even run through some of the updates that we’ve made somewhat recently, actually, if that would be helpful.

Jonathan: Go ahead.

Kishin: Yeah. So you know, I think there are some issues with the DAISY format bouncing around in different spots, so we actually recently fixed that.

We introduced 2 new file types. One is the AU file format, and the other one is M4B.

We added customizable margins for PDFs so footers and headers could actually be skipped over, if they were repetitive or not relevant.

We fixed issues with adding web articles. So that was an issue with I think it was iOS 17.4.

And then, there’ve actually been a couple of other related issues that we’ve been constantly trying to fix.

We fix an issue with the jumping cursor that I think a lot of users had experienced.

We’ve had innumerable iCloud fixes. iOS 17 has just really introduced a lot of bugs with iCloud syncing. And you know, that’s something that we’re really trying to prioritize here, and how we can ensure the reliability of syncing.

We also did fix an issue with jumping to a certain percentage of the text stopped working, so we had to fix that.

There’ve also been many Bookshare fixes.

And I think that some of these have been in the past couple of months. I think that over the past year, we’ve had so many fixes, improvements, and changes to really just improve the experience.

Jonathan: And that experience seems to vary markedly.

So I’ve seen a few glitches over the year with iCloud syncing, and various things like that.

And I have to say, I use Voice Dream Reader daily for a minimum of an hour a day. I’m a pretty heavy user. and while there have been issues where sometimes, a file takes a while to show up, or I’ve deleted a file and it actually hasn’t been deleted, it’s not been so severe that I’ve been inconvenienced.

On the other hand, I have seen people on Mastodon saying, “Look. This thing is crashing for me all the time, it’s actually unusable.”

Why is there that degree of variation in the user experience, and what can those users who are seeing it crash all the time do to get it up and running again?

Kishin: Yeah. You know, I think that’s something that we’re still trying to get to the bottom of. It’s challenging to work within Apple’s ecosystem because it’s closed off to us.

You know, we think iCloud is the best solution because it is entirely private for users, and they can sync it across their own personal devices.

I think the best thing to do is email us at We read every single request that comes in there, so please try to message us through there. And the best thing to do is actually email us through the app. There is important diagnostic information at the bottom, and fixing these issues with iCloud is easily at the top of our list here. So if you do have issues with reliability, please just let us know because the more data points we get on this one specific issue, the better it is for us.

Jonathan: Where do we fit in terms of market share? Is learning disability your primary market? Because that surely is much larger than the blind community, I would imagine.

Kishin: Our user base is quite varied. It is people with learning disabilities, people with visual impairments – blindness, Low vision, some people that just like to listen to content instead of reading it, you know, on a commute, for example. It really is quite a varied user base. It’s very interesting to see how the user base is continuing to develop over time.

Jonathan: Given the reaction that was inevitable when a change like this is announced, the company hasn’t really helped itself in the blind community by referring to blue banners in a blog post. And there are also some inaccessible elements, or there have been (I think they may have been addressed now, to some degree) in the user interface for the in-app subscription experience. The company’s got to lift its game a bit here, right?

Kishin: We apologize if there were inaccessible elements. We do our best to make sure that the app is accessible. The banner was kind of a new user interface element that we introduced, and we didn’t know that it would actually cause these issues with accessibility. We could have certainly done more testing there.

Jonathan: Yeah. It’s not so much that. It’s just that the fact that you’re describing a blue banner without telling us what the text says or what the button says, I mean, a blue banner is not going to help a totally blind person to know what it is you’re talking about.

Kishin: Yeah. We do acknowledge that that is an issue, and we will certainly do better there. You know, I think that one thing that continues to be helpful is just the feedback that we get from the community.

One thing that is challenging for us to navigate is that we are developing for several different demographics here.

But hearing from the blind community, that is helpful for our product team. Our product team isn’t always aware of issues that something like that may cause. And I think that we’re always receptive to feedback. So I just want to emphasize that if there are things that you think we can be doing better, features you’d like to see, just please write into our support team. That’s something that is always helpful to us.

Jonathan: There is plenty of interest in your comment that Kindle support is one of the things that we might get when we pay our subscription. How far along are you with that, and has Amazon agreed to work with you on Kindle support?

Kishin: Yeah.

We’re pretty far along with that. We were actually planning to introduce that a few weeks ago, but there were a couple of last-minute issues. And now, we need to fix a couple more things.

But we do plan to release that in the coming months, at least as a beta version.

Jonathan: Can you describe how that will work? What’s the user experience like?

Kishin: As always, we’re trying to improve wherever we can.

But currently, the user experience is you log into your Amazon account and you select a book, and it starts reading your book.

Jonathan: So you’ll be able to use all your voices, lock your screen, and read the Kindle book. It will remember your place, all those good things?

Kishin: Yeah. I will need to confirm on being able to lock your screen. That’s one thing that I would just need to confirm with our engineering team. But it would work with the standard voices as you’d expect. And if you can’t lock your screen and then shut off your screen, we might have to add a little button that is a lock, so you don’t, you know, if you put the phone down or something, it doesn’t press buttons if you put it in your pocket or something. But we’ll release it as a beta version, and we would love to hear feedback from the community on how we can improve it.

Jonathan: It’s interesting that you’ve managed to crack that one, because a number of the specialised players for blind people (hardware players), I think, would like to do this but haven’t done it yet. So you know, hats off to you for getting that collaboration from Amazon to get that working.

Kishin: Yeah. Thank you.

Jonathan: On the subject of voices, you’ve mentioned in your blog post that if somebody subscribes to Voice Dream Reader, they now get all the voices. They’re not in-app purchases anymore.

I’ve purchased a scary amount of these via in-app purchases over the years. So some people will be excited about that. Others, not quite so much.

But you also mentioned that new voices are coming. Can you tell me any more about those new voices and what you have in mind?

Kishin: We’re exploring different options for new voices.

I think it’s striking this balance that I’ve mentioned about value, but also some cutting-edge features. And I think that that’s kind of one of the challenges here is some of the other alternatives out there in the marketplace, they do have higher quality voices, but they often will limit the number of hours you can listen to, or they’ll double the price, or even triple the price. So I think that that’s something that we’re trying to balance here is how do we get the best value for our users, but also try to improve the quality of our voices? So we’re currently in the phase of exploring different options. So nothing definitive there, but we hope to have some more concrete information in the coming months.

Jonathan: Yeah. And I realize you might not be able to comment on this, but it’s my job to press and see, you see?

Kishin: Of course.

Jonathan: I wonder whether ElevenLabs might be an option. If somebody could make their own ElevenLabs voice and then somehow have that available through their API so that Voice Dream could work with it, that would be a very popular feature in our community, I think.

Kishin: Yeah. You know, I think that these are all sort of on the table at this point. I think, like I mentioned, it’s a balance of engineering costs, value to our users. But you know, there’s so many different inputs here. And ultimately, we want to be able to make the right one for our user base.

Jonathan: I’m not a Mac user these days myself. But I’m told by those who are that Acapella voices are on iOS, but not on Mac. Will that be addressed in the new subscription model?

Kishin: We’ll look into that issue. We actually weren’t made aware of that one. So we’ll have to look into that one and see how we could fix that.

Jonathan: Okay. And it’s possible that I’m incorrect because I have no direct experience of that myself. It is just something I noted on social media that people had commented on.

Is there anything else that you’re going to be offering in the near term when you move to this subscription model for existing customers that you’d like to mention?

Kishin: Nothing specifically on the roadmap.

Every single user request we receive, we do actually evaluate. And you know, sometimes, we don’t always respond because we would like to provide users with a definitive timeline and perhaps we can be more generic and say, “We will add this to the roadmap. Thank you.”

But we like to provide users with concrete answers. That, to us, those are the most valuable features. It’s features that users ask for.

We would much rather not sit in a room and think of hypothetical features that people may want, because they could be total misses. What we really want to do is have the community engage with us, and let us know what you guys would like to see in the app. We welcome feedback.

And although we have received some negative emails, we’ve actually received several positive emails throughout this process – people saying that they support the app. That has made our day several days in a row where we get an overwhelmingly positive email. And I just want to highlight that. Thank you. Thank you for those of you out there that are positive and are supportive of Voice Dream. We love this product. We love this community. And that 5 minutes that you spend in a day to send us a positive email have us smiling. We share it across the team, and that’s what keeps us going. So thank you for those of you that are positive Voice Dream users.

And for those of you who have written to us that maybe be a little bit unhappy, we understand your disappointment.

But just wanted to highlight and say thank you for those of you that have written us a positive email. It makes us really happy.

Jonathan: In terms of new features, it seems to me that given that Apple’s being a bit skittish at the moment about being accused of monopolistic practices, it would be great if Apple Books would be available in Voice Dream Reader. And for that matter, Audible. I mean, the Audible app is actually quite accessible, and Audible is an Amazon company. But if you had a one-stop shop where all of your reading content was in your Voice Dream library, that might be quite compelling because you’re not thinking okay, where did I purchase this from? Which app is this book in?

Kishin: Yeah. Unfortunately, some of these larger companies aren’t always the most open.

Jonathan: Yeah. That’s why I’m surprised you got Kindle. [laughs]

Kishin: Yeah. They tend to be more walled gardens more than anything else.

Jonathan: Hmm.

Kishin: We would love to just kind of be this one-stop shop. You open Voice Dream, and you can listen to virtually anything. And hopefully, we’ll get there. I think that things are becoming slightly more open, and Apple does announce some of the new features that’ll come out in June, and we hope to be able to share more information on what new features users can expect in September, when the new version of iOS comes out around then.

Jonathan: My dream for Voice Dream Reader is that I can have a Windows app where all my Voice Dream content is in sync. I don’t really mind whether I have all the voices or not. I just want to be able to pick up from where I left off on my Windows machine. And I appreciate that that would be a completely new app. So would you rule that out entirely as ever being a possibility?

Kishin: I certainly would not rule it out entirely. I would say that if users are interested in a feature like that, they should certainly email us. We actually haven’t had that much interest in a Windows app. So again, if users are interested in it, we would love to hear more about it.

Jonathan: Oh. Well, I hope the Living Blindfully community deluges you with requests about this one, then.

So you mentioned sharing things after WWDC. It sounds like iOS 18 is going to be a bumper release this year, and that will mean some work for third-party developers, I’m sure. How will you keep communicating with the community going forward? Because I think this communication thing, … In a way, as we finish, I’m circling back to where I started. The communication thing has become a bit of an issue.

Kishin: We would love to do anything we can to improve the communication here. Like I said, this is a very valued community within our user base.

And one thing that we were discussing internally was potentially having some form of a Voice Dream community itself, where it would essentially be a platform or a forum. I’m not really sure what the right word to describe it would be, but it would be a place where users can directly communicate with us here at Voice Dream and more of it in an open forum as well, rather than just getting these single emails from disparate users so there could actually be more discussion based.

If that’s of interest to anybody here, please email us at, and just say like, “Oh yeah, I would be interested in a community like that.” And if we have enough folks that are interested in that, we’re happy to spin something up like that, because it actually would make our jobs a little bit easier – to have more constructive communication on how we can improve the product.

That is our ultimate goal here – just have the best, most useful product for our customers. And we believe that the best way of doing that is to actually just communicate with our customers. So we’re certainly on the same page there, that we want to improve the communication.

And if there’s any questions on release notes, or what’s new in this version, or how will this new feature be introduced, … So one example is Personal Voice. I think we’ve only had one user that’s written about iOS 17’s Personal Voice feature. We were actually a little surprised that nobody else wrote into it, so we actually deprioritized it.

However, if that is of interest to a lot of users, … Or perhaps, some users don’t even know about it. They’re like, “What is this Personal Voice thing?” Maybe that could be a good forum for us to say like, “What do people think about this new feature?”

And I’m sure, after WWDC in June, there’ll be a lot of new features, or I hope that there’ll be a lot of new features that Apple introduces that we can say like, “Hey. What does the community think about this?” And there could be some constructive discussion around that feature.

Jonathan: Does that mean that the APIs already exist so that if Voice Dream Reader prioritized it, it might be possible to have books read in one’s own personal voice?

Kishin: Yeah, that is correct. It could be one’s own voice, or you could have someone else, you know, a loved one, a spouse, so on and so forth record their voice and you could have somebody else read to you.

I personally don’t like listening to my own voice. I think that would make me a little nervous. But I am also on my first podcast, so maybe that’ll change.

Jonathan: [laughs] Look. Kishin, I really appreciate you coming on and being so open and facing the music, as it were. We’ll keep in touch. And if there are significant developments with Voice Dream Reader in the future, we’d love to have you back on the podcast to talk about things that you’re adding. So thank you so much for your time. I appreciate that.

Kishin: Yeah. Thank you for having me, Jonathan.

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I’m sure people will want to chime in on that discussion with Kishin. And if you would like to, of course, 864-60-Mosen is the number if you want to leave a voice message. 864-606-6736.

You can also record an audio attachment, or just write an email down and send it into That’s

Living Blindfully Plus

And if good quality blindness investigative media is important to you and you’re not a Living Blindfully plus subscriber yet, I hope that you’ll consider subscribing. It allows me to keep doing the work that I’m doing, with a little help from others. We employ an audio editor. We have a human transcriber (None of this machine stuff, so you can be sure of the accuracy.), and it makes sure that the podcast is viable.

We do have people who want to support the podcast, but times are also tough. And that’s why you choose what you pay. Pay whatever you can afford, or whatever you think it’s worth to you. The lowest you could pay is 1 New Zealand dollar per month, and that works out at the moment at about 59 US cents a month. If you can manage a little bit more, then obviously, that’s fantastic, if you think it’s worth that to you.

And if you want to cancel at any time, either because your circumstances have changed or you don’t think the podcast is delivering value for you anymore, you can cancel any time you like.

And obviously, it’s my job to try and keep producing content for you that keeps you here as a plus subscriber. We appreciate very much the support of all our Living Blindfully plus subscribers who get access to each episode 3 days before everybody else, as a way of saying thank you.

You can find out more by going to That’s There’s detailed instructions about how to get your own personal RSS feed into your particular podcast player.

And the good news is that when you join Living Blindfully plus, every cent of your subscription helps the podcast. There’s no third party who benefits.

These podcasts take a lot of research and a lot of time every week. So to our plus subscribers, a sincere thank you.

And if you’re considering being a subscriber and you’re not yet, thank you to you as well for your consideration.

Joining a Zoom Meeting When Recording Is in Progress

Let’s talk more about this important matter of going into a Zoom meeting when recording’s already been turned on, and not being able to mute or unmute yourself.

Now, some people did get in touch and say, “Ah. You just got to push F6, and you eventually get there and you can press the button.”

And that indeed used to work. In this case, what was happening was that that no longer gave you focus in the right place.

I want to thank Curtis Chong, who’s kept me informed while he’s been having some dialog with Zoom accessibility about this. And here, as people like to say these days, is the deal.

A fix for this was implemented in Zoom version 5.17.10. And there is a newer version. I think they’re up to 5.17.11 as I record this. And that allows you to tab to the OK button. So do make sure your Zoom is up to date.

If your Zoom is not up to date and you encounter this issue, here’s a very helpful email, and it comes from Aleksander, who says:

“Hello, jonathan and all Living Blindfully listeners and contributors,

I just had this problem too, some minutes ago – dialing as a speaker into a zoom meeting that was being recorded. I couldn’t unmute myself, and couldn’t turn my video on.

Then, I remembered that in Zoom meetings, there is often not only one window open, but also some other windows with control elements.

So I pressed JAWS key plus F10 for the task list. And lo and behold, there was a window with the title bar ‘Disclaimer Window’ is the name of it, or something like that. When I opened this window, I was able to navigate with tab to an OK button, and activate it. After that, everything was as usual, and I could turn my audio and video on and off.

I hope this helps.

By the way, as soon as I get my BT Speak Pro, I’ll be sure to report back with a few first impressions. I heard about the device on March 3rd in episode 267 on a bus trip. I was on my way from my parents in Slovenia back to Munich, Germany.

In the morning, after listening to the wonderful interview with Deane Blazie, I immediately ordered the BT Speak Pro, and I’m really looking forward to it.

I used a Braille Lite from 2001 to 2011, and I am now very much looking forward to this similar concept, this time on a Linux basis.”

Thank you very much for the tip, Aleksander.

Of course, that still doesn’t take care of it from the perspective of somebody who doesn’t use JAWS. And also, on the iPhone where it used to be accessible. And last time I checked, it wasn’t anymore. But I hope they have improved this.

Next time this happens and I’m going into a meeting where recording is in progress, I’ll know to try this, if necessary.

Good luck with the BT Speak Pro. I hope you enjoy that, and I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of it.

The Zoom H Essential Handy Recorders

Voice message: Hello there, Jonathan and all Living Blindfully listeners. This is Clive Pallett from down here in Hythe, on the south Kent coast.

First of all, I’d just like to say a very big thank you to you, Jonathan, for your excellent reviews of all the Zoom H series.

Actually, because of your excellent review of the H1, I have decided to go for it. So I purchased it from Amazon this week, and have followed along with your review and demonstration, even to the point of updating the firmware. Yes, managed to do that. [laughs] Mine also came with the latest accessibility file but it was the previous version of firmware, same as you had, and I installed the latest version.

Still saying accessibility, not pronouncing that very well at the moment but hopefully, that will be sorted in hopefully the next firmware release, or the accessibility file release, at least.

Very much enjoyed your excellent walkthroughs of the various functions. And also, when you’re pointing out where it is not accessible. Not too many places, but obviously, some very important places, especially for us to know how to set levels and so forth, which can be difficult to do if you obviously don’t have the speech prompts.

Yes, it’s definitely recording speech. You can tell that by the way that you can’t change the speed, and it definitely does not sound synthetic, so it’s obviously human-recorded speech.

Hopefully, that will be sorted out. I really do hope so. It’s a fantastic recorder.

As regards accessibility, I would say it’s not quite there, compared with a lot of the Olympus recorders. I’ve had a few of Olympus, and the best one, of course, was the DM-7, which got a multi-media recorder, including DAISY format, so I’ve certainly enjoyed using that for a little while.

The most accessible recorder though, at the moment, for us blind folk is the Eltrinex V12Pro. I believe it’s made in the Czech Republic. It didn’t actually come over here ’till 2021, I believe.

I know Steve Nutt. He demonstrated it in 2020. I don’t know where he got his from.

But he couldn’t actually sell it until 2021, which is when I bought mine. It’s actually June, 2021.

One thing I have noticed, they haven’t updated the firmware. It’s still, you know, several years old. But quite honestly, for what it is, I don’t need to because I can’t think of any place in the recorder’s functions, menu, or anywhere that doesn’t speak.

Plus, you can quickly check the time of the file. Each file, when you’ve finished recording, you check how long it is. And also, the time remaining on your internal, because it’s got 16 gigabytes of internal memory, and you can use micro SD cards up to 32 gigabytes.

The speech is American synthetic speech, very clear. And if for any reason you turn off the speech, you can have beeps only, or nothing at all. And if you make a mess of that, you just switch it off and then just reboot it, and it will come back talking. It remembers the speech, so very clever. That, I would say, today is the most accessible recorder I’ve used.

It’s actually quite a bit smaller too, than the Zoom H1 Essential. It’s a more squat body.

The one thing I must say I do like about this is the ergonomic design of this machine. I am having to be left-handed, so I hold them holding my right hand, and I like the way the left side curves in so it’s easy to hold it while you press whatever controls you need to on the front, and it’s very good in the hands.

Yes, I do have a windscreen. I’ve managed to find one. It’s actually for the H1n, and it fits snugly over the microphones. It even allows enough room for headphones to be plugged in which I’m using at the moment, so I can monitor my recording.

It was good to hear all the reviews. I just wanted to compare the different machines and how they function. And of course, with the H1 essential being, I wouldn’t say basic because it’s certainly not basic by any means, it still has very good quality features, even though, of course, it’s perfect for just popping in your pocket and anything you want to capture, you just, … That’s it. Pop the recorder on, and away you go. But no, I love it. It’s brilliant. And once i got the accessibility sorted out, it will certainly be even better. So well done, Zoom.

And thank you to Samuel Greene. I really enjoyed his interview.

And then, Zoom’s efforts to produce something as accessible as it is at the moment. And hopefully, it will improve in time.

Caller: Hi, Jonathan! This is Bill Belew calling from Ashland, Oregon.

I, just this morning, listened to all 3 of your Zoom Essential reviews. Thank you very much for those.

I don’t know if you missed it because you rarely miss anything. But one thing about the file list is if you open file list in the menu and then you play, you can use the menu scroll wheel to go between recorded files. So it doesn’t tell you the name of the file, but it certainly makes a quick way to go through and find something based on what you’re hearing.

I’ve been playing with my new H6 Essential Recorder. And I notice when I transfer files, either by putting the card in a card reader or even when I export them and normalize, when I play them in Winamp or in Studio Recorder, they’re extremely quiet. In Studio Recorder, I can use F2 and boost the volume way up. But I don’t understand why they’re so quiet. And I know that I can boost the output for listening on the device, but that doesn’t affect the 32-bit float file, so I’m confused why they’re coming out so quiet in my PC players.

Anyway, thanks a lot for all that you do. I really appreciate your podcast, and all the stuff that you put out for us. Thank you.

Jonathan: Well Bill, you’re a legend. Your name is one I have seen for years and years and years on email lists, and maybe even earlier than email lists. So it’s great to hear your voice, and thank you very much for your contribution.

You are right. I don’t think I made that clear enough. So you can use skip back and skip forward. But if you press play when you’re in the file list, you can also just scroll the wheel and it will keep playing and scroll through the files in real time. So I very much appreciate you bringing that to light and accentuating that.

Regarding your level question, Zoom has chosen to set the level very quiet on these recordings. But it doesn’t matter because 32-bit float means that you can increase the volume substantially, without any hiss or anything undesirable being added to the recording.

So if this concerns you, what I would do is put the file in Studio Recorder (and I don’t know whether Studio Recorder supports normalizing to a LUFS value. I don’t think it used to, but it may now. It’s been a while since I’ve used Studio Recorder, because I’ve gone exclusively Reaper these days. But even if you normalize it to, say, negative 6 DBRMS or something like that, that should bring the volume way up), save the file, and then you should be fine to play it at a reasonable volume in Winamp and it won’t introduce anything additional that’s undesirable by doing that. That’s one of the beauties of 32-bit float recording.

Thank you, Clive, also for your message. Sounds like you’re having a blast with the H1 Essential. And you’re a bit of a recorder geek.

So I always enjoy hearing from people with their different recorders, and what they like and dislike about each one.

I’ve not heard about that other one that you mentioned, so I’ll have to investigate what its capabilities are.

On to an email from Richard Turner now, who says:

“I heard a review from someone else who was very critical of the H1 Essential recorder because of the amount of noise from your hand while holding the recorder, and the noise when dealing with quiet voices.

Did you find any issues like that?”

Thanks, Richard!

Yes, there’s no doubt that when you move it about a little bit, it is easy to make hand noise. Some people also reported that problem with the Zoom M2 MicTrak, which we’ve looked at in a previous episode of Living Blindfully.

I did find I got on okay. And I find that if I’m handling this mic and I’m mindful that it’s sensitive to handling noise, I do take appropriate care with that. I guess if people fidget a lot, it might be a legitimate concern.

These microphones also do have a lot of noise. There’s no doubt about that. It’s 32-bit float, and that’s great. But there’s a bit of self-noise from these mics.

That’s not such a problem with the H4 Essential and H6 Essential because you can plug other microphones into it, but it is a significant thing to bear in mind with the H1 Essential. In the real world where you’re recording in a regular environment, I suspect that it’s not going to be a huge deal.

And keep in mind also that it is a $99 recorder. So you’re getting accessibility, you’re getting 32-bit float, some reasonable microphones, at a pretty competitive price point. But it’s not going to produce the same kind of audio that the H6 Essential does. Or even more, the F3 or F6, which have much quieter preamps.

Voice message: Hello there, Jonathan! It’s John Gasman with just a couple of quick notes on the Essential series from Zoom. I got the H4, and have been using it.

In your listing of where things were on the recorder, I got slightly confused in terms of where the XLR microphones were because I think, you said at the bottom of the unit, which made me think at the bottom of the display. But when I went and looked there, there wasn’t an XLR plug. So I just happened to be touching the actual area where the machine would stand, and that’s where I found the XLR. So just a semantic difference.

One thing I did want to mention that I had not seen anywhere (and maybe it’s just because I’m not as familiar with Zoom products) is that (and we talked about this on Mastodon and again, on the Podmaker list) was that if you plug your Samson or whatever xlr mic in, it locks it right in there. And on my Allen Heath board, I could just pull it out when I want to get rid of it. But with the Zoom, you have to press down on a little locking mechanism on the bar right below the plug-in in order to release it. And then, it comes out. So if you’re not familiar with that and just figure I’ll pull it out the same way I put it in, you’re going to be doing it for quite a while and might eventually break it. So make sure you touch that little unlock mechanism down below it, and that will release it from the lock.

I’ve tried to record, and have done pretty well. The one time I messed up big time was at CSUN doing a recording with Amos Miller from Glidance. I really got a nice recording. We talked for about 45 minutes about the product. And I even recorded the demo that they did with me.

And then, found out that somehow or another, I must have deactivated the internal mic which I was using, so that I wouldn’t have to carry around a couple of external mics while I did the interview walking through the hall. And so I got nothing on all 3 tracks.

So that’ll teach me to use a headphone from now on all the time. And that’s at least one way to know whether or not the mic is activated, or I can do a test I guess, in advance. But I lost a real good interview because I just goofed up.

So just a word of warning, be careful before you record that whatever mic you want to activate is on, with regard to the H4 or the H6, or the H1 for that matter.

I love the demos. I think that they are excellent, and you, with those demos, really taught me a lot about how to use the unit, and I’ll continue to use them at the conventions this summer.

Voice message: Hi, Jonathan! It’s Catherine from Pittsburgh.

Thank you so much for the wonderful podcast review and demo of the Zoom H4 Essential Recorder. I am recording this message on my brand new Zoom H4 Essential Recorder, as a matter of fact, and I’m using the built-in XY microphones. Haven’t sprung for an external microphone just yet. May or may not, we’ll see.

But when I heard that the instruction manual was not digitally accessible, I thought, “Not to worry, I’ll just get up and running with Jonathan Mosen’s podcast demo.” And sure enough, I’m up and running, but I have a question.

I’m switching from an Olympus recorder (which was great, but is old and dying, and time for a replacement), switching from that to the Zoom series. And one of the things that the Olympus recorder series allows that it does not appear that the Zoom H4 Essential does is allowing a folder structure for recording files.

So in the Olympus, you can set up different folders, or it comes with 5 already there and you can choose which folder your recording is going into. I really like that design because I’m the type of person who uses the recorder for different purposes, and it’s nice to have different folders for the various reasons or purposes that I use the recorder.

But that doesn’t appear to be a feature that’s available on the current Zoom Essentials series. Looks like according to my google search, in a past iterations of Zoom, you could do that. But for some reason, they’ve taken that feature away.

So I was just curious if you know much about that, if you know why they might have removed that feature, or if there’s a way to do that hot wiring it in some variety to allow a folder structure on the recorder.

Jonathan: Catherine, good to hear from you.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no hackery possible that would allow you to do this with these particular recorders.

I think it’s a slightly different use case between Olympus and Zoom. Olympus is more of a voice recorder for memos and that kind of thing, whereas Zoom sees themselves more in the field recorder space, and I suspect that’s why those folders don’t exist in this particular recorder.

We’ve got Georgia on our minds now because Joe Norton is there, and he is writing in and says:

“Just finished listening to the Zoom recorders’ fantastic review.”

Well, thank you, Joe.

“I just have one question. I think this thing would come in handy for doing the kind of demos I like to do.”

Oh, yes. And as we know, he does do very good demos.

He says, “If I go with the middle option, the H4, what additional tools would I need at a minimum to do, say, a screen reader demo similar to the ones you have heard?”

Well, Joe, there are a couple of ways you could go with this.

I presume you want to use a good microphone, so you’d want to buy a microphone that plugs into one of the XLR combo jacks that would take care of one of them. Then, you’ve got another combo jack free.

So if mono isn’t a problem for you for your demo, you could just use the other combo jack to get a mono signal from your PC by having a cable that goes from your XLR input to some sort of headphone output or something of your PC.

If you do want stereo from the PC, then you could use the line in jack which I haven’t had very good luck with. But then, I don’t have a lot of cables around here to test with, unfortunately. But it does seem pretty hot, so you probably have to crank your output of your pc quite a way down, but that might work.

Of course, the other option you have is that the microphones with a little bit of windshielding aren’t too bad on that device. So you could use the built-in microphone of the Zoom H4 Essential, and then just run a stereo cable from each of the combo jacks to, say, a 3.5 headphone output, and that’ll do it as well.

So there are 3 potential permutations, and I can’t really comment on which one would be better.

And Ray says:

“In the Zoom literature, there seems to be a promise of at least 10 hours of recording or use time. With the non-rechargeable Energizer lithium ion batteries in my Zoom H1 Essential, that promise is more than kept, as I can get roughly 15 straight hours of recording time per pair of AAA cells.

However, the rechargeable lithium ion cells from Tenervolts, the only ones I’ve found so far at Amazon which seem to be any good, I get about 8.5 hours roughly per pair of AAA cells.

As for the line-in jack, I’m continuing to use the variable level dampening pad I had to use last time I wrote. Zoom has not yet gotten back to me on this issue. It’s not really major, since I can compensate for that with the pad.”

And if you have one of these new Zoom recorders or you’re thinking of getting one, please be in touch if you have any thoughts. is the email address. And you can give us a call as well and leave a voice message – 864-60-Mosen in the United States. 864-606-6736.


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Blind People Using Linux

Welcome to another look at Linux, to paraphrase Matt Campbell.

Christopher writes in touch, responding to Regina’s message. And Christopher says:

“First, I don’t claim to be an expert in Linux. I enjoy tinkering, that’s all. Here are my thoughts.

As far as I can tell, the Mate desktop environment provides the best experience for a blind user. It’s not pronounced the way it’s written. It’s pronounced like Maté.”

Alright, then. Fine. Maté from now on. I’ll go up to someone in the pub or something and say, “G’day, Maté!”, and they’ll say, “What? What’s the matter with you?”

Alright, here we go.

“From my brief research, it’s named after some kind of shrub in South America. Anyway, that doesn’t really matter for this discussion.”

No, but it’s interesting.

“Mate”, (that’s spelled M-A-T-E), “has a desktop you can get to with Ctrl-Alt-D. Pressing Ctrl-Alt-Tab cycles between desktop and 2 panels which I think are visual portions of the screen.

The top panel has icons for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc., if you tab around.

Pressing Alt F1 opens a menu that makes me feel right at home, as it behaves very similarly to the classic Start menu in Windows Vista and earlier, with categorized submenus for different programs and settings.

Pressing Alt F2 opens a dialog to run a command, which is very similar to the Windows Run dialog.

The Mate Control Center is like the Windows Control Panel. I highly recommend going into the Keyboard Shortcuts section and customizing commands to quickly change volume, open different applications, and most important of all, enable a keyboard shortcut to quickly restart Orca if it freezes or crashes, which leaves you stranded. You want to assign the command Orca R to a command like Alt-Windows-Shift-S. I find this is easy for me to remember. If you press the combo without shift, it turns Orca on and off. If you add shift, it restarts it or starts it, if it isn’t running.

Finally, the Windows key is called Super in Linux land. If you hear Super and get confused, associate that with the Windows key and you should be okay.

I don’t know of a lot of accessible applications but I know Firefox, VLC, Thunderbird, and LibreOffice work well with Orca.

Unfortunately, Orca’s structural navigation commands don’t work in LibreOffice Writer to do anything other than reading tables so you can’t quickly jump by headings, links, etc. Then again, this also appears to be the case with LibreOffice on Windows.

I don’t know how JAWS handles it. But NVDA Browse Mode isn’t available either, which is a shame. This has been reported, but I think it requires LibreOffice, screen reader developers, or perhaps both to do the work, and no one seems interested for some reason. This is particularly confusing, as it seems like a lot of emphasis is placed on making LibreOffice accessible to blind users.

I believe Chromium applications like Discord and Brave work, though people keep telling me you have to enable accessibility variables in a file, which I always forget how to do. Debian supposedly has them, from what I’ve been told, but I haven’t really played with Debian too much, aside from installing it as a server OS without a graphical environment. I should go experiment a little more.

The only Linux distributions I’ve tried are Arch, Debian, Ubuntu,” How do you say I say it? “Maté, and Linux Mint Mate.” No no. Mint Maté, I presume. Oh man, the world’s just too confusing.

Christopher says, “I highly recommend Linux Mint Mate and Ubuntu Mate to new users. All you have to do is boot the installer, press alt super s to enable orca, and you’re ready to go. You can either try the distributions in a live environment, or install to your computer.

The one downside to these distributions is that they’re both based on Ubuntu LTS releases, which means they only get major versions once every 2 years. This means you’ll be stuck with outdated packages, including Orca itself, unless you resort to building packages from source code, which is beyond my expertise and comfort level.

If you don’t want to manually upgrade software that’s locked to a specific release, you need to wait until the next version is released, which comes with newer software. I believe this also applies to Debian as well.

Unlike Debian and Arch, Ubuntu Mate and Mint Mate come with graphical tools to install software and/or updates, though you can always use command line tools like Apt to do the same thing. I prefer doing this as the command line is always accessible, whereas the Ubuntu Software Center and the same tool on Mint don’t seem to read very well with Orca. I think the software update programs are accessible, but the programs to find and install new software aren’t.

Debian and Arch are a little more complicated. You need to boot them into special modes that speak, and they can only be installed using the command line.

I like Debian because it’s the only accessible software distribution to my knowledge that allows a blind person to independently configure a fully accessible CLI server with speech support at the computer itself.

Arch can probably do this as well, but it requires more tinkering and isn’t ideal as a server anyway due to frequent updates. Arch is the most interesting, as it always provides access to the latest versions of packages. Unlike the other 3 distributions I’ve discussed, Arch doesn’t have specific scheduled releases. You install the system, and continuously install upgrades to software. This is quite useful if you always want to be on the latest version of Orca, for example. However, it’s not newbie-friendly at all, and requires you to know what you’re doing.

The advantage is that you can build your computer exactly the way you want it. For example, I can get a very minimal system working in a matter of minutes that only contains the Mate environment, Orca, and Firefox.

The big downside to Arch is that things may break at any time, since everything can be updated. With the other distributions, things shouldn’t break as often, as they’re designed to be as stable as possible for each major release.

Linux is a lot of fun to play with, and I’m happy blind users have the opportunity to use it.

It’s sad Orca doesn’t have the same community support as NVDA, but the reality is desktop Linux isn’t very popular in the mainstream world, which means it’s even less popular for a group of people that are already a minority within a minority.

If Orca had more support and more applications I used were available on Linux, I’d abandon Windows in a heartbeat. I don’t like Microsoft dictating, or at least trying to dictate, what I do with my computer. And Linux gives us the ultimate freedom over the devices we own.”

Thanks, maté! I mean, mate. Good to hear from you, and thank you for the explanation.

To India we go. And Anil says:

“Regarding Regina asking about an accessible Linux distro, there is one which is currently active. The name of the distro is Accessible Coconut, which is made by Zendalona.” (That is spelled Z-E-N-D-A-L-O-N-A.)

“They have a tutorial playlist on their YouTube channel, which is being updated. You can search for Zendalona on YouTube. You can also go to their website at”

And Anil recommends watching that Zendalona YouTube playlist because it is being maintained and the information you get there will be right up to date.

Thank you, Anil.

And George says:

“As far as Linux is concerned, I’ve been using a distribution called Debian. Simply doing a Google search will provide you with the website.

I highly recommend downloading the offline installer with lots more packages, and I also have the ISO file if anyone wants it.

When booting into the installation media, you’ll hear a rather long beep. When you do, press enter immediately, and the installer will start with speech.

The installation process is easy. Just follow the instructions, and select options by typing the number of the option you want, followed by the enter key, sort of like playing games in a console window.

Another nice thing about Debian is that all technical aspects of the installer are well-explained, so you always know what’s happening.

When selecting your desktop environment, be sure to use Mate. It comes with Thunderbird, LibreOffice, the extended support release of Firefox, and some other stuff.

Pressing Ctrl-Alt-D for Delta will take you to the desktop, and pressing Ctrl-Alt-T for Tango will take you to the terminal.

Access what would be similar to a notetaker menu structure by pressing Alt-F1, and there you go.”

Kelly Sapergia says:

“I have been experimenting with a few distributions of Linux for some time, such as Ubuntu and a variant called Mint. All these tests were done using live images burned to USB thumb drives.

Because you can choose from a variety of desktop environments, I chose the Mate environment, as I’m told it’s more accessible with the Orca screen reader.

Having said that, though, there are areas where the accessibility of Linux needs work. For instance, with a recent version of Ubuntu Mate I tested, it was possible to run the installer in an accessible fashion, but only when the distro starts up. If you select the Try Ubuntu option on the opening screen and then run the installer from the desktop, it no longer speaks or functions well with Orca. I didn’t experience this behaviour with Mint Mate.

Also, it seems that every variant of Linux is different in terms of desktop functionality. You may be running a Mate environment, but don’t assume it’s going to work the same way if you decide to test another distro.

For instance, some have top and bottom panels on the desktop with various icons, while others appear to only have one. With Mint Mate, I was able to get to the bottom panel of the desktop using Ctrl plus Alt plus Tab, where after some tabbing around and using Orca’s flat review mode, I eventually found a button that would bring up the Wi-Fi menu, where I successfully connected to my network. That process really needs to be simplified for beginner users.

Not so with Ubuntu Mate. I couldn’t get to any panel on the desktop as Ctrl-Alt-plus-Tab did absolutely nothing, which makes me wonder if the panels are hidden and have to be made visible somehow. I was also unable to find any other way to get to the Wi-Fi menu as well.

I wish other voice synthesizers were included with the versions of Linux I tried. At the moment, all you get by default is eSpeak which I can live with if I have to, though I’d prefer a better voice.

Other than these issues, I’m starting to get the hang of Linux, at least as far as its GUI is concerned.” (That’s graphical user interface. I’m trying to remember to expand the jargon here.)

I’m glad programs like LibreOffice are included, and I’m gradually getting familiar with Linux’s equivalent to File Explorer on Windows.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to do a complete install of the OS. But if I do, I may install Mint Mate on an old computer currently running Windows 10, which I made sure to back up not too long ago when I got my new PC running Windows 11.

Mint Mate can be obtained from

Running Old DOS Programmes on Today’s Windows

And George is addressing Michael’s question about working with DOS applications. He says:

“Getting DOS programs to work under Windows is easier than some of you may think. All you need is a program called Talking DOS Box which I can’t seem to find on Google.”

I can’t find it either, George. I’ve done a little bit of searching around and there are links to it, but those links are now broken, so I wonder whether talking DOS box is still a thing.

“I’ve got a copy laying around on a drive, but don’t know of how or where to send it.”, he says.

“It comes with a demo version of JAWS version 2, I think, Flipper,” Oh my goodness! “and ASAP, as well as some PCS games, the full versions and other stuff.”

Yeah, interesting.

If anybody knows any more about talking DOS box, do be in touch with us. And you can also call the listener line. 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.

Voice message: Hello, Jonathan! This is Joe Norton in Dalton, Georgia, in the United States.

My name is not Obi-Wan Kenobi, but I may have a solution that’ll work for Michael, who asked about running an Arctic transport so he could run the Q&A database software in DOS. This is indeed possible, and I’m going to talk about the solution that I’m currently using for something like this.

He mentioned VDOS. I don’t really recommend VDOS or the original DOSBox because they don’t work well with speech synthesizers.

The program that I recommend is called DOSBox-X. This program is related to DOSBox, but it goes way beyond what DOSBox does. It’s also under current development. In fact, they just released a build on March the 1st, and they’re always tweaking things on it to make it work better.

I understand the Arctic Transport is a serial synthesizer, so Michael’s setup wouldn’t be as complicated as mine. Michael, you should be able to use one of those USB to serial adapters. On one end, there’s a USB plug. On the other end is a serial connection. The one I have happens to have a 9-pin serial mail connector on the other end. So you’d just plug in your Arctic transport to that serial connection, then plug the other end into the computer. Windows would then assign the COM port.

The next thing you’d do is go into DOSBox-X’s configuration file, and you’d need to specify the COM port that you’d be using. It may sound complicated, but it’s something you’d only need to do once. Then you just forget it, and it works.

To show you how well this works, I’m going to do 3 quick demonstrations.

I’m running this on a Surface Pro 7. I’ve got a Core i5-1035G4 CPU, which runs at 1.10 to 1.5 gigahertz. I’ve got 8 gigs of RAM and a 128 gig solid state drive.

I’m using the latest build of Windows 11 – 23H2. I’m running JAWS, Synchronet BBS Software in the background, and the DOSBox-X program with virtual no modem and virtual speech synthesizer emulation. But you wouldn’t need to use all that.

The first thing I’m going to do is open my DOSBox-X program with my shortcut key, and JAWS will go to sleep.

JAWS: Alt-Ctrl-D. Task.

[1 short beep]

DOSBox-X: Success. 2S. Joseph Norton 1634 ASAP installed. C:>. NUM locked.

Joe: Okay, and I’m in DOSBox-X now at the C prompt.

DOSBox-X: C:>.

Joe: And I’ve installed the QA files in a directory called QA, so let’s switch over to that.



Joe: And let’s type QA and see what happens.



Joe: Let’s silence that and see what I got.

DOSBox-X: QA main menu.

F, file.

R, report.

W, write.

A, Assistant.

U, utilities.

X, exit QA.

QA version 3.0, copyright C1985, 1988. Semantic, all rights reserved.

Reminder: …

Joe: So I’ll stop that.

I’m going to type W for write, and press enter.

DOSBox-X: W. T type, edit. QA main menu.

Joe: And T type edit I guess is where I start typing a file, so let me just do that…

DOSBox-X: T.

Joe: and hit enter.

DOSBox-X: 1.

Joe: And let’s type something.

Okay. Now, can I use my arrow keys? Let’s see.

DOSBox-X: This is a demonstration of Q&A. This is a test. I hope it works.

Joe: Looks like I’ve written a file. Let me hit escape.

DOSBox-X: T type edit. QA main menu.

Joe: I’m going to hit S for save. I believe that’s what you do.

DOSBox-X: S. Document colon C: QA.

Joe: And I’m going to put test.


Joe: I don’t know what kind of suffix I need. Can I do a doc?


Joe: I guess I can.

DOSBox-X: D-O-C. T type edit.

Joe: Let’s escape.

DOSBox-X: F, file.

Joe: And X.

DOSBox-X: X. C:>.

Joe: There I am. I’m out.

Now, if the Arctic Transport supports indexing where the screen reader knows what your speech synthesizer is saying, you’d need some back-and-forth communication over the serial port. And I can tell you that data does flow pretty well back and forth, and I’m going to demonstrate that real quick.

Let me get back to my root directory.


Joe: I’m going to run COMO, which is a communications program. And I’ve set up a little batch file to run that by just typing one letter and pressing Enter.

DOSBox-X: C.

Sending modem in at string. Escape to cancel. 38,400, 8 and 1, 2, A, 0, S, C, P, and L, 0 meters. Press F1 for help. [11:20] PM.

Joe: Okay, let me stop that, and I’m going to dial into my BBS. And if you don’t know what that is, a BBS is a bulletin board system. Back in the day, before the Internet, many hobbyists would set up computers in their own homes for people to dial into with their modems, and they could use those systems to exchange messages as well as download files or upload files that other people might want. So say if you wanted the latest version of a Monopoly game, you might just go to your local BBS to find it.

I have set up such a system for demonstration purposes. So let’s see. Alt-D for dial.

DOSBox-X: Dialing directory Como.

Joe: And the first entry that’s in this dialing directory, I wish I could use it.

DOSBox-X:Blink link 1-412-76.

Joe: I wish that worked, but it doesn’t. We’re using Telnet, and I haven’t set up a dialing directory for my BBS yet, so I’m going to hit M for manual.

DOSBox-X: M. Enter number to dial.

Joe: And I’m going to do 1-311-555-2368. And I’m going to silence some of this, but it should connect rather quickly.

[phone ringing sound]

Joe: Okay. That’s the BBS welcome screen, by the way, the clicking you hear, I’ve set my screen reader to let me know when data is coming across the screen, and that’s helpful with the telecommunications program so you know when the screen has stopped scrolling and stuff like that because everything wasn’t always at lightning speed back then. But there is one place where it’s clicking to let me know to press a key so I’ll try to cut that out for the most part.

DOSBox-X: Enter username or number, or new or guest. Login.

Joe: So I’m going to log in. Ford.

DOSBox-X: F-O-R-D. PW: Password:.

Joe: Asking for a password. Life.

DOSBox-X: L-I-F-E. 42. Logging onto Norton BBS’s Ford. Loading message pointers 0.0. Hit a key.

Synchronet version 2.00 by Rob Swindell. Bulletins. 1 statistics for Norton BBS.

Joe: Okay, we don’t need that. I’m going to go ahead and press enter to get the next screen.

DOSBox-X: Last fiew callers: 12 Ford Guildford, UK [21:46]. Yeah. Ford’s called in a few times. You know, it’s a pity I didn’t set this up so that Arthur could call in from Coddington. Let’s see where I’m at now.

DOSBox-X: Search all groups for new messages.

Joe: We won’t do that.

Alright, that’s the main menu. It’s dressed up to look like Wildcat. It actually has several different modes you can run it in, and I’ve got it in the Wildcat clone.

Wildcat was one of the popular pieces of bulletin board software out there at the time.

So I’m going to download a file. Let me hit F for file. F.

DOSBox-X::Synchronet clone. Q-U-I-T domain.

List available files.

Download a file.

Upload a file.

Joe: Okay, I’m going to stop that.

DOSBox-X: Command>>.

Joe: I’m going to hit J to join a conference, and it’ll show me the list of file areas on the board.

DOSBox-X:: J. Directories of main file library files.

1, BBS-related – 1.

2, Internet-related – 0.

3, Text files – 0.

4, Communications programs – 0.

5, Utilities – 0.

6, Games – 1.

7, Programs…

Joe: There are not a lot of files in here since I just set this up for demonstration purposes, but there’s something in games.

Let me hit 6.

DOSBox-X: 6. Synchronet clone. Q-U-I-T domain.

Joe: And let’s silence that, and I’m going to list files.

DOSBox-X: L. Download batch view content. Extended info. Previous page. Quit. 52.4K Monopoly by Don Philip Gibson, version 6.8. Listing.

Joe: And there’s

Let me download that. I’m just going to hit D since it’s the only thing in here.

DOSBox-X: D. added to batch download queue.

Files: 1 100. Max credits: 53695 bytes. Time: [00:00:17].

Joe: You had to choose different protocols. The reason they ask you this is because different communications programs would send and receive files different ways, so you had to make sure you knew the right protocol for your software.

I’m going to hit Z for Z modem. The reason I’m doing this is because with Z modem, there is some back and forth talking between the computer and the BBS. So let me hit Z for Z modem, and it’ll start downloading.

DOSBox-X: Z. Hang up after transfer? Yes, no?

Joe: Yeah, we’ll hang up after transfer.


S, start transfer now. Control X to abort.

Joe: And it’s transferring.

DOSBox-X: 8,192 errors. Consect 0. Byte count, 11,000.

Joe: Silence all that.

DOSBox-X: Handshaking. Transfer complete.

Joe: It’s done.

[ring sound]

Joe: aAnd it’s going to count down to shut off.

DOSBox-X:: 3, 2, 1, 0.

Goodbye. Time used: [0:03:04]. No carrier.

Joe: By the way, I just want to clarify one thing. When you heard it say 8,192 errors, that was actually the byte count and there were no errors.

Okay. We’re offline. I’m going to exit Como.

DOSBox-X: Do you really want to quit? Yes.

Joe: Yes.

DOSBox-X: C:>.

Joe: Okay, so I’ve downloaded this game as a zip package, and I want to play the game. So the first thing I’ve got to do is create a place to put it in, and then unzip the file.

Let’s make a directory called Monopoly. Let’s see.

DOSBox-X: MD Monopoly. Back. M-O-N-O-P-O-L-Y. C:>.

Joe: Let’s CD over there. We’ll change to the monopoly directory.

DOSBox-X: CD-O-N-O-P-O-L-Y. C:>.

Joe: And this DOS comes with its own unzip program already built in, so all I’ve got to do is unzip the monopoly program.

Como places it in my folder, which is where I usually place DOS downloads.

So I’m going to unzip.

DOSBox-X: U-N-ZI-P .

Joe: I hit tab to complete that. Tab completion’s in here, too. This is pretty nice.

And we’ll press enter on that.

DOSBox-X: Archive: DL Inflating:.

Joe: Alright, we’ll silence that.

It’s inflated everything, so let’s run it. The file is monopoly dot exe. I’ve already looked at it.

DOSBox-X: M-O-N-O-P-O-L-Y.

Joe: I’ll press enter.

DOSBox-X: Monopoly is a registered trademark of Parker Brothers, Inc., for free distribution. Copyright C-1987 by Don Philip Gibson. 6.8.

During dice roll, F1 – toggle sound. F2 – saves or quits. F2 now loads saved game.

Monopoly. Welcome to the Monopoly game. Who are the players? 1>.

Joe: Let’s see. We’ll do Arthur…

DOSBox-X: A-R-T-H-U-R.


Joe: and Ford.

DOSBox-X: F-O-R-D.

Joe: And we’ll hit enter.

DOSBox-X: Arthur. Ford. Is everyone spelled right? Yes, no?

Joe: And when I say yes, it’s going to start rolling the dice. And I believe you just hit any key except F2, and that’ll stop the dice roll and see where you land.

DOSBox-X: Y. Arthur, 1,500. Ford, 1,500. Arthur’s turn.

You have landed on Connecticut Avenue. Connecticut Avenue. Cost, 120. Rent, 8. 1 house, 40. 2 houses, 100. 3 houses, 300. 4 houses, 450. Hotel, 600. Cost of each house is 50. Mortgage value is 60.

Arthur, 1,500. Ford, 1,500.

Arthur’s turn.

Connecticut Avenue isn’t owned. Want to purchase it from the bank? Or auction it off? Do some business first? 3 houses, 300.

Joe: I’m going to see which letter is highlighted. I believe it’s P, so let me just do some reviewing here.

DOSBox-X: Purchase. P.

Joe: Yeah, the P is highlighted so I’m going to press P.

DOSBox-X: P.

Arthur’s turn. Connecticut Avenue purchased.

Joe: Let me silence that.

I’m going to do some reviewing of the screen here and check a couple of things.

DOSBox-X: 1 house, 40. 2 houses, 100. Want to do some business? 3 houses, 3. Ready to go on four houses, 400.

Joe: I’m ready to go on for now.

Let me see which letter is highlighted. I think it’s G. Let’s see if it’s G.

DOSBox-X: G-O.

Joe: Yeah, that’s the G. Let’s hit it.

DOSBox-X: G. Arthur, 1,384, 1,500. Ford’s turn.

You have landed on income tax. Arthur, 1,380. Ford, 1,500.

Ford’s turn. Income tax. Do you choose to pay a flat rate of 200 or calculated tax?

Joe: Let me see which letter’s highlighted on this. Okay, the C in calculated is highlighted. What’ll happen if I do this?

DOSBox-X: C. Ford’s turn. Income tax. Wise choice. The total calculation is only 150. 1495.

Joe: It’s counting down again.

DOSBox-X: Want to do some business? Ready to go on?

Joe: And let’s do G to go on.

DOSBox-X: G. Arthur, 1,380. Ford, 1,350.

Joe: I’m going to quit.

[2 short beeps]

DOSBox-X: Pressing F2 during dice roll allows you to save the game now being played to disc. You may resume it later by pressing F2 during the who are the players? Entry section. Do you want to save to disc, just quit, or go on with the game?

Joe: I think Q is what I need. Let’s see.

DOSBox-X: Q.

Monopoly is a registered trademark of Parker Brothers, Inc.

Monopoly 6.8. C:b>.

Joe: Okay, I’m out again. So that proves it can be done, and this thing works fairly well.

There are a few shortcomings, but probably that can be rectified by setting up some windows and stuff like that. Depends on the screen reader that you’re using.

So let’s exit out of Doss.

JAWS: E-X-I-T. Taskbar.

Joe: And I’m back to JAWS, running in Windows.

At any rate, that concludes this. And if you do have any questions, feel free to email me. My email address is, j-o-s-e-p-h dot . Jonathan, you’re free to pass that along if you need to.

Take care, and have a great rest of the week.

Jonathan: Well thank you, Joe. I am smiling from ear to ear.

That Monopoly game was the best Monopoly game I have ever experienced, and I say this as the world-blind Monopoly champion, of course. Self-proclaimed, the self-proclaimed world blind monopoly champion. [laughs]

I’d also completely forgotten about Como. We had so many telecommunications programs back then in the dos era. I used Procom, TelEx, Boyan was another good one, there was one called Terminate, and GT Power com, which was also a BBS, and of course Como. There were so many of them.

And I agree with you. Zed modem, that’s what we called it here of course, because we pronounced the letter Z differently. It was an excellent protocol.

And then towards the end of the BBS era, or at least when the BBS era was a big thing, they came up with a thing called BiModem, and you could upload and download at the same time. Ingenious! That was a lot of fun.

Thank you very much for putting that together.


Advertisement: Transcripts of Living Blindfully are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at That’s P-N-E-U-M-A solutions dot com.

Help With Oticon Hearing Aids

Frankie says:

“Hi, Jonathan and all Living Blindfully listeners,

I am hoping someone can help me.

I am currently using a pair of Oticon Opn S1 hearing aids.

In the previous Oticon app called Oticon On, I was able to adjust the equalizer settings for streaming media. Now that I have the latest app called Oticon Companion, I am unable to access the equalizer settings for adjusting trebble and bass when streaming media to my hearing aids.

I have tried disabling and enabling screen recognition, but I am still unable to get to the equalizer setting. I am a totally blind VoiceOver user, and would appreciate any help.”

This is a bonding time for you and me, Frankie, because I’ve got the same hearing aids that you have. And I do recall going into the Oticon On app and playing with the equalizer setting. It was a bit fiddly to get to even then. But it was interesting, and I quite enjoyed the effect that you could have on the sound that was coming from the iPhone by playing with that equalizer. But it’s not something I did often, and I would go into the Oticon On app from time to time.

And even when they withdrew it from the market and replaced that app with a new one, which I don’t actually have and have never tried, and I probably should, the Oticon On app worked for quite a while.

And then when I got my iPhone 15 Pro Max which is my most recent iPhone, it was still there. So I thought well, it must still be working, even though it’s not available in the App Store anymore. Sometimes, developers leave apps there. So I thought okay, that’s fine. It’s there when I need it.

But when you raise this, I opened the Oticon On app and found that it doesn’t work. It just returns me to the home screen. What a pain! So I don’t know.

If anybody has mastered the new Oticon app, do let us know. I do have some contacts at Oticon, but it’s just the New Zealand version of Oticon, not the people who develop these apps, so I doubt I’ll be of much help. But I can reach out to them and let people know that this is a problem.

Hearing aid apps in general have been a bit of a problem, and this is something that I really wish somebody would work on, perhaps the World Blind Union or something like that because there are quite a few blind people who have congenital impairments or develop hearing loss later in life, given that the vast majority of blind people are actually elderly. And having inaccessible hearing aid apps really is a problem for many people.

It’s New Hearing Aid Time

And since hearing aids have come up, I should disclose that I’m about to do the stressful new hearing aid journey thing again.

I am a demanding audiology patient in the nicest possible way, I hope. I mean I try to be firm about what I need, but I’m not rude about it either. And there are certain audiologists and hearing aid companies that respond very well to that. They know that I can give them good quality audio-related feedback, and they see trying to satisfy my various audio-related needs as an exciting challenge because obviously, I want to be able to hear well in noisy environments, but I also want to be able to navigate traffic and enjoy music, and it all gets quite complicated.

The first thing I should say is that I’m having to come to terms with a very big change.

For a long long time now, I have been preaching the benefits on here of the direct audio input system where you have a cable that goes from your hearing aids to a 3.5 millimeter headphone plug, and you can plug that cable in, say, in my case, to a mixer, or to your laptop’s headphone jack, or even to an ATM. If you want to get cash out of a talking ATM, you can just plug this cable in. It’s going straight to your hearing aids.

And the thing about it is it’s 0 latency. So when I talk right now and I’ve got my hearing aid cable connected to my mixer, I’m not getting delay of any kind, no distracting echo.

There’s also no limiting or compression going on. So if one speaker, for example, in an interview is softer than another, my hearing aid isn’t trying to compensate for that. It’s a very good system.

And when I got the Oticon Opn S1s in 2019, I deliberately chose them because they were the one manufacturer that could offer this to me still.

Because everybody thinks that wireless everything is the solution, and there are many benefits to doing it that way. If you can get the latency down enough, then being able to connect wirelessly to your iPhone or even to your laptop, that’s a good thing.

But there are certain use cases where a cable going direct from the hearing aid to whatever you’re plugging into, nothing can beat it. And unfortunately, it’s not going to be an option for me this time because there is no hearing aid manufacturer that I’ve found that still does it.

Oticon’s got a new one called the Intent. Before that, they had something called the Oticon Reel, and none of them offer the direct audio input option.

The other challenge that I’ve had is I personally will not touch a hearing aid with rechargeable batteries. It doesn’t suit my lifestyle, and I’m worried about the health and safety implications.

Let me give you an example.

I’m delighted to say that Bonnie and I are traveling to the NFB convention this year. Really looking forward to that. Now, that’s going to be about 30 hours of travel door-to-door. And while there are now some hearing aids on the market that would be able to let me use it for 30 continuous hours, there aren’t that many.

Now, I could take my hearing aids out and put them on charge at some point on a long flight. So to go from Auckland to Houston, I think it’s about a 13 or 14 hour flight. I’m not going to stay awake for that whole 13 or 14 hour flight.

But what worries me about it is if there’s some sort of emergency and my hearing aids are charging and I need to put them back in my ear, somebody needs to attract my attention urgently, I’m just not prepared to do that when I’m on a long flight.

We also have natural disasters in this country. We’re pretty earthquake prone. Things can happen. So what then happens if my hearing aid runs out of charge during a protracted period of a power outage? At least if I’ve got disposable batteries, I can put those batteries in and keep going.

And for me, my hearing is everything. I cannot function well at all with no hearing aids in anymore.

So I decided I had to rule out, for health and safety reasons, any hearing aid that doesn’t offer me a disposable battery option, no matter how good it is. And unfortunately, the new Oticon aids called Oticon Intent, which sound amazing, do not, at least at this stage, offer a disposable battery option.

Luckily, the Phonak Lumia does offer a disposable battery option. And actually, the audiologists here at Phonak in New Zealand have patiently answered my queries. They’ve told me when they can’t help. They’ve told me where they think they can.

And where they can’t help, of course, is with this direct audio input. And we’re trying a few strategies. I’m going to have to try and find a program that will allow me to wear conventional headphones and not get so much feedback that I can’t function, and that’s probably possible and we’ll keep working on that. I also have a very very patient local audiologist who’s always been willing to work with me.

So it’s a journey, and I don’t mind being a bit vulnerable here and saying it’s actually quite a stressful journey because as you will know, if you wear hearing aids, when you rely on your hearing and something as fundamental as your hearing aids change, it is a really big deal. And I just count myself fortunate that I can talk in audiological terms to these people and try and get things sorted out.

The Phonak Lumia aids look promising. I am quite pleased about the fact that they do standard Bluetooth, which means that it makes it easier for me to switch to Android if I want to. And believe me, sometimes I’m tempted. I can pair via Bluetooth to my laptop and even my Apple Watch. So there is a lot to like, and I’ll just have to see how well I function in noisy environments, and echoey environments and different things like that.

The built-in integration between Phonak and their Roger devices is also good. So in principle, there’s a lot to like, and I’ll have to see what it’s like in the real world.

One thing I already know I don’t like about the Phonak aids is that they don’t offer the option to switch off using your hearing aid microphones as the microphones that you use on phone calls. I think all the other major manufacturers let you switch this off. Phonak does not. But of course, you could use a Roger device to talk on the phone.

So I’m going to be fitted on the 11th of April, and I’ll let you know how I go. But I really do need to try and find a good solution so that I can keep producing this podcast, you know, and be able to plug into the mixer and hear what I’m doing with 0 latency in stereo, and without undue messing with the audio. I promise to try not to be too grumpy to Bonnie or too grumpy to you if you write in or call in while this process is taking place and I get new ears. Okay? Okay.

Closing and Contact Info

Thank you very much for listening.

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


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If you’d like to submit a comment for possible inclusion in future episodes, be in touch via email,. Write it down, or send an audio attachment: Or phone us. The number in the United States is 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.