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Welcome to 280.. 2

Zoom Improves Accessibility of their H Essential Series. 3

It Appears Sonos Accessibility Is About to Experience a Significant Regression.. 4

Mathieu Paquette From Humanware Talks Audible Support for the Victor Reader Stream 3, and More New Features. 10

A Demonstration of Perplexity. 24

An Apple Album Purchase I Can No Longer play. 36

Thoughts on Glide.. 38

NFB’s Deaf-blind Division Is Looking for Volunteer Special Service Support Providers. 45

Hetlioz and Melatonin.. 46

In Search of a Powerful Portable Laptop.. 47

Problems With the YouTube App are Typical 48

Closing and Contact Info.. 49




Welcome to 280


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.


In the rollercoaster world of advocacy, there’s great news from Zoom, epic news from Audible, deeply troubling news from Sonos, we catch up with all that’s new in Humanware’s popular Victor Reader Stream, and take your use of AI and research to the next level with Perplexity.

It’s just us on our own for this one, mate, because there is no area code 280 in North America. It’s reserved for general use. So at some point, we do expect to see an area code 280. But we don’t know where. We don’t know when. But we know there’ll be a 280 area code some sunny day.

And likewise, country code 28, or any country code with 28 in it, doesn’t exist. This part of the country code spectrum belongs to Africa, and they’re reserving 2 8 whether it be a single country code called 2 8, or a bunch of 3-digit country codes for future use.

So it’s just you and me, and episode 280. We’re going to make it together. We’ll get by with a little help from our friends, including our friends at Pneuma Solutions, who make transcripts of this podcast available.

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Zoom Improves Accessibility of their H Essential Series

We have some important advocacy issues to talk about on this episode of Living Blindfully – some yielding great results, some of it is about to begin, unfortunately.

Let’s start with the positive news, and talk about advocacy that has yielded good results.

When a company comes along that starts taking an interest in accessibility where it hitherto has not, you can’t help wondering, is this a passing phase? Are they really committed to this long-term?

And a number of people were wondering that with respect to Zoom, that in this case is Zoom, the audio people. We’ve covered all of their new accessible recorders in some depth in previous episodes of Living Blindfully.

So it was great to hear from Zoom products manager Samuel Greene over the week to say that Zoom has released a firmware update to their recorders. It’s available for the H1 Essential, H4 Essential, and H6 Essential, and there are a couple of features.

One of them is across all 3 of those recorders, and that’s the ability to toggle accessibility mode on and off. On the H1 Essential, hold down the menu key, and it will say “accessibility mode off”, and the voice will be turned off. Repeat the process to toggle accessibility back on again. You hold down the enter key to do the same thing on the H4 Essential and H6 Essential.

And another very welcome feature in the H4 Essential and H6 Essential is that now, the tracks arming And disarming status is spoken when you press it. So you’ll hear track 4 on. You push it again, it will say track 4 off. That is great.

And actually, it’s very well-implemented because currently, on my H6 Essential, I’ve got tracks 1 and 2 linked as a stereo pair. And when I push either of those buttons, it will speak track 1 and 2 on, so you know you’ve got a stereo pair. That’s great.

There was a workaround, of course, which I talked about on the relevant episodes where you can go into the mixer and discern the armed status of the track from there. But this is a way simpler thing. It gives us the same kind of access as sighted people have. Good to see Zoom continuing to work on this.

The other very good thing to report as well is that while the original Zoom manual hasn’t been updated and hasn’t changed, Zoom did come out with supplemental manuals for the new features that they’ve just released. Those supplemental manuals are beautifully tagged PDF files.

I’m not seeing the benefits of this in Microsoft Edge, if you choose to read PDFs that way. It is working beautifully in Adobe Reader, which tends to be the case. You tend to find a much better PDF reading experience in the official Adobe Reader app. So if you get those supplementary manuals and you load them into Adobe Reader, you’ll find that the graphics are tagged, it’s beautifully formatted, and easy to read.

So let that be a lesson to those who claimed that we were being unreasonable when we asked for accessible PDF documentation. It’s the right thing to do. Zoom clearly know it’s the right thing to do, and they’re upskilling themselves now and they know how to produce accessible documentation. Well done to Zoom for listening to user feedback.

It Appears Sonos Accessibility Is About to Experience a Significant Regression

Now, we’re going to flip to Sonos. And unfortunately, this is not so good.

There may be people who don’t know what Sonos is, so allow me to just bring everybody up to speed and keep them in the loop. There you go, two cliches in one sentence.

Sonos develop a series of high-quality smart speakers. And if you’ve been around long enough, you may remember that a long time ago, I wrote a book called Sonosthesia, which helped quite a few blind people into the Sonos ecosystem.

They have speakers of all sorts of shapes and sizes. They have soundbars as well. They have portable devices, too.

You can send content to Sonos speakers via AirPlay. Some of them also support Bluetooth.

But the primary way that you engage with Sonos devices is via Sonos’ own app. And that means that when a blind person buys Sonos, they are gambling. And I guess this is the case with anything proprietary. What we’re gambling on is that the past commitment that has been shown to accessibility will continue. Because if we lose meaningful access to the Sonos app, it will still be possible to send material to the speakers, but it’s going to be very difficult to set them up and to maintain them to perform certain functions like grouping, although you can do that by voice. But the Sonos app is integral to the Sonos experience. You can search across multiple streaming services, for example.

There are advantages in being able to use the Sonos app. And of course, if it’s accessible to sighted people who pay for Sonos, then our money is as good as anyone else’s, and it should be accessible to blind people who pay for Sonos as well. And for quite some time, it has been a very good accessibility experience.

Sonos announced a few weeks ago that they are coming out with a significant revision of their app. It’s essentially a new app, and it’s coming out on the 7th of May. It’s going to be available for mobile platforms, and there’s also a web-based version of it so you can control your Sonos device from a web browser anywhere in the world.

Now when I heard about this, I immediately wrote to the chief executive officer of Sonos, because he and I have corresponded a couple of times in the past. I’ve written to him, he’s answered back. And of course, he doesn’t have to. He’s not customer service. But I’ve always been heartened by the fact that he seems to take accessibility issues seriously.

So I wrote to Patrick Spence, chief executive of Sonos in late April, and I said to him, “Since the Sonos app redesign was announced, I’ve been deluged with inquiries from listeners seeking assurance that the user experience for blind users will be as good as it is in the current release. Obviously, the risk of an inaccessible app locking people out of hardware they own makes people nervous, and I can’t find any reference to accessibility in Sonos’ communications applications on the new app.”

I continued, “People are also intrigued by the new browser-based user interface, and hope that that will also be a good screen reader experience.

Would you please be able to connect me with someone who can answer these questions? Our audience would be thrilled if you or someone from Sonos would be willing to talk with me for the podcast to discuss Sonos in general, and the degree to which it is aware of its enthusiastic blind user base.”

Well, I didn’t get a reply to that email. And as I say, you know, people can reply or not reply. It’s their choice. But I did want to try and find out for me and for you, if you’re a Sonos user, what expectations we should have of this new app. Should we update it, or not? Because once you update, it’s a one-way trip, and I’ll talk about that a bit more later.

So I jumped onto Reddit, and I went into the Sonos subreddit which I check from time to time. And sure enough, there was a thread in that subreddit all about this new app, and I see that another blind user had beaten me to it, which was great. And he also asked what’s accessibility like for VoiceOver and TalkBack users.

And a very helpful guy who’s been answering inquiries about the new app from Sonos said he didn’t have an immediate answer, but he was going to come back with one.

And come back with one, he ultimately did. And this is what he said:

“At launch, the new Sonos app will have basic support for screen readers. We know we have some work to do in this space, and the team wants nothing more than to make sure everyone can enjoy Sonos. Put plainly,” it continues, “accessibility is very important to Sonos.”

The representative then went on to offer to connect me with someone from their research team, and I’m happy to be connected with their research team. I’m happy to be part of the solution.

But this really had me concerned. Anyone who knows a modicum of stuff about accessibility knows that the best way to do accessibility is to build it into the very foundation of your app. And if you are designing an app pretty much from the ground up, it sounds like with an entirely different user experience, accessibility should be one of the non-negotiable criteria before the app is released.

Yet here we are, with an app coming out on the 7th of May, and someone is offering to connect me with someone from their research team to talk about improving the accessibility experience. Why wasn’t that research done at the beginning of the build, and why is it being released with basic accessibility?

Now, whether it’s basic accessibility or not is also an open question. And this is where it starts to get a little bit difficult for me because I have not yet seen this Sonos app.

Sonos has offered to show it to me. But at the moment, they’ve not followed through on that, so I haven’t used the app.

All I have to go on is the testimony of someone who has, and this has come up on Mastodon. We’ve been having a bit of a conversation there on the Living Blindfully account. And this tester says he’s so overwhelmed by the massive number of regressions with accessibility in the new Sonos app, that he doesn’t know how to report feedback because it’s just so broken. It’s so fundamentally unfit for purpose.

And when I said to him, “Can you give it a go? Can you try and tell me what you are experiencing so I can talk to Sonos about this?” And also, let you know here on Living Blindfully about this.

Well first of all, he says that the web user interface is completely inaccessible. What he’s saying is it just doesn’t work at all.

Now, let’s talk about the iOS app. He says:

“For starters, it is really really clunky and inefficient. The area where you can see your system, there are 3 or 4 swipes to get between each individual speaker, 5, depending on if it has a battery or not. There’s a button in the main nav bar that says system but that button goes nowhere, from what i can determine.

Swiping through lists is basically impossible. They don’t properly scroll, and will randomly just jump you to the top of the screen. By randomly, I mean quite often.”, he says.

“Next, you can’t explore the screen by dragging your finger around it at all. This just simply does not work. It acts as if the screen is blank. There’s no way”, he continues, “to navigate the different subsections of the main screen because of this, and because it’s just all in one huge linear sweep.”

And just to expand on what he’s saying there, based on what I’ve read about this new app, they’ve got rid of the whole concept of having a home tab and a system tab, and all the different tabs that they have. And as he says, it’s just one big screen, and it sounds like there’s no way to navigate it efficiently, which could probably be done easily enough with judicious use of headings.

“There’s so so much more, but I guess these would be my worst issues.”, he concludes.

So I wrote again to Patrick Spence, the CEO of Sonos, and I paraphrased these findings. And I said to him in that email, “I have not used the new app myself, but I have no reason to doubt this user who’s a competent and happy user of the present Sonos iOS app.” I continued to him, “My view is that if the app is not accessible to some of us, it should not be acceptable to any of us, especially Sonos.

The above exchange regarding the tester’s experience took place on Mastodon, and is already causing an angry reaction in the blind community. Some are talking about what protection they have under consumer law and disability rights law if we paid in good faith for a product that is rendered hugely difficult to use at best, inaccessible at worst, overnight.

These products don’t come cheap. I currently”, I told Patrick Spence, “have 15 active devices in my Sonos network, and have spent many thousands of dollars on Sonos equipment.

I’m now filled with dread. Many blind people love our music. We knew that there was always a danger something like this might happen one day because of the proprietary Sonos ecosystem. I suppose at least we have airplay and Bluetooth on some devices to fall back on.

It’s an act of good faith on the part of the blind community that when we buy Sonos, Sonos will do the right thing when it comes to accessibility. It appears Sonos is about to seriously breach that trust in a way that could have been completely avoided if accessibility had been built into the very foundation of the design process, which is best practice.

I can certainly do my part”, I told Patrick, “on the podcast I run, which is widely heard in the blind community, to urge people to turn automatic updates off on their iPhone. But surely, you must appreciate that this is not the image of Sonos you want out there in the world.

If I were you, I would be asking my staff why they allowed accessibility to be something they thought they could come back to sometime after the initial release. There are many devoted blind Sonos users who would only be too pleased to work with members of your team to put this right in a timely manner.

In the meantime, to avoid the brand damage, and most important of all, to just do the decent thing, I urge you to pause release plans until the app’s accessibility has been properly addressed. We’re not talking about one specific feature such as was the case with TruePlay. We’re talking about the entire user experience.

This is serious, and I am appealing to you to intervene as a matter of urgency.”

I haven’t got a reply to that email, either. I have left recording this episode as late as I possibly can, in case I was going to get a reply. But it’s after business hours on a Friday in the US now, as I put this together.

I have also sent a copy of that to the person who was engaging with me from Sonos, and don’t have a reply to it either. It could be that they’re mulling it over, but I would be surprised.

I will have a test device on which I will put the Sonos app. And if there’s been some sort of misunderstanding or something like that, then I will be delighted. I normally wouldn’t publish something like this on the podcast without first-hand experience. But I’ve done my best to get first-hand experience, and I don’t have that first-hand experience in time for publication, and time is rapidly running out. So I think the prudent thing for me to do is sound the alarm that it looks like we are heading into very turbulent times with the Sonos app and accessibility.

So how do you guard against this? Well, I think to be absolutely safe, we need to do two things. And I’m talking about this from the perspective of an iOS user. But if you’re an Android user, hopefully, you can extrapolate.

The first thing is you’ll want to turn automatic app updates off. If you don’t, then the app will certainly be downloaded when it’s released. And unless you’re a very techie person, and even then I’m not clear how easy it would be, there’s no way back. Once that app update is installed, you are going to be stuck with it. And it sounds like you don’t want to be stuck with it right now.

Go into the settings of your iPhone, navigate to App Store, and double tap. And then, find the heading that says Automatic Downloads. Under that Automatic Downloads heading, you’ll find an option called Automatically Install App Updates. You want to make sure that that is turned off. Once you do that, you will have to manually approve every update that gets installed on your iPhone.

So from then on, you’ll need to go into the App Store, choose my account which is at the top, and then pull down to refresh by pulling down with 3 fingers until VoiceOver says refreshing content. And then, you know you’ve got the full list of updates. You’ll then need to go through and check what updates are there. The moment that the Sonos app is there, you won’t be able to double tap the update all button anymore because if you do that, it’s going to update all including the Sonos app. So until this issue is behind us, you’re going to have to be very careful not to double tap that button, and you’re going to have to go through and double tap each update that you want installed, being very careful not to double tap the update button pertaining to Sonos.

For the moment, there’s a second thing that I would suggest doing because I don’t know whether once the firmware on your Sonos speakers updates, it’s going to require the new app. We don’t want a situation where suddenly, your speakers update themselves and you are forced to download the less accessible app.

To avoid this from happening, you want to open the lovely accessible current Sonos app, and you’ll find the list of tabs at the bottom of the app, and you want to choose settings. Then, you want to double tap system. Now, this can be a bit confusing because there is a separate system tab. That’s not where you want to be. You want to be in the system options under the settings tab. Once you’re there, there are a lot of options, but you want to locate the system updates button it’s towards the bottom of the screen. Double tap that, and then you’ll find a toggle switch called update automatically. For now, let’s set that to off, just in case new firmware for your speakers are going to force this app update on you.

If that turns out not to be the case, if I hear from Sonos that it isn’t, then obviously I’ll let you know here.

If you do these two things, I believe you should be able to use the current Sonos app for a wee while. Of course, once you get your next iPhone, you’re up soup creek. But hopefully by then, we will have got this sorted.

I will think about what action we might take if it turns out to be as bad as it’s looking like it’s going to be. But this is absolutely unacceptable for the reasons I just stated in my email to Patrick Spence. Talk is cheap and they can say that accessibility is important to them all they want. But if they release a substantially inferior app that has serious accessibility regressions, actions speak a lot louder than their words in this case.

And it must not be allowed to stand. we do need to take a very strong position on this if the app is as bad as it looks like it’s going to be.

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Mathieu Paquette From Humanware Talks Audible Support for the Victor Reader Stream 3, and More New Features

There’s no doubt that the Victor Reader Stream is one of the most popular and, dare I say, loved products in the blind community. So when there is a significant change to talk about with respect to that product, we are on it.

And to tell us about the changes, Mathieu Paquette is on the line from Humanware in Montreal. Welcome, Mathieu. It’s good to talk with you again.

Mathieu: Hi, Jonathan! So glad to be here today.

Jonathan: And we have some good news! Because we’ve been tracking this business with the Stream and Audible for some time. As the Beatles would say, it’s been a “long and winding road”. Tell us about this process, and when you started it, and how you got it over the line, finally.

Mathieu: Yeah, for sure.

So yeah. As you mentioned, (and we’ve talked about this on this podcast last year), we’ve been trying to get in touch with Audible for a couple of years now. We were trying to get in touch with them in 2021, 2022, and we weren’t really going anywhere.

And last year, I came on this podcast around, I’m going to say around January, I believe, of 2023 to talk about the Stream 3, the fact that it was releasing and everything. And one of your questions was, “Is it going to support Audible?”

Unfortunately, the answer was negative because we didn’t have any contact from them. We weren’t able to get response to our emails, and so on.

So yeah. At that point, you initiated an open letter after this episode came out, which over 700 or close to 800 people, I believe, signed, which really garnered some attention at Amazon, at Audible.

They got in touch with us really rapidly after that, like within I think, 3 or 4 days after the open letter was opened up and they had about 650, 700 signatures. They reached out to us. They apologized for their lack of responsiveness, and then they told us that they were willing to work with us.

So it hasn’t been the easiest, but I’m going to give credit where credit is due.

Nowadays, when we send them an email, we get a response within 1 to 2 business days. Very often, faster than that. I’ve sent them emails and gotten responses in 10 minutes sometimes. It’s crazy.

So yeah. So we were able to, towards the end of last year, get to a point where we were ready to start testing. Did a lot of testing during the winter up here in Canada, so January, February, March. And then, yeah. As of April 29th, we have been able to release a new version, 1.3, that has, among other things, the Audible support with Audible Sync software.

Jonathan: It’s a fantastic story, isn’t it? Because sometimes, you wonder whether these open letters do any good. And it’s true to say a lot of the time, they don’t. I mean, they just don’t seem to resonate at all. But every so often, they will.

And I think one lesson we can take away from this process was that the open letter was very respectfully worded.

Mathieu: Yup.

Jonathan: It tried to cater to the better angels of Amazon’s nature, and just articulate why the Victor Reader Stream was such an important product to blind people and why Audible was similarly an important product, and we wanted the two to talk together.

Mathieu: Yeah, absolutely. I mean if someone’s cynical, you can say, “Oh, Amazon’s this multi-billion, like hundreds of billions of dollars a year. So having the blind community be on there or not, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really make a difference on their balance sheet.”

But that being said, they do take it at heart, you know. I was at CSUN last month, in March, and they had one of the biggest booths at CSUN, Amazon. The same thing, if I remember correctly, they were at ATI as well. So they are engaged in the community. They do care about it.

I know that they’ve been through… There’s been a little bit of reorg going over there on the Audible front, and everything. So perhaps, some of the friction that we saw came from that.

But again, credit where credit is due. They’re now very responsive. We have some good contacts there. And I’m happy.

You know, the Audible implementation we did isn’t perfect yet. There are some performance issues. For example, if you have a lot of books, it can take a while for the Stream to appear in Audible Sync, and things like that. But they’ve committed to us that they will work on fixing those performance issues. They told us sometime in the summer, so June, July, or August.

And yeah. I mean, props to them. I’m really really happy. They could just not care if they wanted to. They don’t need that business to thrive. But they still do care. Hats off to them.

Jonathan: Yes, I think this is the thing – that if we in the blind community want to see something change in the Victor Reader Stream, we know exactly where you are. [laughs] Most of us have your email address. We can bother you about it.

Mathieu: Yeah.

Jonathan: And so there is this perception that Amazon is this faceless corporation. But actually, at the other end of it are human beings, too. And the trick is to try and reach those human beings in a way that resonates with them.

Mathieu: Yeah, absolutely. They do have a great team there. They have an accessibility team. They have some individuals there. I’m going to name not full names. But there’s a guy named Jake, who is very responsive to us.

So yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, as you said, it might be a big corporation and everything, but you’re completely right. It is individuals, and a lot of them do care very much about both representing their company in a positive light, but also, you know, about the needs of the blind community.

Jonathan: Yeah. Well, we’ll celebrate the wins when they come. That’s a fantastic outcome.

Mathieu: Absolutely.

Jonathan: What do you think it is about the Stream that means that having Audible on it was so important to people? Because I think a lot of the people (not all, by all means), but a lot of the people who are going to use this also have iPhones or Android devices, and the Audible software is quite accessible on those platforms. Why was this so important to people?

Mathieu: One thing that people really appreciate about the Stream is the navigation aspect of things.

I was talking with a group of people yesterday and someone told me, “Oh, I don’t really care about Audible on the Stream because I just listen on my Amazon device.”

And then, someone else said, “Well yeah, you can do that. But on your Amazon device, you can’t control playback as finely. You can’t fast forward as easily.”

So there’s a lot of things there that you can do.

The fact that the Stream is also a dedicated player. what that means is that if you’re reading on your phone and then someone texts you, that kind of interrupts the immersiveness of being immersed in a book, and trying to read a book. So I think it’s all of those factors.

And the fact is that Audible, pretty much before it was Amazon, … If we go back 10, 15, 20 years ago, audiobooks weren’t that popular. Most people who would listen to audiobooks were blind people. I’m not going to say it was created for blind people, but it was really in that regard.

Nowadays, a lot of people listen to audiobooks in the car, during the commutes, and whatnot. But originally, audiobooks were kind of made for folks who couldn’t read. So we’re really really happy to be able to bring it back on the Stream.

Yeah, absolutely. Yes, you can read on your phone. But then again, as I said, you lose that immersiveness. You lose those finer controls, and everything that you can have on the Stream.

Jonathan: One of the things that underpins my blind pride is that there are numerous technological examples of tech that we have given the sighted community that was originally designed for us.

Mathieu: Absolutely.

Jonathan: And talking books are certainly one of those categories. So this is good.

Let’s talk about how it works in practice, because my understanding is that the activation is actually improved as well with the Stream 3.

Mathieu: Yeah. So on the Stream 2 and the Victor Reader Treks of the previous iteration, basically, you would have to activate every single SD card. So if you have 2, 3, 4 SD cards, then each of those SD cards would have to be activated separately.

Now with the Victor Reader Stream 3, because we have the MTP protocol which allows us to read the internal memory and expose it to the user, the activation file is actually dropped in the internal memory. So the activation file is a very very small file. It doesn’t take any room at all.

And then, being that it’s dropped in the internal memory of the Stream associated with your serial number, what that means is that from that point on, any book that you have, either on the internal memory or if it’s on an sd card, you’re going to be able to read the book right away. So you don’t have to activate 5, 6, 7 different sd cards. You can just activate the player once, and you’re good to go.

So to do that, you need to make sure you have the latest Audible Sync application, so that it’s at least version 1.8.16 which at the time of this recording, is the latest.

A lot of people ask me hey, where do I get it? And that is one thing that I want to talk to Audible about, is that they’re not making it very easy to download, unfortunately. But one quick trick that I can give to your listeners is to simply just go on Google and type download Audible Sync. And it’s going to be, if not the first, the second link that’s there.

Jonathan: Do you think there might be a chance that you can put that on the Humanware site somewhere on a Stream page?

Mathieu: Yeah, absolutely. It was brought up yesterday, and we will add it to the support page for the Stream as a resource.

Jonathan: Okay.

Mathieu: And then, once you’re there, on the help page, there’s a link to download Audible Sync. I think the reason it’s buried a little bit deeper is that they prefer people use their apps or their Kindle device and things like that. But I mean at the end of the day, some people want it, so I’ll talk to them to see if we can make it more accessible. But yes, putting it on the support page will be done eventually.

Once you have it installed, you log in with your Audible or Amazon credentials. And then plug in your Stream, go to the device page, and activate player.

There might be some instances where if you have a really old Audible account, sometimes, you need to put in the Amazon account instead. So there is a little bit of fuzz there. I’m investigating into exactly what it is, so we can document it better for our end users.

But you know, with a little bit of perseverance, so far, everyone that I saw on several user lists and whatnot were able to log in and use it successfully.

Jonathan: As someone who doesn’t have a Stream and I just consume Audible content on my iPhone, I want to understand this process. When you get the book, do you have to download it to your PC, and then use File Explorer to copy it across? Is that how it works?

Mathieu: Yeah. So you can download the book in the Audible Sync app. You download the book from there. And from there, you can transfer it over to the Stream 3 directly. You don’t have to use the File Explorer. It can all be done within the Audible Sync app.

Jonathan: Okay, that sounds really good.

You mentioned that there were some performance issues initially. Can you talk to us a bit more about that so people can set their expectations for this initial release?

Mathieu: Yeah, for sure. So in a nutshell, it has to do with how Windows reads data via MTP versus mass storage.

So on the previous Stream 2 and the VRTrek, we had mass storage. On the Stream 3, we have MTP (Media Transfer Protocol). And the way Audible Sync works is that when you go into it, it’s gonna scan your device, find every book, and then list every single book.

Now, in mass storage modes on the VR2 and the VRTrek, it is able to read the files directly on the device because it’s just an SD card. And then, it just pulls up, you know, the titles from the headers of the file.

On the Stream 3, because it’s MTP, the way that Windows handles MTP is that It downloads all the files locally onto your computer, (That’s behind the scenes. You don’t see them download, but they download all locally.), and then it opens it up to find the file names, the titles. So if you have like 6, 7, 8 books and that’s like a gig, a gig and a half, then the time it takes to transfer a gig and a half to your computer, open it up and read the files, it can take, you know, a few, 5, 10 minutes sometimes for you to see the Stream in Audible Sync.

That’s unfortunate. It is something that they’re working on fixing.

The workaround for now is either just wait a little bit, or you can move all of the books from the internal memory to your SD card. They’ll still be readable. But when the Audible Sync starts, it doesn’t scan the SD card. It only scans the internal memory. So you’re not going to have that issue because you’re not going to have any books on there.

Jonathan: And do you anticipate that there’ll be some sort of fix to that at some point in the future?

Mathieu: Yeah, absolutely. They told us sometime in the summer so June, July or August, they should come up with a new Audible Sync version that’ll fix this.

Jonathan: This will make people very happy.

You’ve got some other changes, too. And I have seen on Mastodon and other social media people saying look. Actually, I go back to my Stream too sometimes because I just find it better and easier. And the primary reason I hear is this business of not being able to sort your books alphabetically. So you don’t know where the books are going to appear on the bookshelf, and that’s been dealt with in this new release. Is that right?

Mathieu: Yeah, absolutely. So on all of the bookshelves right now, the files are sorted by alphabetical order of the file name. So that’s been a vast improvement. It’s very very helpful.

We’ve also sped up quite a bit the scan time of the SD cards. So I’m hearing of people who had SD cards that did the “Please wait. Refreshing bookshelf.” like 20 times. And now, it does it like 2 or 3 times, and it’s done. People with massive cards that used to take 3, 4 minutes to load now take 10, 15 seconds. So there were a lot of improvements there.

We’ve got new voices. We updated the Acapella engine to the latest version, version 12. So that allows us to add a bunch of new voices. If I look at just the English language voices, there’s about 9 new voices just for US English.

We added a new library in France. So if you have any people from France listening in, or anyone who reads Frenchbook really, the EOL library in France which is sort of the equivalent of NLS Bard in the US is now available as well.

And then the other thing that we’ve implemented that I’m getting a lot of positive feedback on is the suspend mode. To give a little bit of background, suspend mode is something that I queried on a few user lists and I talked to people about 9, 10 months ago, and I asked people, “Is that something you’d be interested to see?” And the answer was kind of split, you know. Some people wanted it. Some people said they couldn’t care less. But we had enough people who said that they were interested, that we decided to do it.

So it is a feature that we had on the BI devices, the Braille devices before. And basically, because it was so split, the decision was made. We’re gonna have the ability to turn it on or off.

So by default, if you do the installation, the setting is set to off. So your power button will act as the power button that you know it’s always been like.

If you go into your general settings, and then you go into system, then power off option and you turn the suspend mode on, that transforms your power button into a suspend button. And what the suspend does really is that it shuts down most of the operations of the unit so it disconnects from wi-fi, the speaker will shut down, and it’s kind of like turning off the screen on your phone. It will still use some battery, but it’s going to use a lot less than if it was on.

So as an example, if you’re 100% and you put your device into suspend mode, it’s going to have some battery for about 5 to 6 days is about what we’ve calculated. So it’s about 80% less battery than if it was operating.

And then what happens is because it’s in suspend mode, it’s not completely off. It’s still monitoring the battery. And if the battery goes down to like 2, 3%, it’s going to automatically shut down on itself so that it does a clean shutdown. And then you’ll be able to charge it up back again.

And if your suspend mode’s activated and you’re leaving for a couple weeks or you’re putting it in a drawer, you’re not going to use it for a month, you can still go into the settings. There’s going to be a power off option that’s there if the suspend mode’s activated, and you can do a full shutdown from there as well.

But yeah. So suspend mode. The big upside is you can turn it back on. You just press the power button within 1 or 2 seconds, it’s back on. It’ll take a few more seconds to reconnect to wi-fi, and you’re good to go.

Jonathan: How long does the Stream take to cold boot?

Mathieu: So on a cold boot, depending on the content and everything. It’ll depend. But it’s roughly between 30 to 50 seconds.

Jonathan: Right. So a big time saver there.

Mathieu: Oh, for sure. For sure. If you’re the kind of person that “Oh, I’m going to dinner. So I’ll be out for an hour, and I’ll be back in an hour.” Then previously, you would either shut down your Stream or it would shut itself off after 30 minutes of inactivity. And then you’d come back, and you’d have to boot it up and wait the 30 to 60 seconds for it to boot back up.

Now, you can just suspend it. Go to dinner, come back and press the button, and you’re back in your book in 2 seconds.

Jonathan: On Humanware Braille displays, I believe you can hold down the power button for some period of time, and then it will go fully shut down. Is that not an option for the Stream?

Mathieu: No. So on the Stream, because of the electrical board, the long press will do a hard reset. It’ll restart the device.

Jonathan: Okay.

I just want to come back to the alphabetizing of books and ask you, why was it a good idea ever to release this thing without the alphabetized bookshelf? Because people just hated the randomness of it.

Mathieu: I know. Honestly, a lot of our testers and everything, what we found out is we’re testing with like 10, 15, 20 books in the bookshelf. And I guess the one scenario we didn’t envision which honestly, it’s an oversight because we knew, but there are people with like 3, 4, 5, I mean, I’ve seen thousands of books.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Mathieu: So yeah. Obviously, if you’ve got like 10 books, it’s not a big deal what order they’re in. You’re going to navigate through those 10 books. But if you have like a thousand book or even a hundred books, then it becomes much more important.

So honestly, it’s fully an oversight on our part. It is a mistake. I’m gonna own up to it. We should have launched with it. And yeah, I’m happy now we have it.

What I’d like to do in the future is to offer more flexibility. So I’m hearing some people say, “Oh, it’d be nice if it was by author, or if it was by this.” So I would like to offer more flexibility in the future, sure. But the quick fix was just to do a quick alphabetical order. And I think 98% of people are happy with that.

Jonathan: What other orders do you think make sense for the future?

Mathieu: Some people would like perhaps to have it by date added, most recent to less recent, the title of the book as we have right now, and then the author might be something that could be interesting for some people if they, for some reason, prefer to sort by author. You can already do it in a way. If you rename your file name and put the author name first, it’s going to be in alphabetical order. It’s just a bit more work. But yeah, we could just offer that as an option somewhere in the settings – a sort option where the user could select either most recent, alphabetical, by author, by title, etc.

Jonathan: One of the things you mentioned in passing was you’ve got a new library, and it’s interesting to talk about the feature that you have where you integrate with accessible format libraries. I think this is actually pretty cool because I know you can do this on a smartphone through apps like Dolphin EasyReader. I must say I find that user interface on the clunky side. So this is one feature that does interest me actually as a die-hard smartphone user. How widespread is your support for accessible format libraries around the world now?

Mathieu: So we do have support tickets over close to 15 countries now. I know we have libraries in Germany, in the Netherlands, in Sweden, in Finland, in France.

Most of the libraries in the world use what’s called DOD (Daisy Online), or DODP. So if a library uses the Daisy Online protocol, …

And I’ll give an example that’s close to me. Here in the province of Quebec in Canada, there is a service called the SQLA which is the Service Québécois du Livre Adapté (basically the Quebec service for accessible books). They were looking to implement a solution. And then, they were talking to us, and they were talking about doing their own solution and everything.

And then, we talked them into using DODP instead because it’s a much more common protocol. And because they use DODP, they built their server and everything took a couple of years.

But once they were done, we were able to add them to the Stream, and that doesn’t even require a new build. We can just add them to the list.

There’s a list. Every time your Stream boots, it fetches a list on the server that has all of the Daisy online servers. So we just added them to that list, and Presto! Everyone had access suddenly to that new service.

When it comes to some countries, however, like for example, the United States or France, so the United States is NLS Bard, France is EOL, they have their own custom protocols. So for those, we do have to create a new application and use their APIs, and use all of their their technical stuff.

With some countries, it goes really well. Like for example, in France, we had really good collaboration with them, and because it was driven by people who really wanted to have it accessible on the Stream.

An example where it doesn’t go so well, and I’m really sorry to say, but we’re having a bit of a hard time with the UK, so RNIB in the UK. And I know that it’s a library that’s been requested a lot. They do have a very limited interface for us to connect to, and we were having a really difficult time getting responses.

Now, I’m really happy to report that it’s changed over the last few weeks. We’ve been able to get a hold of some people over there, and they’ve shown willingness to cooperate. So fingers crossed, I’m not promising anything. But in the next update later this year, probably sometime in October or November, the 1.4 update, we’re really hoping to have RNIB on there available for the people in the UK. It would be a great library to have on there.

Jonathan: You did promise actually when we last talked that there was going to be some big changes in radio, and you adopted TuneIn support. How’s that going?

Mathieu: Yep. It’s going really well.

So we did an update. With the 1.3 update, we’ve updated the audio decoder engine to support more stations on TuneIn. For example, a lot of stations in the US called Odyssey Station didn’t work. They do now work. It’s been going really well. We’ve implemented the variable speed for the podcasts, a time navigation in podcasts for TuneIn.

The one thing that, unfortunately, we couldn’t put in was keeping bookmarks, reading positions in podcasts. We’ve been in communication with the people at TuneIn, but there are some technical difficulties, limitations there that we’re working on getting around with them.

I’m going to say the same thing. I don’t want to sound all unicorns and rainbows but when it’s going well, it’s going well, and the people at TuneIn are very responsive, very very nice to work with. We’re having a great time getting answers to our questions rapidly. Sometimes, stuff takes longer than we’d like to, but it’s not from a lack of willingness to do it. So yeah, TuneIn’s been going really really well.

I’d like to add some more services.

I’ve talked about this on some user lists, but I’ve reached out to SiriusXM, which is very popular in the States.

I’ve reached out to Spotify a couple of times, actually. There’s a form on the partner’s website. There was a Google Doc that someone sent to me that I filled out. I haven’t heard anything back, unfortunately.

So if any of your listeners have some ins at either SiriusXM or Spotify, or any other service, … I mean, if I could get Netflix on there one day, why not? Like audio-descriptive movies and TV shows, why not? We’re always willing to add more and more content.

I saw a user on the user list the other day say, “Oh, there’s this application on the phone that can do SiriusXM. And if they can do it, surely, you can.”

I mean, that’s not how it works when you’re in business, you know. we need a commercial agreement with them there’s some kind of compensation. We’re not just gonna “hack”, and find out how to do it, and bypass them. We want to do it cleanly. We want to do it right.

So yeah. if any of your listeners has any contacts at Spotify, at Sirius, or again, any other service you’d like to see on the Stream, reach out to them. Give them our contact information, and I’ll be more than happy to engage.

Jonathan: And this market for the specialised blindness players is surprisingly hot. It’s surprising to me anyway, in 2023 and 2024.

Mathieu: Yes.

Jonathan: So you’ve got the SensePlayer competing with you now. And what you’ve just talked about, I guess, is one of the big strengths, as they perceive it, of the SensePlayer approach in that they can download applications that are Android-based, and they may integrate.

Mathieu: Yeah.

Jonathan: Do you see that as a threat, or do you still see that the Stream has some sort of advantage there?

Mathieu: No. I think both devices are really good.

And it’s funny because every time I go to a conference and I go by the HIMS booth and I say hi to, … Again, the name escapes me right now. But there’s a gentleman there that’s always there at conventions, and we say hi to each other, and we chat a little bit.

Their device is a bit more complex. The Stream is a bit more simple. Both have their pros and cons.

If you’re using a SensePlayer and you’re the kind of person you want the ability to control your phone and things like that, then by all means, that’s the device for you. and then if you want a device that’s a bit more simple, can read bigger SD cards, that doesn’t require a phone interface or even connectivity if you’re able to get SD cards with books on them, then you can go with the Stream.

So there’s really, you know, pluses and minus to both. Are they a threat? No. Do we want to sell more units than them? Yes. Obviously, we’re in business and that’s what we want to do. But we don’t perceive them as a threat at all.

Jonathan: When you were talking about TuneIn, I did mean to ask you about the UK because there’s some bizarre geo-blocking going on due to a court case in the UK with TuneIn. How does that affect Stream users?

Mathieu: To be honest with you, I haven’t heard about this before. I’d be curious to know If there’s any impact or anything. I’ll reach out to some people in the UK. I haven’t heard anything in regards to this. I wasn’t aware of a court case or anything.

Jonathan: Okay, that’s good to know because if you use TuneIn on the iPhone or other platforms, in the UK, a lot of international streams are no longer available through TuneIn. But if that’s not affecting the Stream, that’s fantastic news because that really is quite limiting on other TuneIn apps for people in that part of the world.

And I know this certainly from running Mushroom FM that we’ve had to find other ways of getting UK listeners to hear Mushroom FM because TuneIn’s no longer an option for them.

And BBC streams, they went off TuneIn. Did you get the BBC sorted?

Mathieu: Yeah. So the BBC, we have. It’s there on the internet radio playlist. They are in the Humanware favorite list. This is a special thing that we did with them last year, where there’s a script running on the server. And again, every time your Stream boots up, it goes to our Humanware server. It fetches the latest URLs (because the URLs change daily), and then, it updates the playlist on your phone. So yeah, you have to go through the internet radio bookshelf on the Humanware playlist, and then you’ll have all the BBC stations there.

Jonathan: Very good.

Eloquence, Eloquence on the Stream. Is it ever going to happen?

Mathieu: You know, never say never. It’s not on the roadmap currently. But you know, perhaps eventually.

Jonathan: Do you get people sort of bashing down your door for Eloquence on the Stream?

Mathieu: Honestly, no, not really. I haven’t heard a lot of requests for it.

I would say that the number 1 request that I get for the Stream in terms of new service is probably Sirius, and Spotify being a second.

Jonathan: Okay. So people by and large are happy with the Acapella voices?

Mathieu: Yeah, I guess so, especially with the newer ones, the new one that came out, even in French. We have a new Canadian French voice named anthony. The previous voice that we had was Louise, was a female voice, and she doesn’t sound super great. Also, the new voice, Anthony, our French-Canadian testers at the office really like it. So yeah, we’re going to keep up to date with the Acapella voice, and we’re pretty happy with it.

Jonathan: Text-to-speech is an interesting thing, isn’t it? Because some of your users will want to have it sound as human-like as possible, but others, the main criterion for them will be cranking it up as fast as they can and still have it intelligible, and they don’t really care about the human-like quality.

Mathieu: Yeah, for sure. it’s really different. You know, different strokes for different folks, as they say.

But we do find that most people do want sort of a combination of both – so a lot of blind people will listen to obviously accelerated speed, but like at speed 3 or 4. So the quality of the voice is very important more often than being able to read it at like speed 8.

But yes, there are power readers that really want to be able to, as you say, crank it up super fast. And they don’t really care about the quality. As long as they can make out the words, that’s fine by them.

I think With Acapella, we have a really good balance of the accuracy. And yeah, we’ve been working with them so long that when there’s a new version, we know what to look out for, what abbreviation aren’t spelled out correctly and all that.

So yeah. I mean, it’s comfortable. But if ever one day it doesn’t do the job anymore, then we’ll revisit.

Jonathan: What’s compatibility like for file transfer between the Stream 3 and the Mac?

Mathieu: So this is where it’s a little bit rough, because the Mac doesn’t support natively MTP. So there are some third-party software that can be installed. They’re actually on our website. I do believe they’re under the Brailliant section because they also use the MTP, but I can’t remember. I’d have to look if we put it on the Stream 3 as well. I think we did. There’s third-party applications, but I’m hearing some people for whom it works fine, and some people for whom it doesn’t really work as well.

And I mean, I like Apple products. I have an Android phone myself, but I had the very first iPhone. I like Apple as a company, but they do have that tendency to make things that are very proprietary.

And then, MTP is something that’s more Android. It’s not exclusive to Android. It’s not an Android protocol per se, but it’s mostly Android phones that use it.

But yeah, I don’t know why. I wish Apple would start supporting it natively on macOS. But as it stands, it’s a little bit hit or miss. Our tech support team can help you, guide you to the basic steps on what software to install, but they can’t support those software, obviously. So yeah, it’s a bit hit or miss.

And at that stage, I would recommend if you need to transfer some stuff onto an SD card, to get an external SD card reader. It’s probably gonna be easier.

Jonathan: Okay. So you put your SD card in that, plug it into your Mac, copy the files, and then you just take the SD card out and slip it into the Stream again?

Mathieu: Yeah, correct.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Is the Stream Companion software still relevant for the version 3 stream, or is that mainly a version 2 product?

Mathieu: No, it’s also relevant. We actually updated it today. It’s on the website. It’s up.

I’d have to check with the team inside if they turned on the auto update. It was supposed to be done this morning, but I think it’s been a very busy day today. If not today, then tomorrow, it’ll be on. And yeah, we’ve updated it to include the stream 3, to include Audible for the Stream 3.

It is still very relevant. Some people like to use it. Some other people say, “I’ll just use the File Explorer.”, and go through that. It’s really a question of preference. But it’s a nice tool that is still relevant for the Stream 3.

Jonathan: Yeah, I have seen people refer to the Stream Companion software.

We run a plus version of this podcast where listeners can get episodes 3 days early and support the podcast, and that involves having your own personal RSS feed. And I think the Stream Companion plays a critical role in getting that set up on the Stream.

Mathieu: Yep, correct. And there are some other podcasts as well that have a subscription premium. And then yeah, you get a custom url feed.

So you can go into the Companion app, go into tools, then podcast creation. I believe it’s called podcast something, podcast playlist or something like that. And then, you can put in that URL, have it exported on the SD card, and then put in the Stream, boot it up, import it, and have that stream available to you.

Jonathan: And we did have a listener who took us through a step-by-step, and I think we’ve got written instructions on the Living Blindfully website explaining how stream users can do that.

And thank you for the chapter support. That went down well. The angels were singing, the bells were ringing when you introduced that update. That’s great.

Mathieu: [laughs] Yeah, for sure. Chapter support, I mean a lot of podcasts nowadays use it. We’re seeing it on Youtube as well come up. Obviously, we don’t have Youtube on the Stream, but it’s something that’s becoming more and more popular. People are segmenting their shows, and we think it’s a great great tool.

Jonathan: I can remember about 8 or 9 years ago, I was pretty much the only person in this community using chapters. And it’s great to see it more widely adopted because it gives users choice. It respects their time, and people can just move through the bits of the podcast that interests them.

Mathieu: Yeah, absolutely, especially when you have a podcast that talks about a variety of subjects. And if you have a show that’s 2 hours long and you’re doing 20-minute segments on 6 different things, then maybe 2 of them or 3 of them are of interest to me, and the other 3 aren’t. So yeah, it’s fun to be able to skip around.

Jonathan: So have I missed anything exciting in Streamland before we wrap?

Mathieu: No, I think we’ve pretty much covered everything – the Suspend mode, Books’ alphabetical order, the SD card loading quicker, Audible obviously, the new voices.

There are some other fixes, and everything. You can see it there in the release notes, either on the device when you boot it up after an update, or they’re also on the support website.

And yeah, we’re working on 1.4 already. So the 1.4 update, the main focus will be, fingers crossed, knock on wood, but on the Bluetooth side of things. So we want to make the Bluetooth a little bit more robust. We’ve heard the feedback that it is sometime a little difficult, a little finicky.

And we would also like to be able to extend the use of devices so that more devices are compatible, and the big one is hearing aids. We know that very often, hearing aids use different type of Bluetooth profile that aren’t supported right now by the Stream. So we’re updating the drivers on the Stream to be able to support more profiles, and we’re going to be running some tests. and hopefully, once it comes out sometime during the fall – October, November, we’ll be able to support a wider range of Bluetooth devices including hearing aids.

Jonathan: You might be interested to know. As we record this, I’m actually evaluating some new hearing aids from Phonak. And what’s interesting about these from a Bluetooth perspective is that they have gone generic Bluetooth. As far as other devices are concerned, these are just headsets, and they’re using, unfortunately, Bluetooth 4.2, which means there’s a little bit of latency which drives me a bit nuts. But other than that, what’s good about them is you can pair these hearing aids with pretty much anything because they’re just popping up as a standard bluetooth 4.2 headset, which means they would work with the Stream.

Mathieu: Yeah, absolutely. If they’re headset profile, then yeah.

The ones that we don’t support right now is hands-free, which a lot of them are. For example, in car systems as well. I have a mazda car. And it’s a hands-free system in my car, so I can’t connect my stream to my car. So that’ll be something that eventually, we’d like to be able to support.

Jonathan: Okay, that’s interesting. So maybe I’ll just see if anyone is using a Stream with the Phonak devices because I thought it might work, but maybe it will not. That was a very interesting question, and I’m sure somebody will answer it.

Mathieu: For sure.

Jonathan: But look. It’s great to see that the Stream is continuing to evolve, and I really appreciate your availability. Congratulations on the Audible support getting over the line. That’s a great win.

Mathieu: Hey, thank you so much! I mean, as I’ve told you before, it’s in part thanks to you, and in a big part thanks to your listeners who mobilized themselves. And as you said, it was a firm but polite letter, and it really moved the needle.

Jonathan: Well sometimes, you get wins with advocacy, and that’s what it’s all about.

So we’ll keep in touch, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Mathieu: Awesome! Thank you so much.

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A Demonstration of Perplexity

Voice message: Hello, Jonathan! Hello, Living Blindfully!

My name is Ignasi Cambra. Some of you may know me. But if you don’t, well, hello from Barcelona, Spain.

I wanted to do a demo of Perplexity AI. This is an AI tool that has replaced everything else for me. It has replaced ChatGPT. It has replaced Microsoft’s CoPilot (not within Office, but for other things where I was using CoPilot). It has even replaced Google.

So let me quickly explain what Perplexity is. Perplexity is, at least initially, an AI-powered search engine. What that means is you’re, well, presented with an edit field, and you can just search for whatever you like. And, well, Perplexity’s AI will have a look at the search results and give you a written answer. It’s very similar to ChatGPT, except its way to connect to the internet and to browse the web is, in my view, a lot better than anything ChatGPT can do right now, at least natively, without using any plugins.

To be clear, I’m demonstrating this on a Mac right now, but there’s also an iOS app. I believe there’s an Android app as well. At least the iOS app is certainly very accessible, and I use it every day.

So I just opened Safari. I’m going to go to perplexity.AI, although that’s already in the history.

VoiceOver: Ask anything. Edit text.

Ignasi: So there you go, ask anything.

So I don’t know. What can we ask?


Why is tomato sauce red?

I’m blind as I am. I think tomato sauce is red. [laughs]

And so now, this thing is searching.

Now, I’m not using the free version of Perplexity. I’m using the Pro version.

So with the free version, you might get slightly different answers because it uses different models. I will talk more about this later.

But let’s see what it tells us about tomato sauce.

VoiceOver: Heading level 1. Why is tomato sauce red?

Ignasi: So why is tomato sauce red? This is my question.

Let’s browse through the page from here.

VoiceOver: ProSearch.

Ignasi: ProSearch. It’s just telling you that the ProSearch function is on. What that means essentially is that it’s going to guide you through your search to make sure that the AI has all the information it needs from you to give you good results.

VoiceOver: 3 steps completed.

Ignasi: So 3 steps completed.

VoiceOver: Button. Sources, clickable.

Ignasi: Sources. Here, you can see all of the different sources that have been used to generate the answer to your question. So…

VoiceOver: Link. Here’s how tomato sauce came out orange. TastingTable.

Ignasi: These are different search results from the internet. So here’s the first one.

VoiceOver: Link. Here’s how tomato sauce came out orange. TastingTable.

Ignasi: Okay. then, we have…

VoiceOver: Link. How do I make tomato sauce red? Food 52.

Ignasi: Okay.

VoiceOver: Link. Why is my tomato sauce getting pink? Seasoned Advice Cooking.

Ignasi: Okay. So we have stuff from Reddit, Wikipedia Hunterlab, whatever that is, …

VoiceOver: Steam Infusion, MasterClass, view 5 more.

Ignasi: Okay. So that’s all the resources that this thing is using to answer my very very interesting question.

VoiceOver: Answer, clickable.

Ignasi: And here is our answer.

VoiceOver: Tomato sauce is typically red due to several factors.

List 5 items.

  1. Tomato variety. Using very ripe, deep-red tomato varieties like Roma, San Marzano, or plum tomatoes contributes to a rich red color in the finished sauce.

Link, 1. Link, 4. Link, 5.

  1. Tomato paste. Adding a small amount of tomato paste can help deepen the red color, as well as thicken the sauce and enhance its tomato flavor.

Link, 1. Link, 2. Link, 4.

The concentrated tomatoes in paste provide an intense red pigment.

  1. Cooking time. As the tomato sauce cooks down and reduces, the color will deepen and turn a darker red shade.

Link, 4.

Longer simmering allows to break down and concentrate.

Ignasi: So I will leave it up to you if you want to research this topic any further.

But you heard when it was reading that it reads numbers, along with the answer. So if we go back through what we just read, so this thing talking about tomato paste, right under it, you have 1, 2, and 4. These are the exact sources that it’s referring to when stating this.

This is really amazing because you are sure that this thing is not hallucinating. Everything Perplexity says is always supported by sources, unless you tell it to do otherwise. This is really great.

When you click on these links, as you would expect, you will be taken to the website where this information came from. It’s sort of like Google search results, except they are given to you in this text form.

You can also go to the sources as we were reading before, and you can take some sources out. So if, for instance, you would like a specific source that you don’t trust or that you don’t like to not be included in your search results, therefore not included in the answer that perplexity gives you, you can take it out and make it rewrite the answer.

So that’s like the simplest thing one could possibly do with perplexity.

I’m going to start what it calls a new thread, which is just a new conversation. We’re going to forget about this very stimulating tomato sauce topic, …

VoiceOver: Ask anything. Edit text.

Ignasi: and I’m now going to show you another feature that I think is very interesting.

We now closed the previous thread, and this is a brand new one.

So if we go a little bit up from the ask anything search field, we have…

VoiceOver: Attach.

Ignasi: attach. Here, we can attach files, as one would expect, or images. It will describe them. It’ll do whatever we like with them.

With Perplexity Pro, you can use the latest Claude models – so Claude 3 Opus, Claude 3 sonnet from Anthropic. These, at the moment, are, I would say, a little bit better than the GPT models, than GPT-4. And they certainly can handle a much much much larger amount of information. Their context window is just a lot bigger.

In any case, so the attach thing, again, very similar to ChatGPT.

VoiceOver: Focus.

Ignasi: And we have focus. So what’s focus? I’m going to click on it for you to see.

This website isn’t great. So when you click on focus, the different options actually appear. Well, the screen reader here will see them at the very bottom of the page. So I’m just going to go there.

VoiceOver: Main. Search for discussions and opinions.

Ignasi: So here, let me just go back.

VoiceOver: All.

Ignasi: Okay. So by default, focus is all. So it means it’ll just search everywhere. But then, …

VoiceOver: Search the entire internet.


Ignasi: Academic.

VoiceOver: Search in published academic papers.

Ignasi: Obviously, it’s easy to understand. This will not search the internet as such. It’ll search academic papers. This is useful, I guess, for some people.

VoiceOver: Writing.

Ignasi: Writing.

VoiceOver: Generate text or chat without searching the web.

Ignasi: So this is ChatGPT as we usually think of it. Okay? You write to it, it answers. It doesn’t use the internet. It’s great for code tasks. It’s ChatGPT.

And if you want to, again, with the pro version of Perplexity which is the one I have, you can even use GPT-4 Turbo just like ChatGPT would do, and it’s really the same. You just have conversations with it, except you have the perplexity CoPilot or this ProSearch thing. That really helps sometimes when it thinks your prompts aren’t clear enough, and it thinks you’re not going to get good answers. It’ll ask you questions to make sure that you’ll get what you want from the model.

VoiceOver: Wolfram Alpha.

Ignasi: Wolfram Alpha.

VoiceOver: Computational knowledge engine.

Ignasi: So you can search directly Wolfram Alpha.

VoiceOver: YouTube.

Ignasi: Youtube.

VoiceOver: Discover and watch videos.

Ignasi: So, yeah. That, and …

VoiceOver: Reddit.

Ignasi: Reddit.

VoiceOver: Search for discussions and opinions.

Ignasi: So there you go. I’m not going to do this now. I mean, it’s fun to do searches like this, but I will leave that to you, if you want to try it.

What I do want to show is something that I think is a great example of why I think Perplexity is just the best AI tool for most people today. That might change next month.

But anyways, let’s do a search. I’m going to select all for now.

VoiceOver: All.

Ask anything. Edit text.

Ignasi: And we’re back to Ask Anything.

I travel a lot for work. And sometimes, I just want to find out something about a hotel where I’m going to stay.

I’m going to Amsterdam soon. This is actually a real search that I need to do.

So let’s say I want to know about the different rooms in a specific hotel because I want to choose a room. I usually do this with a collection. But for the sake of clarity, I won’t do that with a collection here.

Collections are sort of like GPTs. If some of you use GPTs within ChatGPT, collections will group series of conversations that have some common instructions, so that the model will respect those instructions even though you start a new conversation. It’s like pre-existing knowledge that the model has about what you’re going to talk about and what kinds of answers you want.

Now I’m not using a collection here, so I’m just going to have to explain everything when I do the search.

So usually, I will say something along the lines of, I am totally blind. Please find pictures of the different room types at Hotel Okura in Amsterdam and describe them to me in great detail.

Okay. so again, this might not be super useful for all of you, but let’s see what it does.

VoiceOver: Perplexity.

Ignasi: Okay. So now, I’m guessing because it’s not too clear, it’s going to ask me some questions. But let’s see.

VoiceOver: Heading level 1, ProSearch.

What specific room types are you interested in Hotel Okura amsterdam?

Ignasi: What specific room types?

VoiceOver: Supperior room, button.

Ignasi: Oh. So now, it shows me, [laughs] interesting. The different types of rooms.

VoiceOver: Deluxe room.

Executive room.

Suite, button.

If other, please enter the room…

Ignasi: Okay. So this place, I actually know. So since I’m going alone, I would probably do the executive room, so I clicked on it.

Again, this web interface could be improved because I marked this option – the executive room option, but nothing tells me that it’s actually checked. But I know it is.

VoiceOver: If other, please enter the room type. Room type. Edit text.

Ignasi: So here, I could enter the room type manually if I wanted. But I don’t, so I just click send.

VoiceOver: Send, button.

Ignasi: And now, it’s doing its thing.

And by the way, I could have selected several rooms. That is a multiple selection thing. You can do as many as you want.

VoiceOver: New thread, visited, link.

Ignasi: Okay, so let’s see.

VoiceOver: Heading level 1, ProSearch. 4 steps completed. Sources, clickable link.

Hotel Okura Amsterdam – the leading hotels of the world.

Ignasi: So here, it’s telling me where it’s getting the information. So

VoiceOver: Rooms and suites. Hotel Okura Amsterdam.

Ignasi: So the actual website of the hotel.

VoiceOver: Discover the executive room at Hotel Okura.

Ignasi: Okay. So here, you can see where it’s getting the information from.

I’m going very slow, but this is actually a very quick thing to do.

So, okay. And then, here is the answer. Let’s listen to it.

VoiceOver: Answer. Based on the search results, here are detailed descriptions of the different room types at Hotel Okura, Amsterdam, with citations for the relevant images.

Heading level 2. Executive room.

The executive room is charmingly furnished with a sleek interior design. It has a superbly comfortable bed and measures between 30-39 square meters.

Link, 3.

Link, 6.

Link, 8.

Link, 10.

The room features air conditioning, heating, a desk area, and Chromecast connectivity.

The bathroom has a bathtub and provides bathrooms.

Guests staying in executive rooms have access to the Gomi gym and wellness facilities, as well as the exclusive panorama lounge for light snacks and beverages with panoramic city views.

Link, 5.

Link, 7.

Link, 9.

Heading level 2. Executive junior suite.

The executive junior suite features a separate bedroom area.

Ignasi: Okay, so I’m not going to read about every room because we will read forever.

VoiceOver: Heading level 2. Supperior room.

While not specifically an executive room type, the search results also included images of the supperior room bathroom, which appears modern with a glass enclosed shower and sleek tyling.

Link, 14.

Ignasi: Okay.

VoiceOver: The descriptions aim to vividly paint a picture of the different room offerings at this luxury hotel through detailed accounts of furnishings, amenities, views, and special access privileges based on the provided images information.

Link, 1.

Link, 2.

Link, 12.

Link, share.

Ignasi: Okay. So now, we have that. I didn’t read everything because it’s a little bit too much.

But here, …

VoiceOver: Rewrite, button.

Ignasi: we have some interesting options.

The rewrite option will let you redo the search with a different model. So it’ll give the same information to a different AI model.

By default, I always use, or well, (sometimes, if you do too many requests, it doesn’t want to use it, and it uses Claude 3 Sonnet.) But usually, I use Claude 3 Opus, which is the best Claude model. I think it should say it here. Let’s see.

VoiceOver: Edit query, button.

Claude 3 Opus.

Ignasi: Yeah, Claude 3 Opus. That’s the model that received all of my search results.

But you could rewrite it with GPT-4, for example, if you wanted, if you don’t like the results, or you don’t like how it wrote it.

VoiceOver: Ask follow-up. Edit text.

Ignasi: Ask follow-up. Okay. So for instance, one thing that I really like doing is I will tell it, find images of the lobby at Hotel Okura, and describe it to me in great detail from my perspective, standing at the entrance door of the hotel.

So I’m telling it to describe the lobby for me from my perspective when I stand at the entrance of the hotel.

And then, I will usually ask, where would I find the check in desk when I arrive?

I’m using the wrong keyboard type. [laughs]

Okay. So now, it should do this for me.

Let’s see what it decided to do.

It’s asking me a question again.

Please provide a brief description of your perspective and any specific details you would like to know about the lobby.


Ignasi: So I’m just going to say, I am blind, and would like to know where the check-in desk and elevators are.

VoiceOver: Send, button.

Ignasi: So here.

VoiceOver: Answer.

Ignasi: Here should be my answer. I’m not going to go through all the sources again.

VoiceOver: Answer. Based on the search results, here is a detailed description of the lobby at Hotel Okura Amsterdam from the perspective of standing at the entrance door.

As you enter through the main doors, you are greeted by an expansive and elegant lobby area. The floors are covered in polished stone tiles with a warm, earthy tone. Straight ahead is the front desk area, easily visible as the focal point.

Link, 11.

The front desk is a long curved counter made of rich wood paneling. There are several staff members behind the desk, ready to assist with check-in.

Link, 5.

Link, 7.

Link, 14.

To the right of the front desk is a sitting area, with plush armchairs and sofas arranged in a cozy seating arrangement.

Link, 9.

The lobby has an airy, open feel with very high ceilings. Hanging from the ceiling are large, sculptural light fixtures that provide a soft, warm glow.

Link, 7.

Link, 14.

The decor has an understated Asian influence with wood accents and minimalist floral arrangements.

Off to the left side of the lobby is the lobby bar area, with more seating, and a long bar counter.

Link, 12.

Link, 18.

There are also elevators visible on both sides of the lobby to access the guest rooms on the upper floors.

Link, 6.

Link, 10.

The overall atmosphere is one of tranquil luxury and impeccable design.

The front desk stands out clearly as the central point to approach for check-in upon arrival through the main entrance.

Link, 16.

Share, button.


Ignasi: So just for fun, let’s say I want to rewrite this thing.

VoiceOver: Share.


Ignasi: And instead of Opus, I want to use GPT-4.

I click rewrite. Again, the options appear at the bottom of the page, I believe.

VoiceOver: Latest model by Mistral. Mistral large.

Ignasi: So I can use Mistral Large. Latest advanced model by Anthropic.

VoiceOver: Claude 3 Opus.

Ignasi: Claude 3 Opus is what I just used.

VoiceOver: New. Claude 3 Sonnet.

Ignasi: Claude 3 Sonnet is a slightly less powerful model.

VoiceOver: Latest model by OpenAI, GPT-4 Turbo.

Ignasi: And GPT-4 Turbo.

So let’s click on GPT-4 Turbo, just for fun.

And now, it’s rewriting it, but with that model instead.

VoiceOver: Answer.

Upon entering the Hotel Okura Amsterdam, you will be greeted by a spacious and elegantly designed lobby area.

The ambiance is modern and luxurious, with a blend of warm and neutral tones that create a welcoming atmosphere.

The flooring is a combination of polished stone and plush carpetting, which can be felt underfoot as one moves through the space.

Directly ahead of the entrance, the check-in desk is conveniently located. It is a long, wide desk with a high-gloss finish, and you would likely hear the subtle sounds of the staff attending to guests, which would guide you in the right direction.

The desk is staffed by personnel who are ready to assist with check-in procedures and any other requirements you might have.

To the right of the check-in desk, there are elevators that provide access to the guest rooms. These elevators are mentioned as being easily accessible from the lobby, ensuring a smooth transition from check-in to your room.

The lobby area is free of obstacles, facilitating unimpeded navigation for all guests, including those with disabilities.

Link, 7.

The lobby is designed to be open and uncluttered which not only contributes to the aesthetic appeal, but also makes it easier for you to orient yourself within the space. The sounds of the lobby, from the soft murmur of guests to the discreet background music, would provide an auditory backdrop as you acquaint yourself with the surroundings.

The lobby also features seating areas where guests can relax. These areas are furnished with comfortable chairs and sofas, which are arranged to encourage conversation and provide a place for guests to sit and wait if necessary.

The overall design of the lobby is focused on comfort and functionality, ensuring that all guests, regardless of their needs, can enjoy the space and services offered by the hotel.

Link, 3.

Link, 4.

Link, 6.

Link, 9.

Link, 12.

Link, 14.

Link, 16.

Share, button.

Ignasi: Okay. They’re both saying more or less the same. I guess Claude gave a little more detail, and was more straight to the point.

Anyways, we could try this with every model, and it’s really great and really fun, but it just does all kinds of things. Just imagine what you can do with this.

It replaces ChatGPT for all the normal things, so I’m not going to show that. But I think this is a wonderful tool. I really recommend that you give it a try. The tomato sauce and the hotel are just examples of what you can do with it.

But for instance, working on long documents, let’s say you receive a long PDF with hundreds of pages, is incredible with this, especially with Claude, the Opus model. I mean, it can handle almost 1 million tokens. So that’s a really long document. You’re unlikely to receive such long documents.

I’ve tried asking questions to a novel, literally. You upload the entire novel, and it can keep track of the whole thing. And again, it’ll tell you like yeah, I found the answer on page 78. And well, you can just go to page 78.

Jonathan: That’s an excellent demonstration. Thank you so much.

I use Perplexity all the time, and I do have the Pro plan as well.

It is a fantastic research tool. I throw all sorts of little questions and quandaries at this thing, and I’m so pleased by what it comes back with. [music]

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That’s an opportunity for you if you have a product, service or podcast you’d like to tell our audience about. Get in touch with us about advertising here on Living Blindfully. We’ll tailor an advertising campaign to suit your message and your budget.

Find out more and get in touch by visiting That’s, and share your message with the Living Blindfully community.

An Apple Album Purchase I Can No Longer play

Voice message: Hi, Jonathan! It’s Carolyn here.

I have a problem with Apple support, and I’m hoping that someone can perhaps give me an email address where I can just politely let them know what the issue is, and find out how we can resolve this. I’ll tell you what happened.

This evening, I decided to play some music that I had purchased some time ago in the New Zealand iTunes store.

To my dismay, I found this particular album was listed as unavailable. And I thought what? Every time I hit on any of the tracks, I was told sorry, this track is unavailable in your region.

And I thought this is odd. I’ve purchased and paid for this, and I’ve been able to play it in the past. Why can I not do it now?

So I rang Apple to ask them, and was shocked by the reply. I got told that the authorization for this particular album had been removed, (This is an Australian album, by the way.), and that I could no longer play it, unless I change my region to Australia in the iTunes store, or get a VPN. And then, I can play it.

And I said hang on a minute. I actually purchased this album in the New Zealand store. Okay, it’s a 2012 album. I accept it may no longer be available in the New Zealand store. That’s fine.

But I should still be allowed to have access and to play an album that I purchased, regardless of whether it’s available for sale or not in the New Zealand store. It is my property. I legally made a purchase, and you, Apple, took my money for that purchase. But no, they weren’t prepared to budge.

Also, they did get me to try a couple of things to see if it reversed it, but it didn’t. The first was to sign out and sign in to iTunes, which of course, made absolutely no difference, and to reboot my phone.

And I said to them, “Well, I’m talking to you at the moment on my iPhone. If I reboot it, then I’m not going to be able to get back to you and continue this discussion.”

And the guy I was speaking to said, “Oh, it’s all right. I’ll give you a few minutes to reboot your phone. And then, I’ll call you back.”

So I said, “Oh, okay. That’s fine.”

So I go ahead and reboot the phone. And I wait, and I wait, and I wait. No phone call comes back.

Yet several hours later, I get an email from Apple claiming they had tried to phone me. Sorry, don’t believe you, Apple. If you had tried to phone me and I did miss the calls, then there would have been missed calls on my phone. There are no missed calls on my phone. Clearly, if you were trying to phone me, you weren’t phoning my phone number. That is clear.

All I want from Apple is either to be able to have access to allow me to play the tracks on that particular album in my personal iTunes library, or my money back, because I can no longer access a product that I purchased from Apple. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable in that request.

So I’m just wondering if someone has an email address that I can get hold of them, rather than trying to deal through Apple support over the phone. I would appreciate any assistance and any advice on this particular topic because I’m quite gutted. I don’t think that the solution is that hard, but I’m not getting any response or any assistance from Apple on this at all at this stage.

Jonathan: Thank you, Carolyn. This is frustrating.

And for those who may experience this in future, this is why I download to my own drive every purchase I make from iTunes. Because I have seen this happen before, where Apple has been instructed by the copyright holder to take something away from the store. What Apple does not seem to be able to do is distinguish between new purchases and those who’ve already paid for it.

So if you had downloaded the physical media to your phone or to your computer and stored it on a drive somewhere, which is what I always do with these purchases, then you will continue to have the files.

If, however, you’re trying to reference the files once the instruction has come through from the copyright holder, then Apple can’t help very easily there. And probably the easiest resolution, unfortunately, is to refund you.

It’s possible Apple will try to advance a counter-argument which says look, you’ve had these files for a long time. We never said they’d be available forever. You’ve had good use out of it. It’s just difficult to know how Apple would respond.

In terms of how you escalate this, probably the best way is to go to Apple’s Report a Problem page. There are various criteria that you can go through to report various problems there. And if you do that, you will have a written record of the dialogue.

When you get into an issue like this with Apple where the frontline tech support just aren’t empowered to help, (and it’s not so much that they’re being deliberately unhelpful, it’s that their hands are pretty much tied at that first level support), you want to be able to escalate. If you do escalate, then a written record is really important because it will go up the chain, the further you press this. So the report a problem page would be a good way to get this escalated.

Has anyone else had this issue where you’ve gone to get an album, you’ve thought Okay. I purchased it. It’s sitting there in my library. I should be able to access it. And now, I can’t. And how did Apple resolve it if they did?

Be in touch., and 864-60-Mosen is the number, if you want to call in. 864-606-6736.

There is a postscript to this, because we took a while to get to it due to the lovely backlog we have. And I’m not complaining about the backlog. Do keep your contributions coming in.

But Carolyn told me just before I started putting this episode together that she’s got this resolved and that actually, Apple spent some time. And she didn’t go into detail about the hoops, the rigmarole that she had to go through. But apparently, was quite something. But she’s got her album back now. So that’s good that Apple actually made the effort to try and get that done for you, and spent all that time and energy sorting it for you.

Thoughts on Glide

Marissa Solaun is in touch and says:

“Hey, Jonathan,

I listened to your most recent podcast on Glide. It sounds interesting.

I wanted to get an understanding about the structured discovery method. What is that exactly? How does it differ from other methods?

How does someone come to accepting the cane as a positive? As someone who has been visually impaired her whole life, I was never given a cane at a young age. And I think, that really has affected my mentality on the cane being a positive. I know you have stated that you are proud to be blind. And even though I have had my condition my whole life, I think the cane really is something that I struggle with accepting.

In addition to my vision impairment, I have balance issues, fine and gross motor issues, etc. I use the cane to the best of my ability.”

Thanks so much for writing in, Marissa, and also for your candour.

I think there are so many factors influencing the way we travel. It may be the opportunities we had when we were young. It may be the interaction with other impairments. For example, those with balance issues or people with hearing impairments where environmental clues are harder to obtain.

So we do the best that we can with what we have, I think, and there’s no one right way to be blind.

Acceptance of the cane is a very important subject because it’s something that can be very difficult, particularly for teenagers, I think. In your teen years, you really want to fit in. And anything that others you can be a distressing time for teenagers, especially when their friends might be doing things like going and getting a driver’s license which is not available to a blind person.

One of the things I love about going to an NFB convention is seeing the youngsters, really young kids being supervised, but travelling around the hotel with their own canes. And for them, at a very young age, the cane has become a symbol of independence. It’s a facilitator of getting where you want to go.

And being given your own cane for a lot of those youngsters is a real badge of honour. It’s something they aspire to. It’s something they’re excited about. That all feeds into the concept of the cane being a symbol of independence and also, into blind pride.

So if you can do that at an early age with the youngsters, by the time the teenage years come along, hopefully, there’s kind of a countering of the othering going on there, that you have this innate pride. Yeah I’ve got a cane, and it helps me get me to where I need to go to travel independently. I’m proud of having this cane. It’s not something that stigmatizes me. It’s not something that I’m ashamed of.

But I think to get there, you’ve got to start with the kids being quite young. Blind people of all ages are bombarded by negative stereotypes of blindness, negative references in the media, ableist language is rampant. We need to make sure that we tell our blind kids, being blind is fine. Being blind is okay. Being blind doesn’t stop you from being anything and anyone you want to be.

In terms of trying to explain structured discovery, I think what often happens is that we’re under some pressure to get to a specific location. We might, for example, have a new job, and we want to find out how do we get from our home to our new place of work. Or there may be something we’re volunteering for, or something we’re attending and we just want to know how to get there.

And an orientation and mobility instructor may show you that route, and you’ll memorize the route. But it’s kind of the difference between teaching someone to fish, and giving someone a fish. Structured discovery is all about learning the skills that allow you to figure out any route, so you’re not locked in to the specific locations that you know, that have been taught to you.

There are some parallels, I think, with assistive technology. Sometimes, assistive technology instructors just tend to explain keys you have to press, the step-by-step instructions to get a particular task done. And sometimes, that is essential because somebody has something they just need to do urgently.

But if someone can have tech concepts explained to them, then it allows them to go forth and discover things themselves and become more proficient at their own pace.

I have no doubt that we have proponents and even practitioners of structured discovery listening. So if I haven’t done an adequate job of explaining that, please feel free to get in touch and expand., 864-60-Mosen.

The Glide does sound like a very exciting device, doesn’t it?

Amanda Hall says:

“I listened to the interview on your podcast about Glide. And if it’s as good as it sounds like it’s going to be, then I’ll definitely have to get one. The idea of just programming a route into it, and it just taking you wherever you want to go while avoiding all the obstacles just like if someone was sighted guiding you, sounds amazing. I also like that although it’ll steer you, you can walk at whatever speed you want with it.

I’d heard of Glide, maybe a few days before you did the podcast, on Facebook or Mastodon. So I signed up right away for the emails to get more information when they have it. A day or so later, they sent me a short survey to fill in, and one of the things it asked me was if I’d be interested in being a beta tester for it, so I definitely said yes to that.

It seems there’s a few companies doing this sort of stuff. Yesterday, I saw another one online called .Lumen. With this one, though, maybe you might need to use a cane at the same time. But it still sounded really good.

It’s something like a VR headset, and it uses haptic feedback to guide you on your route. So you do the route and try and keep the haptic feedback in the centre all the time, which sort of sounds similar to the audio game concept on the computer, where you often have to try and centre different sounds, but applying it to real life by centring yourself on a route, by adjusting yourself to keep the haptics in the middle, so you avoid obstacles.

It said on the site it uses the same sort of technology as self-driving cars. It sounds really interesting, anyway.

One thing i hope though with these sorts of apps which I haven’t heard any answer to is whether they’re waterproof, or at least water resistant, especially if you’re out and about with them here in the UK, where it can rain at any time of the year.

Lately, I’ve been listening to some audio about smart glasses. I might consider some, but I don’t know yet. Both the Envision glasses and the Seleste glasses sound really cool, especially now they have the Be My AI-like features in them. I also saw Meta are doing some now too, which are £299.

I listened to a demo on AppleVis, and they can do scene descriptions, which are really good. Although I think you can only get that bit in America at the minute, and you have to register on the waiting list everywhere else. I think all the other features work though everywhere by the sound of it.

I also saw there’s a company called Bright Vision who do smart glasses, too. When I looked though, they’re only for Android. So they do sound excellent for people who use Android as their main device, but it’s a shame they don’t do any iOS version.

I messaged them and asked if they were going to support iOS. And they said they’d like to, but that Apple don’t support external cameras. I’m not sure how they can’t though, since the Envision glasses and the Seleste glasses have cameras on them.”

I’ll just pause Amanda’s email there and say yeah, they’re absolutely right about that. And I think it is a real restriction of Apple that they’re either going to have to lift, or Android’s going to start eating more and more of their lunch in the assistive technology space as this market for wearables and other LiDAR-based and sensor-based devices heats up. The way that other glass products work around it is to use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, and that does cause complexity and latency.

Amanda continues: “I listened to your demo of Suno AI sometime before Christmas, and it’s definitely my sort of thing, so I gave it a go. I’ve been reasonably successful with it, and have made a couple of full-length songs.

Although I couldn’t seem to give them consistent choruses. I gave clear instructions in brackets that they were choruses, and you could tell that’s what they were when I put them into the songs, but it changed the tune each time. I don’t mind a bit of variation, but would have liked a common chorus with roughly the same tune through each song.

They still turned out pretty well though, and I did quite like how they turned out in the end. It’s a fun site, anyway.

And there’s now another one at” (I guess you would pronounce that. It’s like audio, but without the A at the beginning, so, “which I’ve been messing with a bit the past few days. I haven’t done a full song with it, but have generated a few clips, and it seems good.

I also registered for Aira’s Access AI, but don’t have access yet. I’m looking forward to trying it when I do.

I don’t think I’ve ever known such an exciting couple of years with technology as the last couple of years. In the 90s and 2000s, when I was growing up, I could have only ever imagined this kind of AI stuff in fiction. It’s amazing what we can do now with technology.”

It certainly is, Amanda. Love your enthusiasm. Thank you for the great email.

Caller: Hi, Jonathan! This is Dulce Weisenborn in Miami, Florida and Portland, Oregon.

I’ve just been listening to your episode on Glide, and my concern or question really is how others are incorporating technology with the use of their guide dogs. To me, if one is relying on technology and getting feedback that says the curb is coming up very shortly, or there’s an obstacle in the way on the left, then that is going to signal our brains and the muscles in our legs. We’re going to slow down, and the dog will pick up on this. Eventually, the dog will then think oh, she knows where she’s going. I don’t need to be so alert.

So I do see both sides of using a cane and a dog with technology. But for me, using technology with a guide dog while I am moving, other than maybe hearing street names, is not something that I think is workable.

I would love to have a discussion with your community about how others are incorporating technology with basic cane and guide dog mobility.

Thank you so much! I am a plus subscriber. Love your show. Wouldn’t miss it. Thank you again for all that you do for us.

Jonathan: Well, thank you for subscribing, Dulce. I appreciate that more than I can tell you.

This is a great topic, and I think Glide is probably a bit unique in this regard because a lot of other technology seeks to be an adjunct to your white cane or your guide dog, your primary means of travel. But Glide wants to be the primary travel tool, I think. And I can’t envisage a situation where you would travel with a dog and with Glide. I think you would have to choose one or the other.

If Amos is listening and he disagrees with that, or others disagree with it, that’s great. Let’s have a discussion. I can’t see how that would work.

But it’s not just Glide. You’re right about that. There are all sorts of supplementary tools now that give us information about our environment. And I have heard of people who’ve had some usable vision say that the relationship with their guide dog can break down if they rely on that vision too much and don’t allow the dog to act as they’re trained to.

So I hope others will chime in on this, Dulce. Really good thought.

This next email says:

“Hi, Jonathan, this is Jewel from Tennessee writing again.

I wanted to first thank you for doing that most enlightening interview with the representative from Glidance. Though a little sceptical at first for my personal use as a pretty skilled cane user and former guide dog handler. But after listening to the interview, I am very excited about the Glide, and looking forward to talking to them for a use case that wasn’t mentioned in the interview.

I have a hypermobility disorder, which mostly affects my left hip and knee. My right leg ends up doing more than its fair share of work, and this causes an imbalance in my body.

Thus, I end up stumbling or hovering to catch my balance often, and I tend to veer heavily toward the right and have to compensate on crossings and open spaces to try to ensure I get relatively close to the intended target. Once I am on the other side, I am able to find where I ended up and correct. But I always have to correct by about a foot as I tend to overcompensate to the left to prevent any chance of walking into the intersection.

A similar issue comes up for people with cerebral palsy and chronic pain disorders that affect one side more than the other, as well as, of course, stroke survivors and amputees.

When I was a guide dog handler, I found that the tension and forward movement of my dog was very helpful for keeping balance. And because I didn’t have to concentrate so much on compensating for veer and maintaining balance, I was able to increase my walking speed. I have also walked pet dogs while watching where we were going with my long white cane, and found that it helped my steadiness and speed drastically.

Using my smart watch, I was able to see that walking with the forward movement and tension more than doubled my walking speed from 1.2 mph to 2.7 mph, decreasing my asymmetry in walking to almost none, and increasing my steadiness quite visibly. That is when I realized it wasn’t the orientation I needed from a guide dog, but rather the mobility assistance.

I believe that this Glide device would be able to provide the mobility assistance I need to maintain balance and increase my speed, and I really look forward to talking with them and seeing where this can go.

I have other friends with balance issues who are also interested to see if it can be of help to them, as just having forward movement and tension can be a great benefit for someone with mild to moderate issues with balance.

On the topic of non-24, I was diagnosed with non-24 about 3 years after my visual impairment’s onset, and shortly after it went to no usable vision with only a small amount of light perception.

Hetlioz was offered and I tried it, but my insurance didn’t want to cover it, required prior authorization (which the manufacturers of Hetlioz were notoriously slow in sending). And when my insurance wouldn’t pay for it, I was asked well, can’t you pay out of pocket?

And when I said it wasn’t really helping, they aggressively pursued me, telling me to give it time. I had taken it for months already, and perhaps they can increase the dosage.

I said adios to Hetlioz and started listening to my body.

As I was not working at the time, I was able to wake and sleep when my body wanted, then slowly adjusted over time to a more normal schedule. That’s when I started taking 10 milligrams of Melatonin, which I realize is a large amount, but it worked for a time.

These days, I take 5 milligrams of Melatonin 1 hour before I want to be asleep, and start shutting everything down, putting things away, and doing my nightly hygiene routine to nudge myself mentally that it’s bedtime.

I still have hard nights like last night, when I ended up sleeping only 4 hours or so. But I give myself the grace of a nap if I need it but not after 3 PM, unless I’m sick. And I don’t allow myself to drink caffeinated drinks after 3 PM or so.

The combination of a sleep routine and the 5MG Melatonin gummy has helped me find good sleep most nights. The gummy seems to do a better job with a lower dose, and doesn’t give me the headaches and fatigue I was getting with 5 milligrams of the dissolvable melatonin.

Of course, your mileage may vary, and of course you should talk to your doctor before deciding what is most appropriate for your individual needs.

Another great episode. Thank you for your continued work in the blindness community.”

Thank you very much, Jewel. I appreciate that.

And it will be interesting to hear how you get on with Glide.

And Maurice is in touch. See, we don’t pronounce it like that in New Zealand, but they do pronounce it like that in the United States. And he says:

“Good morning, Jonathan, from Central California in the United States.

The discussion of this new travel aid is interesting. It does bring to my mind, anyway, some deaf-blindness potential concerns.

  1. if a deaf-blind person were to use this device, there would have to be some way for the device to indicate which way to move based on using tactile feedback.”

I think based on my understanding, Maurice, that may already be in the device. So it could be a very exciting travel tool for a deaf-blind person.

He continues: “If the person’s preferred communication method is sign, this would be another potential issue.”


“This is especially true if the person has absolutely no usable hearing. Just some food for thought.”

NFB’s Deaf-blind Division Is Looking for Volunteer Special Service Support Providers

Now, my first very important question.

Could you announce on your podcast that the division” (and this is the National Federation of the Blind’s Deaf-blind Division, by the way), “is of course, looking for volunteer special service support providers at this year’s National Federation of the Blind National Convention in Orlando? All volunteers will get a very nice gift at the end of the convention, as a token of our appreciation for their assistance.

There are some questions that we’re asking potential volunteers. When are they arriving in Orlando, and when are they leaving Orlando? Would they be willing to work with someone who is not from their state affiliate? Have they ever worked with a deaf-blind person before? And what do they hope to gain, AKA learn from the experience? The last question is, is it okay for the division to release to the person that they would be working with during the convention contact information?

How can potential volunteers contact me?“, says Maurice.”They should send an email with the following subject line to” Let’s go through that. That is NFBDB (for deaf-blind) President. (It’s all joined together) @ That stands for Maurice Mines, of course.

“The subject line should indicate that they are wishing to be a volunteer SSP during the 2024 National Convention. We will do our very best to try to match them with someone from their state, and what they’ll be able to help with meaning if a person knows some sign language, we will match them with someone who uses primarily sign language.

All volunteers must attend the Volunteer Special Service Support Provider Training on the morning of July 3, 2024. It’ll be somewhere in the Convention hotel. Details, of course, will be in the agenda when it comes out in June.

The other important thing”, says Maurice, “is if any of your podcast listeners or readers need a volunteer SSP, they should also write me an email. That email of course can come to the same address that I’ve indicated above, but the subject line should say request for a volunteer SSP.

The question we are asking people who wish to have a volunteer SSP is as follows:

When are you arriving in Orlando?

When are you leaving Orlando?

What state are you from?

What communication method do you prefer? If you use sign language, please make certain we are made aware of that.

And the next question is, Would you be willing to have a volunteer from a different state or affiliate?

And finally, Is it okay to release your contact information to the convention volunteers before the national convention?”

Thanks very much, Maurice! Good luck with all the preparations.

And I believe I’m going to be sitting in on the meeting of the NFB Deaf-blind Division this year, and possibly saying a word or two. So more details on that a little bit closer to the convention.

Hetlioz and Melatonin

Right. Wake up! Wake up! Wake up, I tell you, because we’re going to be talking about Melatonin and hetlioz in response to Thomas’s email that he sent to the show.

Stefanie starts us off and says:

“I take Melatonin as well for non-24, but I don’t take nearly as much as Thomas has. In fact, I think 9MG or 10MG is too much for most, especially if this listener is reporting side effects. This is at least true for me, since I have accidentally taken that much and was really cranky the next day, and didn’t realize until later. Trust me, no one wanted to be around me.”

Ooh! Glad you didn’t write into the show then, Stefanie.

She says:

“Having noted this, I do have a friend who takes that much and does fine.

Like you, I take 5 milligrams every night, and I have found time-release versions to be effective. I don’t remember all the versions I have tried, but I can report that Just Potent and Nature Made make effective Melatonin products.

For whatever reason, I tend to like pills and tablets best, but I’ve heard good things about gummies from Nature Made and Olly” (that’s spelt O-L-L-Y) “from my friend who I mentioned earlier. Yes. There’s a lot of it about, and you can get it over the counter in the United States.

It’s not something available over the counter in some other countries, though.”

Over to Razz now, who says:

“I used to be on Hetlioz.” (This is the non-24 drug.) “I think it could be helpful for some folks, but I would make absolutely sure you need it before taking it because it is basically weapons-grade melatonin. Make sure you really have non-24 first, and try other methods.

As it happened, I did not have non-24 when I was on Hetlioz, and the nightmare side effects were very grim for me. It made my sleep much worse, as I became afraid to sleep.

In the end, I just had garden-variety sleep apnea.

I have some friends who have had great luck with Hetlioz, and I have no doubt it’s good for what it’s designed to work with. Just be absolutely sure first before taking that plunge, and double-check to make sure it’s not something else impacting your sleep.”


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In Search of a Powerful Portable Laptop

Let’s go shopping. Rich Yamamoto is in touch, and he says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

I am looking to buy a new Windows laptop for school next year. I’m a hybrid Mac and PC user, and I’d like to have something that’s lightweight, but also powerful and reliable.

I’ve been using a Galaxy Book for a while, but it’s starting to do some nasty things that I don’t have the patience to mess with anymore.

Any thoughts? I’ve heard you mention some good ones in the past, but wanted to see if there was a specific one you or other listeners favoured. I’m looking for it to be somewhat affordable. Perhaps, the Optima when it comes out.

Hope all is well.”, says Rich.

Well, of course with the Optima, Rich, you’re going to be paying for the Braille display as well, so it’s not going to be competitively priced, I would have thought, With just a stand-alone laptop.

You are asking for quite a bit there, mate, because you want something portable, powerful, and cheap, and those things don’t often go together, except to say that I am really interested in some of the work going on in the land of Arm for Windows at the moment.

I can’t point to any specific machines that are out just yet. But I believe by the end of this year, we are going to see a number of very powerful portable ARM devices that will have built-in 5G connectivity and be really quite performant. So it depends on how urgent your need is. But if you can hang on a bit longer, I reckon that we’re about to see some pretty exciting devices come on the market.

In terms of Intel land though, I like the ThinkPad a lot. I think HP Spectres are also good. My experience is that HP Spectres maybe aren’t quite as reliable, and they do pack a bit of bloatware, but they’re lovely machines.

I’m using a ThinkPad X1 Carbon at the moment. I wouldn’t call it super powerful, though. I can do word processing, basic editing in Reaper, as long as I don’t overload it with a lot of processing plugins, and it’ll really start to bog down at that point.

It doesn’t come close in terms of power to the Mac, for example, with an M3 chip. I mean, they are just amazing. The battery life goes on forever. Tasks happen very quickly. It’s just a shame about VoiceOver. And I do hope that is addressed at some point.

But if you’re looking exclusively Windows, the Thinkpads are great. There’s a range of them.

The other advantage of the Thinkpad is that there is a utility you can get where you can go into the BIOS and configure things, and that’s pretty nice. And I know you’re a bit of a geek, so you may appreciate being able to go into the BIOS accessibly and get a whole lot of things done.

At the beginning of the year, we also had some listeners sharing some interesting first-hand experiences of Framework devices, and they were very positive. You can get a lot of power from these Framework devices, and you can mix and match and build your own computer, and that may appeal to you as well.

I’ve not had the opportunity to experience Framework because last time I checked, they don’t ship here.

So I’m a ThinkPad fan. What do others like at the moment? Let’s help Rich do his shopping.

I always think this is a fun thing when you have someone coming to you wanting to spend money. So you can get the joy of doing a bit of shopping, looking up things, without actually having to spend the money yourself. Win-win!, or 864-60-Mosen if you’ve got some thoughts for Rich on this.

Problems With the YouTube App are Typical

Caller: Hey, Jonathan. It’s Dennis Long.

First, sorry about your mom’s death. My condolences to you and your family.

Second, I wanted to comment on the person who called in about the YouTube app. And I will say, Google at its finest. And yes, that is meant to be snarky. [laughs]

It is not the first time that Google has done something, and then attempted to convince the user that it’s their fault, or that they need information that’s absolutely irrelevant.

I think back to what you went through with them a couple years ago. And they just have a track record of either A, taking a very long time to add things they promised, you know, the Hid mode being an example. That was promised like 6 years ago, and I just read an article the other week that they’re going to add it this year in Android 15. Apple had it done a year after they promised it, or that same year. And it’s just Google not caring, oh well, gee! iOS uses it this way. How hard is it Google used the standards of that platform to make it accessible on that platform? It’s not rocket science. You know, quit trying to make everything 4 times harder than what it has to be.

Do I expect them to fix it? Absolutely not. I have a very low expectation for what Google will do.

I think Apple is far far better at listening to our concerns and addressing them. It may not be as timely as we would like, but they do listen and they do address them.

Jonathan: Thank you, Dennis, and thank you for your condolences because I appreciate that. And thank you for listening, too. I appreciate that.

Closing and Contact Info

The 2 hours have flown by, as they always do. And I’m looking forward to being back with you next week.

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


Voiceover: If you’ve enjoyed this episode of Living Blindfully, please tell your friends and give us a 5 star review. That helps a lot.

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.