[Mm-friends] thoughts on this week's episode

Chase Crispin chase.crispin at gmail.com
Wed Aug 17 00:27:56 GMT 2011

I find your experiences with a lot of technology that I've never played with
very interesting.  Thanks for sending this along!

Chase Crispin
Visit my website!
chase dot crispin at gmail dot com
My SAMobile address is no longer active.

-----Original Message-----
From: mm-friends-bounces at acbradio.org
[mailto:mm-friends-bounces at acbradio.org] On Behalf Of Sabahattin Gucukoglu
Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 3:51 PM
To: mm-friends at acbradio.org
Cc: braillenote at list.humanware.com; The PAC Mate User List
Subject: Re: [Mm-friends] thoughts on this week's episode

I feel a bit spoiled.

I got to use and love a Braille Lite M40, with its serial-line terminal
program.  I used a Keynote Companion, with its built-in DOS prompt.  Then I
moved on to the Windows CE 2.12-based BrailleNote.  It was all smoke and
mirrors.  The only glory it shared with its predecessors was that, being
text-based, it was optimal for blind users, and especially braille users.
It remains the strongest selling point of all notetakers today, in my
not-so-very-humble opinion.

They aren't "Ghetto" technologies; that's just an excuse made by people who
refuse to acknowledge practicality in the face of overly-expensive
niche-market products.  However, as owner of both BrailleNote Apex QT (soon
BT, and if you've been following the BrailleNote list you know why [1]) and
PacMate Omni QX440, I can attest to their various strengths and weaknesses.
I can also, as owner of Mac and iPhone, attest to their inadequacy in
aggregate, simply because they cannot keep up with mainstream requirements.
I've never been certain about the purchase of a stand-alone braille display,
partly because I could never find a decent one that would meet my needs, but
mostly because I doubt very much whether, with all the durability and
surprising ability of a bluetooth keyboard and display with an iOS device,
they could match the kind of one-touch, instant-access, simple and
completely braille-literate tools we enjoy with note-takers and especially
the BrailleNote, by far the mo  st retro-fitted device of them all, with at
least as much typical functionality as all the others and superb braille
output [2].  The Apex is my note-taker of choice.

Now, a bit about the notetakers themselves.  I'm not an unsophisticated
user, and have requirements beyond the simple.  I am sorry for the use of
Windows CE and Windows Mobile, which are not good platforms to develop
fundamental technologies on because they are so focussed on graphical
interfaces.  This is also a good part of the reason why many third-party
apps simply do not run on the products.  HIMS has at least partly addressed
the issue for developers of their community with an SDK.  Freedom
Scientific, while it at least provides a platform which supports many more
mainstream applications like IMAP and PowerPoint, is stuck with the same
problems plaguing the cell phone screen readers, namely that various hacks
and kludges are needed to make apps reasonably self-voicing.  And HumanWare,
of course, hasn't done anything at all, leaving everyone with a very nice,
but horribly closed, platform.  Only Levelstar have picked up on this
particular bit of clue.  Users are left cho  osing products between extremes
of philosophy and never quite being satisfied; a sad state of affairs for
such expensive devices. *Sigh*

Oh, well.  Maybe, one day, a dock will be invented for iOS devices that turn
them into super-notetakers.  Maybe Apple will touch up VoiceOver and turn it
into some sort of menu-driven (or menu-accessible) application launcher.  I
doubt it though.  I think we'll all need some sort of notetaker and some
sort of mainstream device, until the wind changes direction.  If nothing
else, we can only hope the price of braille displays comes down.


[1] HumanWare finally came out and told us that the Apex QT model had been
hobbled by an update to the protocol, rendering it useless as a braille
terminal for any screen reader besides JAWS.  A fix is promised.
[2] Especially the "Indent 2 cells" option in KeySoft.  That impresses me
favourably when reading.
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