Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

The iPad: A Review

May 29, 2010

[Note to reader; I’m assuming you’re familiar with the iPhone OS to some extent in this article].

 

Since the US launch of the iPad at the beginning of April, worldwide customers hankered for the news of their own launch dates. Just a few weeks ago, UK customers, along with those from eight other countries, including, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Japan were able to pre-order their iPads for a 28TH May release date, while other countries still anxiously await their launch date, expected to be announced sometime in July.

 

I, along with many others, pre-ordered my iPad, opting for the 32 Gig wifi model and impatiently waited for it to arrive. It came early though, a day in fact and am I glad I was home Thursday morning to receive my new toy. I created an unboxing podcast and could not wait to play with the iPad.

 

Initial Reaction

GORGEOUS!

It’s sleek and very aesthetic, even to the touch. A slightly curved back with the smooth glass touch screen we were promised. Everything about the iPad, before you switch it on is beautiful. And I don’t believe I’m saying this because I genuinely love Apple products. The keys are seamlessly fitted into the device and nothing looks out of place on this sleek unit.

 

Setting Up!

 

The setting up process is such a breeze. Literally, plug it in, register it and turn on universal access and off you go.

[Note, the device needs to be connected to a computer running the latest version of iTunes for it to work so you do need a computer to utilise the iPad.]

setting up voice over or Zoom or contrast on the iPad is very similar to the way it is achieved on the touch, iPhone, nanos and the shuffles. In summary within the iPad, or as voice over calls it in iTunes, iPod scroll area, VO to universal access and select voice over on under the “seeing” section. Once the iPad has synced, voice over will come on as I’m sure the other desired methods will.

 

You have a choice to use back-ups from any other devices, I.E. iPhone or I’m assuming iPod Touch. I chose to not do this as I wanted to customise the iPad at my own leisure and although I have put a few of my iPhone apps on the device, I didn’t want them all there.

 

First Use!

 

Using the iPad is as Steve Jobs said, “Magical”. It feels at home under your fingers and when taking the experience at a leisurely pace, you can truly appreciate the style the iPad has. It is a lot bigger than other touch devices that people may be used to using but that is an advantage. Using apps like settings, mail and safari gives an intricate experience with the iPad screen. Now, you can select a general setting in the settings app and see all of your choices without having to go back to the previous page if you want to select the mail/contacts/calendar settings, for example in Settings. Mail is beautiful on the iPad, being able to see your emails in the left column and read the message in the main screen area. And Safari definitely utilises the screen giving the browsing experience a whole new level of smoothness and realness.

 

iBooks, worth it?

 

Although the UK store is not populated to capacity, and I am realistic about this fact, it will take time to become my primary book source, it is amazing. I’ve downloaded a few free classics so far and have searched the store for some titles and found a few that I shall be purchasing soon. The search function was a little tricky at first but this is where one of the new gestures comes into its own. Although, the four-finger-swipe can be used in apps like mail or settings to jump from the selection list down the left side to the content area and vice versa, I didn’t comprehend it would work in the app or iBook store. But it does. I four-finger-swiped and was able to type my search, swipe again and see the results. A wonderful edition to the Apple repertoire of gestures.

 

Actually reading on the app is wonderful. I can lay my iPad down and let it read to me or use my fingers to scan down the page. It’s a very personal experience of reading books I’ve not experienced before. Braille has to be read word to word and audio has someone else’s voice and interpretation while iBooks utilises the voice over voice, your own interpretation is very real.

 

Twitter, IM and social Networks?

 

As I no longer have a facebook account, I shall comment on the social networks I have used on the iPad. Twitter Apps are few and far between on the iPad right now. Some of my favourites have not yet transgressed to the iPad. However I’ve found an app for the iPad that is accessible and works good enough. Not had that much experience to comment on some features but it reads your timelines, you can reply, DM, retweet and such but no list support as yet. And I’m assuming there’s multiple account support but haven’t tried so don’t quote me on that. That app is Tweet and it’s free.

 

I haven’t found an iPad specific app for apps such as Fring or Nimbuzz which I use on the iPhone so I’m using the fring app for now. I have it in full screen mode and still works nicely. They tend to only work in portrait and seen as I have my iPad in landscape for the majority of use, this can be a slight annoyance but once the app is Ipad specific, [let’s keep hoping], it’ll work beautifully. There is a slight border around the screen in full mode but it is still workable.

 

Skype works nicely on the iPad too. In the UK, still no iPad specific app but I’m told they have one in the US now so we’ll just have to wait for our version to hit the App store.

 

Typing!

 

I immediately opted for touch typing mode which I love. This can be changed while in an edit field with the rotor setting. I am finding I’m becoming quicker all of the time but will still opt for my wireless keyboard for extensive use. Touch typing will become easier and feels very natural. When I go to type on my iPhone, I hold the key down to hear the phonetic letter and it of course never comes and often forget to split tap to enter text. I cannot wait for touch typing in 4.0 on the iPhone. Typing on an almost full sized keyboard feels good and even if your finger is a letter out, sliding it to the right letter and lifting up feels great. Double tapping here will lead you to the need of a lot of deleting.

 

The phonetic speaking letters are a welcome edition to the iPhone OS and will strongly be looking forward to utilising this function on the iPhone.

 

 

Sound quality!

One Word! Awesome! The speaker sounds wonderful and the US voice I opt to use sounds incredible. Music and videos perform nicely and even though I haven’t tried it yet, I’m assuming headphones will sound just as crisp and clear.

 

Weight!

 

It is heavier than the touch and iPhone but this seemed obvious to me. Its compact and durable and I like the weight so I don’t lose it somewhere. It is not so heavy you could not carry it around with ease and yet it’s not light enough that you will forget it’s on your lap.

 

Overall Impressions!

I waited eagerly since the announcement in January and I have to say I am delighted with the product. Is it worth the money? Ask me that after a few weeks of working with it but I will go out there on a limb and say yes, I’m glad I paid for such a revolutionary product. Do I think it’s an oversized iPhone? No! It’s a different product entirely and the beauty of it is, people will choose to use their iPads for their own uses. There’s no rule book when it comes to the iPad and that is what I love the most about it.

 

 

The iPad is Coming! the iPad is coming!

May 7, 2010

The iPad is coming! The iPad is coming!

Apple today announced today, 7TH May 2010 that the iPad is being rolled out to Australia, Canada, the UK, Spain, france, Germany, Italy, Japan and switzerland on 28TH May. So far, UK pricing has been released as follows:
Wifi 16 gig, £429
Wifi 32 Gig, £499
Wifi 64 Gig, £599
Wifi + 3G, £529
Wifi + 3G, £599
Wifi + 3G, £699
All prices include VAT and can be pre-ordered 10TH May with apple. all models can be bought through Apple’s online store or their retail stores and through selective third party retailers.

The iBooks app will also be released in these countries on the same day but release dates, pricing for other countries is expected in July.

So finally we have a date. Now the choice is in your hands, if to buy, which model do you get your eager hands on?

My Apple Mac

December 19, 2009

With all the choices on the computer market nowadays, the general consumer has more choice than ever before. However, as a visually impaired user, the only option I want to have is mac and Apple products. Here’s why.

On Thursday, I turned my trusty macbook 13 inch, 2008 model white onto to check my email and such to discover it wouldn’t boot beyond the apple logo and timer thing. I was so upset. I love my macbook so much, it recently travelled to the US with me and if I don’t take the time to at least boot it once a day, I’m sick.

Anyway, I called Apple care and booked an appointment to see an Apple genius the next day. The problem I next had was that I had to pull out my old sony Vaio laptop that runs Windows XP and has a version of Jaws for windows running on it. It wasn’t a prospect I was looking forward too, let me tell you. Nevertheless, I loaded it up and encountered twitter issues with the program I have running on that laptop, then had issues setting up my gmail account in outlook express, followed by issues with not only importing music to itunes but getting the damn program to work correctly for me. I was still fighting with Itunes at lunchtime when I left to go to my apple appointment.

I never realized how counter-intuitive windows was, and I missed my specialized features that voice over on the mac offers, such as spelling as I type. I missed hearing, “misspelled” which happens frequently when I’m typing a lot. Itunes was a complete nightmare, how anyone uses that program on windows with a screen reader is beyond me. And the screen reader itself frustrated me beyond belief, freezing on several occasions, jumping on others, it was just a nightmare I do not want to repeat.

Hasten to add, my macbook was fixed and is happily being used again. I know some people prefer windows but for me, it is mac all the way. snow Leopard can keep purring happily inside my pretty white macbook with voice over being its Captain. ☺

The Kindle, the Authors Gild and the Visually impaired!

May 15, 2009

If you are either a tech freak or a book worm, it might have come across your attention about the kindle or the kindle app for the iphone. The Kindle is a small hand held device to which you can read books purchased electronically, also known as E books. The app for the iphone works in a similar way. The kindle is not quite accessible for the visually impaired community but with the inbuilt TTS [text to speech], it seemed possible that Amazon might one day make the Kindle’s menus utilise the inbuilt TTS and provide the visually impaired community with a broader range of reading materials through the smart device. The device enables users to read books purchased online and read the contents instead of buying a paper back book. This device already has the ability to read the books aloud, allowing users to drive or perform other tasks without actually looking at the device so making it a safe device to use while driving but in that, would also make the Kindle a handy tool for the visually impaired community.

Currently, in the UK, only around 10 percent of books are converted into braille and although audio books are becoming more readily available, it is still lacking in time and quantity. The last Harry Potter book was the only book in the series to be published at the same time as the print one but previously, all books take time to produce and so readers can wait longer for that much anticipated title. The RNIB have been working hard to get more books published faster but this obviously will take some time to implement successfully.

The introduction of the Kindle and Amazon’s promise
Amazon’s Kindle’s blog
would have made the Kindle the greatest accessory to a visually impaired person’s electronic book library. It would have given us the ability to read books at the same time as our sighted peers and pay the same amount for the books as everyone else does, not being penalised for the fact we are unable to read print along with everyone else.

Enter the Author’s Gild!

This organisation claims to benefit authors and protect their rights but they have decided to claim against the kindle being allowed to use TTS.
The Author’s Gild homepage

They claim that it goes against author’s and publishers copyrights to have the inbuilt TTS in the Kindle read their books. This claim, in my opinion is preposterous. They insist it is about protecting their author’s rights and suggest to Amazon or someone else to make a third party device that could be fully blind accessible while suggesting that an activation on an account would enable a visually impaired user to download all of the e-books that will have the TTS lock lifted on them to enable the V.I community to use all books on Amazon or any Kindle compatible sites. Read the Article here

But doesn’t this increasingly send up the problems of expensive technology which as a V.I community we are already subjected too? For some Visually impaired people, third party software or techology is simply unaffordable and don’t we take a risk by passing this suggested “new device” over to a third party or even to Amazon, to increase the price of the product? Sure the books may remain the same price in the long run but Amazon are quite happy to work with the kindle and attempt to get it fully accessible soon and yet the author’s gild are not happy about this still. As a writer myself, I would have no objections to sighted or none sighted to listen to my work, as long as they paid for it and to suggest that TTS was anything like a narrator reading the book is pathetic! I use TtS all of the time and even the most human like voice on the Mac [Alex] does not compete with human readers.

If anyone has bought an audio book recently, you will know the extent of damage it can cause to your pocket. On the audio website I purchase books from, most can range from £10 to £20 or even £25 and even then, not all books are available. I looked into buying the Harry Potter series on audio a few months ago and quickly decided against it when I discovered it would cost me over £200 to get the entire collection. That is seven books that I could have bought as a box set from a high street retailer for £35 in hardback. And the Author’s gild still see fit for the Kindle to be anti TTS?

Most writers just want their work to be read and if that many more visually impaired people could purchase their books online and have full access to the same books sighted people could, wouldn’t it lift sales? I mean, for them to argue the TTS is like audio and people would not buy the audio anymore is a weak and counter productive argument. I would personally buy more books if they were the prices my sighted peers could pay for them brand new and not the triple or quadruple prices of audio books. By them stating it would damage the audio market, are they not just stating that they want the visually impaired community to keep supplementing that market and again segregate visually impaired people from the mainstream markets. By introducing a separate device for the kindle would do just that and I’m no expert but I do believe it would cause the price of the Kindle to soar making more visually impaired people unable to access the books and forcing them to buy into a market that is already extortionate? Maybe I’m assuming the worst but no good has ever come from third party software in my visually impaired opinion. If a company is willing to make the changes for all of their customers, it makes sense and it seems fair. Why should Visually impaired people, or anyone who cannot buy into the mainstream market be penalised for it? The author’s gild is trying to protect publishers in my humble opinion, not writers for writers would probably make more money out of an electronic market leaving all the middle men out of it! Maybe, and I am clearly speculating, but just maybe their own asses is all they are protecting. How many writers can say they don’t want their work to be read, and it would by millions more if the kindle was able to read all of their books once the accessible menus are put in by amazon.

Let’s make the Kindle and all the books in the world, accessible to all! Please!

Myspace and previous accessibility issues

April 14, 2009

I had previously written a scathing comparative of Myspace and Facebook and their accessibility issues. It is safe to say that both have come back and forth since that time in their accessibility issues and I for one, as most of you will know have changed screen readers. However, the situation with the accessibility seems to be across all boards. Many jaws users are now using facebook mobile due to the sheer volume of info presented on the home page. Although the site is by no means perfect, there’s things that even voice over trips over but I still like to use regular Facebook as I use a lot of the apps and upload a lot of photos which I know can be done by the mobile site but that seems too annoying to me.

Myspace has been a virtual no go for me as I found it really frustrating to navigate let alone edit my profile and stuff which was made impossible to do independently due to the captchas. i understand why captchas are there but it can be highly frustrating for a visually impaired person to get sighted assistance when you want to change the smallest thing on your profile. So because of this I had left myspace and just facebooked it for a while. However, I had read the other day that captchas were being optionally removed by the use of mobile phones. This had been implemented to facebook for some time now and finally myspace caught up. However, this system is only being rolled out in the US for now with reassurances that it will cross over into other regions before long.

Upon reading that, i was impressed. So finally myspace have heard and want to make their users lives a lot easier than having to enter captchas at every turn.

Earlier today I was messing around on my mobile phone on the net and found youbtube have a mobile site. I got intrigued then remembering that other social networks such as facebook and twitter both have mobile sites so surely myspace must have them too right? I searched for mobile myspace on google and there it was. My question now was whether it would let me edit my profile? And it did! I was astounded! So all this time I haven’t been using my myspace at all because of the captcha and there it was all along, the answer to my frustration, m.myspace.com. Although it doesn’t let you do much on the mobile site, it’s enough to get by until the brilliant captcha removal is implemented here in the UK.

So well done myspace! And Facebook, keep working on your accessibility, its coming on but still there’s work to do.

🙂