An Open Letter To Tim Cook

Posted by Buddy Brannan on October 30th, 2014 filed in Uncategorized
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In response to this article, I dropped the below Email to what seems to be Tim Cook’s Email.

Howdy Mr. Cook,

As a fellow but different minority (I suppose several, though a blind person first), I stand with you.

Specifically, two paragraphs really stood out for me:

“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

“Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life.”

Sir, my hat, if I wore one, is off to you, and I agree with you completely. I, too, see my blindness as a gift, and in much the same way as you do. Would that those minorities who face discrimination, misunderstanding, bigotry, and societal limitations all felt the same; it surprises me still that so many perpetrate the same kinds of attitudes upon others that they themselves face daily.

I, like you, look forward to the day that your announcement would not be news. In fact, I’ve often wondered why it *is* news, or anyway, why some feel the need to “come out publicly” in the first place. After all, if it isn’t a big deal, why make it one? I think you have clarified this issue for me somewhat. I thank you for that, and for handling this issue with such grace and class.

You have had some mighty big shoes to fill, and you haven’t filled them. Instead, you have made your own way, certainly building on the foundations that Steve Jobs and others have laid, but putting your own stamp on Apple. There are things you’ve done that would have never been done before your tenure. But make no mistake, I think you’re heading in the right direction, you’re doing the right things, and Apple is well and truly in good hands.

Thank you, Mr. Cook, for all that you do, not only for what you’re doing with Apple and the technology that makes my life easier, but for what you do to further equality, acceptance, and justice. Yep. I’m a Tim Cook fan.

All the best,


Dear Verizon: Piss off…

Posted by Buddy Brannan on October 29th, 2014 filed in Uncategorized
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It’s so nice to know that the edge Plan from Verizon Wireless is so customer friendly. Except not really. Maybe I’m just special.

To begin, in November, I noticed my iPhone 5S had a manufacturing defect, so I called apple to have it replaced. This Apple did, with no trouble or fuss, even having the phone active on my Verizon account without me having to do anything to make it work, apart from restoring from my iCloud backup.

Fast forward to iPhone 6 time. I was able to upgrade on the Edge plan, except I got a warning that my phone wasn’t the one that they’d sent me. I explained to the sales agent that this was true, and it was true because the phone had been replaced by Apple. That didn’t seem to be a problem with anyone, and the sales guy put my order through, and I received my iPhone 6 on release day, as expected.

When I received it, I very carefully packaged the iPhone 5S and sent it back to Verizon, as directed, with the provided label. I received the new iPhone 6 on a Friday, and the 5S went into Monday’s mail. I can’t really think how it could have been done in a more timely fashion.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I received An Email like the following Email on Sunday, 29th September. Twice:

verizon
Please return your previous device.
View Online

Shop Support My Verizon

Please return your device.

For wireless number ending in 0962

Hi CLYDE,

You were recently sent a new device as part of the Edge Up program. When performing an Edge Up, you must return your existing device in good working condition.

Since we haven’t received your existing device, a fee equal to the remaining balance due under your Verizon Edge Retail Installment Sale Agreement has been applied to your account.

If you return your existing device immediately, we will credit the amount of the fee to your account.

View Return Instructions

Please disregard this message if you’ve already returned your previous device. You will receive confirmation of your return within 2 days of receipt at Verizon Wireless.
Thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless.

Previous Device Information:

Device ID Number:
357989051615436

Tools to Keep You Connected.

My Verizon Mobile
The convenience and control of My Verizon when you are on the go.
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Insider’s Guide is the place for mobile tips, news, and info.
Go to Insider’s Guide

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Locate a Verizon Wireless Store

Quick Links:
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Support
This email was sent to BUDDY@BRANNAN.NAME;

We respect your privacy. Please review our privacy policy for more information about click activity with Verizon Wireless and links included in this email.

© 2014 Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless | One Verizon Way | Mail Code: 180WVB | Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

ID: 85458.4.0-F69661A7-DC43-B257-236E-AC0EAD96F440

Of course, I ignored it as instructed.

A couple days later, the post office’s web site showed that Verizon received my phone, and I thought everything was taken care of. Until I got a package a week later. The package contained an iPhone 5S. It contained my iPhone 5S. It still had the glass screen protector, but not the SIM card anymore, and Voiceover was still on.

I called customer service to ask what the deal was. Valerie didn’t know. There didn’t seem to be any record. I was able to read the slip in the box though, and, as I’d feared, the problem was that the phone’s ID didn’t match the one they shipped me when I started my plan. I explained the situation again. Valerie said she’d research and get back with me on that Friday, that would be the 10th of October. This she did, and again said that the ID’s didn’t match.

After about an hour with her on the previous Wednesday, after which I thought things should be resolved, I was starting to get angry. I told Valerie that I did what I was supposed to have, that I wouldn’t have been able to have used this phone if it wasn’t registered to Verizon’s network, and the fact that they didn’t have a record of this phone that was used on their network for the past 10 months sounded like poor record keeping. It was, in short, their problem, not mine, and they needed to fix it. Valerie assured me that they’d work it out, and she ordered the materials to ship the phone back.

Great!

Then I received the same “We didn’t receive your phone” Email on the 11th. OK, ignored, I’ve done my part.

Two weeks later, the 24th, I still hadn’t received envelope or label from Verizon, so I called again. Jolene was sympathetic. Jolene ordered new shipping materials to be sent, and she’d follow up with me on Wednesday, today.

She did. I didn’t. That is, she ordered more stuff. I didn’t receive it.

But I did receive, just now, the Email that they didn’t receive my phone. Again. This time, with no notice that they’d remove the charge if they received my phone, but both Jolene and Valerie said that they’d be sure I had it removed once this was resolved. Given the third round of “We didn’t receive your phone” Emails, I’m very, very skeptical.

I responded to Verizon’s Email thus:

Per discussions with Verizon customer service, I have returned the iPhone 5S in my possession. It was returned to me as not being the same device, which it isn’t, because it was replaced through Apple. That this replacement device isn’t properly documented isn’t my problem, it’s yours. That you haven’t received my device is, also, not my problem, it’s yours. Again, per discussions with customer service, I was supposed to have received shipping materials to ship (a second time) this iPhone back to you. I have not yet received these shipping materials. Not after two requests and nearly 21 days. Be assured that I will not be paying the balance applied to my account for the iPhone 5S that I have already attempted to return. I have fulfilled my end of this process. I intend to do so a second time. Picking up your end is not my problem, it’s yours.

Jolene says she’ll call me again Friday to see if I’ve gotten the shipping materials again. Whether I have or whether I haven’t, I’m not paying them a dime of the $374 and change they say I owe them. I’ve held up my end. They need to hold up theirs.


Has the promise of the Internet been broken?

Posted by Buddy Brannan on April 8th, 2014 filed in Computing, Opinion
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Yesterday morning over breakfast, I read this article. It was probably not the best thing to read pretty much first thing in the morning, but there it was, and it gnawed at me all day. And kept on, even today. It disturbed me. No, I wasn’t surprised by it, hardly anything people do surprises me much anymore, especially if it’s bizarre and doesn’t make any sense. It did, however, deeply, deeply sadden me. Here’s what I wrote in the comments immediately after reading.

This makes me unbelievably sad. Just a couple thoughts. I’ve been on the Internet for 22+ years, a thing that scares me a little if I think about it. From those beginnings, when the Internet really was all text, limited to mostly educational and government users (along with some tech companies and very savvy folks–commercial ISP’s were pretty rare), it was, mostly, a free exchange of ideas. It was “the great equalizer”, where all you were in that space was what you said and how you expressed yourself. It was exciting. It was amazing. I had great optimism for this new medium, not because I could be whoever I wanted to be, but because I could be myself. Disability wasn’t a stigma. Nobody had to care that I was blind, only that I was (umm…OK, stretching a point) intelligent. To see this thing with so much potential for bringing very different kinds of people together being turned into, well, a playground for small minds and intolerance makes me despair anew. I, for one, am sorry. I also always read bios, because I think people are pretty interesting. I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you before, never read your tweets, know nothing more than this post from you. I, for one, am looking forward to changing that.

This leads me to a question. Has the promise of the Internet been broken?

Oh, sure. The Internet promised lots of things. It promised instant access to information and entertainment. Eventually, it promised easy and convenient shopping. It delivered on all that. (Of course, it also delivered lots of other things, like spam, but we’re not here to talk about that…or maybe we are, sort of.) The Internet has, indeed, delivered on all of that. I have access to more books than I could read in a lifetime, and better, at the same time as everyone else has them. I can do my own shopping and never have to hear some store employee who’d really rather be doing anything than help me say that “We ain’t got that”, even if it’s sitting right in front of his nose. I can write posts like this and have them read by total strangers, and I can be the total stranger who reads someone else’s opinions as well, and comment on them in real time. I can get news as it happens, unfiltered and immediate, which may not necessarily be a good thing, because I can also get all the rumors, misdirections, unconfirmed speculations, and contradictions from everyone needing to get the story first.

But what I can’t get, what Jamie can’t get, is that thing that was so liberating back when I discovered the Internet for the first time. I can’t think of the word for it. Respect? Equal treatment? It’s one of those things that you know when you see it.

Back when our online existence was limited to 25 lines by 80 characters, give or take, all anyone knew about yu was what you posted, and for everyone, that was text. Your thoughts, your opinions, defined you. It was a “level playing field”, and everyone had the same tools of expression. Oh, sure, there were the guys in their basements who never saw a woman before who would call for “gender check” on IRC and would virtually hit on any woman there, but for the most part, our exchanges were exchanges of ideas. I remember thinking that this was really how it should be. We should be able to get to know each other without prejudice, and, in doing so, maybe we’d all be better for it. That I was blind, or so and so was black, or a woman, or short, or didn’t speak well, or any number of things that would isolate someone, weren’t issues here. This one comic I remember summed it up well with its tag line: “On the Internet, nobody knows that you’re a dog.”

Except, now, they do.

That glorious time when our Internet persona was nothing more nor less than how you expressed yourself is gone. Commonplace, very fast connections have made it possible to have graphics, photos, and full motion video and sound. Now, all of those things that didn’t matter before have moved into this space as well. Now, the Internet is just an extension of all the ills of “out there”, but it’s even worse. Because there’s that distance still. People can still hide behind a keyboard and say things they’d never dream of saying to your face, because they aren’t. After all, there’s no one real on the other end. I once had some random person tell me, when my wife was recovering from a very serious heart operation, that we should consider euthanasia for her. OK, remember when I said very little shocks me anymore? That did. So all the prejudice, bigotry, venom, and invective that’s out there is amped up another notch in here, a place that used to be safe, a place where we discussed things as one human being to another.

No, of course it wasn’t all roses and candy way back when. There was alt.flame, after all. But still, things were a lot more civil, and the signal to noise ratio was much, much higher. On today’s Internet, I can’t read the comments often, because they make me too angry.

Maybe the Internet didn’t intend to promise that we’d evolve as human beings and we’d be able to take our level playing field of ideas to the wider world. Maybe it didn’t promise that to anyone but me. Maybe it didn’t promise anything at all, but I just assumed that it did. I wish I knew. I wish we would grow up as a race, as one race (that being human), and value each other for who we are individually. That was the promise I saw back in 1992. Instead, we are divided, we tear each other down, screw the next guy so long as I get mine, you have no value because you’re different from me, and there are no consequences for my being a complete ass, because this is the Internet and no one knows who I am.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. I wasn’t so sure when I started, only that I needed to sort out my feelings about it. I don’t have answers. I don’t know why we can’t just leave our bigotry and prejudice at the door. I understand and accept that as human beings, we all have prejudice. If someone tells you that he does not, he is lying, either to you or to himself. It’s an unfortunate part of the human condition. One of the really great things about being human, however, is that we have reason. Well, we’re supposed to have reason anyway. So can we not use that reason to acknowledge that, yes, I have a prejudice, or such and such kinds of people make me uncomfortable. Recognize this, then resolve to go beyond it. Simple to say, harder to do, but an we please start by veing polite and listening respectfully to other people’s ideas and viewpoints? Maybe if we can see something from the other guy’s point of view, we can all get along better. Maybe we can then find the things that bring us together rather than the ones that will tear us apart. It’s a start, anyway.

Well, I guess i didn’t really answer the question, and I also didn’t really clear this up in my own mind. I’m not really feeling any better about it either. Zero for three this time. Sorry. Better luck next time.


Review: The 33: Pramantha, Part 1 of 4

Posted by Buddy Brannan on February 1st, 2014 filed in Opinion
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The 33 Episode 1 CoverHave you been wondering what J. C. Hutchins has been up to since the Seventh Son trilogy came out?

Oh wait. You don’t know who he is, or what that is? Well, that maybe is for another time. I’ll link to it later. Work with me here, OK?

j.C. hasn’t been idle, no sir. He’s been working on interesting things, including a publicity campaign for the recent Fox series “Almost Human”, among other things. He seems to be Mr. Transmedia. That’s a fancy $50 word for things that transcend different kinds of media, like books and games and Internet, audio, and goodness, people who are a lot smarter than I am should probably explain it. Besides that though, he’s been hatching this idea that he brought up way back when he was still updating the Seventh Son trilogy. Now, he’s unleashing it on an unsuspecting public with the first installment, Pramantha, Part 1. This is a four-part story, set in a universe that will have lots more stories, some multipart, some standalone, and, if this first one is any indication, stories that will grab you right away and won’t let go. Kind of like a teleport across the world, except without the puking, but I’m a bit ahead of myself.

Here’s how Hutch introduced the story to me:


The 33 is my new episodic fiction project, which debuts this Friday (Jan. 31). It’s a sci-fi/supernatural thriller series about a group of 33 misfits tasked with thwarting a cabal of baddies keen to jumpstart the apocalypse. It’s The A-Team meets The X-Files, with a dash of Hellboy and Global Frequency added for apocalyptic spice.

Whew!

So how was it? In short, go get it immediately. While it’s a bit of a mystery why it begins the way it does, we don’t start with anyone’s idea of a slow buildup of action or background. We jump in with both feet. This must be a Hutch thing. It’s sort of like starting the first book of Seventh Son: Descent with “The President of the United States is dead. He was murdered in the morning sunlight by a four-year-old boy.” Pramantha begins in similarly dramatic fashion. I was left at the end of the story wondering how the beginning connected, but I’m sure all will be revealed in due course.

This part of the story introduces us to the 33, (or at least, a few of them), just as one of its newest members learns about this secret anti-apocalyptic organization. They don’t deal with things as mundane as religious fanatics and airplane hijackings. Their stakes are higher. A more mismatched group of misfits would be harder to find. With such varied backgrounds and appearances, it’s hard to see how these people are going to interact, much less work together to foil whatever plot they’re assigned to foil, but that’s just the beginning of what I’m sure will unfold in the coming months. For instance, what are their secrets? What was the deal they made with their mysterious…boss? Benefactor? Blackmailer? Clearly, this series has, and will have, lots of layers. Kind of like ogres, except maybe not so nice as the PixR type ogres.

While this first installment is self-contained, as in “Things happen, and there’s a good stopping point”, remember that this is the first part of a four-part story, which will be released a month at a time. You’re not going to get resolution at the end of this installment. There isn’t even a whole bunch of action yet. But this story lays the groundwork and gives us a small glimpse of what lies ahead, should we follow these five maybe odd characters. And what lies ahead promises to be very, very interesting.

You can find out more about the series and buy your own copy of the story in either Ebook or audio format by visiting this page, And if you really did miss the Seventh Son books (really, it was a total of five), along with other original fiction, on this page.


Initial Review of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX

Posted by Buddy Brannan on January 28th, 2014 filed in Uncategorized
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Last month, I wrote up a review of the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX for the Serotek blog. You can read it here.


Rebuttal to Things Guys Always Lie About

Posted by Buddy Brannan on November 12th, 2013 filed in Uncategorized
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I got this article off Twitter: “Things Guys Always Lie About”. Well, the title should have tipped me off, because when something says “Always” or “Never”, it’s usually just a thing to draw you in. I guess it works, because, even knowing this, I clicked the link anyway. Predictably, I have issues. Here are my reactions as I read them; I already have issues with the first three.

15) Strippers don’t do anything for me. Well…OK, so why would you go see them then? I actually think she’s got a point on this one. Except, well, strippers really don’t do anything for me. Mostly because, well, you can look but you can’t touch. Ah well. Next?

14) The dreaded question: Does this make me look fat? That this question is on the list at all is totally, completely unfair. As the author rightly points out, we can’t win on this one. Because if it does and we say so, we get in trouble. If it does and we lie, well, we’re lying. If it doesn’t and we say so, we’re suspected of lying. Don’t ask this one. ever. For the record, I’ll just probably say, “Hell if I know.” So I’m safe. But still. Don’t ask. Ever.

13) I never view adult web sites. Well, I actually don’t. Would I if I could? Maybe. Do I read the occasional steamy story? Damn skippy! But mostly to laugh at them, although, admittedly, not always.

12) I’m an integral member of my company. I can’t even bullshit a resume, so the likelihood I’d try to impress anyone with what I do for a living, or how much sway/importance/clout I have at my place of employ is pretty low. I don’t know how common this really is, but I can tell you right off that it’s not my thing at all.

11) I love you too. See, the biggest problem I have with this kind of article is this right here. They make guys all look like massive dicks. True, some are. Maybe a lot are. Maybe a lot just say that to get into a woman’s panties, or because they want to avoid conflict (and I suspect many if not most women would expect the former more than the latter). But it’s not always so, and I’m really kind of offended at the assertion that men always lie about this. It’s another one of those things that we just can’t win on. You know, men supposedly don’t express emotions well. True, some don’t. But if one of us does, he’s lying because, you know, men only want one thing. Right? No. Not right at all. Next?

10) I’m 6’2”. See, I just don’t understand this one. Lying about your physical appearance, either by adding height or subtracting weight or whatever just seems kinda stupid to me. If you never plan on meeting the person, I guess you can keep up the charade, but if you ever do meet, the jig is up, and you’re exposed for being a schmuck. This is what you do when you’re 14. This is not what you do when you’re a grown up. It’s also not the exclusive purview of males. Sorry, just sayin’.

9) I swear that’s the number of people I’ve been with. Yeah, what she says here. But really, why would you ask that in the first place? What, do you want a list? You wanna compare notes? I don’t get it.

8) Of course I don’t think (of insert your friend’s name) like that. Can’t win, but seriously, first, why are you asking? Are you really that insecure? Also though, I think maybe there’s a way for him to express that he find someone else attractive, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to A) do something about that, or B) that it really matters anyway, because he’s with you and not the person about whom you’re inquiring. Well, unless he is, but then you’ve got bigger problems.

7) I have so many interests. Again, offensive to the max. Are you saying that men are just super one-dimensional beings who just are interested in TV and farting? Maybe some are, but some aren’t. It will become pretty clear whether a guy’s interests go beyond TV and farting, but to assume he’s lying if he says that they do is kind of crappy on your part. Why bother then? Now excuse me, because there’s this TV show I need to watch. Oh man, that was a good one. I wonder what would happen if I lit it?

6) I swear I’m 23. Yep. Not just limited to the guys. I’m just a freak of nature I guess, because I have no problem with my age. Hell, I worked hard to get here, and I earned every year, every gray hair, all of it. Would I want to be young again? Hell no! I already did that once. It was a pain in the ass some ways…why repeat it?

5) Oh honey, I’m huge. Umm. Why? Seriously, it’s like the height thing. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

4) Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine. Again, not exclusive to the guys. I’ve been on the receiving end of that a time or two in my life, as well as being on the other end. Sometimes, though, it isn’t that we don’t want to talk about it, it’s just that right then isn’t a great time. Sometimes I really don’t know what’s wrong, or how to express it, or especially how to express it in 25 words or less. Maybe we should all learn to say “I’ll talk to you about it later”, “Now isn’t a great time”, “I really don’t know”, or something more appropriate? But this really isn’t just the guys, and we all know that 68.5% of statistics are made-up on the spot anyway.

3) I can’t wait to visit your parents this weekend. I really can’t imagine saying this. That is all.

2) I love working out. Umm. Yeah. And also sitting on the sofa with the TV and farting. Yes. Well. Which is it? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or the…whatever it is that people eat that isn’t pudding. I was about to say, “What, are we 15?”, but I know that there awesome women who emphatically would answer “Yes!” to this question.

1) We’ll talk about it later. See the one a couple of paragraphs ago. So maybe some people would say that this is tied to that. The thing is, if I say “We’ll talk about it later”, I probably mean that at the time. “Later” may just not come because I’ll forget. I have a pretty short attention span. But if I say “Later”, I, at least, generally mean that and not “Screw you, go away, I don’t want to talk about it.” If I don’t want to talk about something, I’ll generally say that.

I’d like to see the companion “Things Women Always Lie About” piece.


I gotta pay how much to use Facebook?!

Posted by Buddy Brannan on July 3rd, 2013 filed in Assistive Technology, Computing, Opinion
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Today, GW Micro announced a new product called SocialEyes. This is a piece of software that is meant to give blind Windows users a more accessible, consistent interface to Facebook and all of its features. As you can imagine, discussion of this new offering on the GW-Info Email list was quite heated, both for and against. Some people said that it was ridiculous to charge for access to Facebook, and it would be well to just include better Web support in Window-Eyes to begin with, while others said that those guys should be grateful for the work that GW is doing and quit their gritching. This is a somewhat simplified accounting of the discussion, but it’s the usual sort of thing. Find below my contribution to the discussion.

Hi,

My comments about product naming aside, I guess for better or worse, I’m weighing in, too.

OK, GW Micro asks what people want to see better access to. Consumers (you and me, except I didn’t) respond. GW listens. This is excellent, actually, since GW Micro listened to the needs and wants of their users and put something together to accommodate.

But it’s too expensive! Sighted people don’t have to pay $50 to use Facebook.

Neither do you. What you do have the option to pay for is something to make using Facebook more convenient. You can choose to have that convenience, or not. Yes, convenience. You know those little stores on the corner? Like 7-11, Circle K, Diamond Scamrock, places like that? They’re called “Convenience stores”, and their prices are generally higher than similar or identical goods in a big box store or grocery store. Why? You’re paying for the convenience of not having to go all the way to a grocery store, search the shelves, and get what you want. You’re paying for the convenience of a short drive and a quick nip into the store for a gallon of bread and a loaf of milk. In similar fashion, subscribing to this app, or the Socializer in SAMNet, or GW Connect, can be viewed in a similar way.

Beyond that though, full disclosure. It’s no secret that I work for another AT company, I’m fairly sure that most people probably know which one. Even so, I’m a Window-Eyes user. I’m also an NVDA user. And, of course, a System Access user. And a Mac user. And an iPhone user. And to a limited extent, a Chromebook user. Yep. Fingers in lots of pies. Anyway, all that to say, I have some idea of what goes into making some of this stuff go, especially as concerns things like keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of things like Facebook, things that change on seemingly nothing more than a whim. Keepin up with that takes people. People gotta eat. In our current system of doing things, this means money, and that’s got to come from somewhere. If this was a do once and forget it kind of deal, that would be fantastic, but it’s not. Anyone who’s ever looked at the Facebook site from month to month, even week to week, knows that. So if the product is needed, and enough people see the value in it, it will get bought and maintained and succeed. If not, it will fail, and the developers will go off and do something else for a while. Pretty simple. TANSTAAFL and all that.

Someone, or someones, mentioned NVDA. NVDA is fantastic. It’s well done, it’s matured nicely, it does lots of great things, and it’s free. Let’s be clear though, NVDA is free software in the GNU definition of free. This means that you have the freedom to redistribute it, to modify it, to share your modifications. It also happens to be no cost, or “free as in beer”, but it doesn’t have to be in order to be “free software”. But I digress somewhat.

You’ll note that development of NVDA, even though it’s free, takes money as well. Some of this money is had through grants from big companies. These grants, to some extent, likely also drive the direction it goes (i.e. it will have better support for Adobe Reader because Adobe threw money at them). Some of this money comes from you, the end user, which is why you are asked to donate every time you update. You can choose to, or not, but understand that someone, somewhere, has to pay something. Even if no on pays anything, the developers pay in cost of their time, which could be spent doing something that did pay them. TANSTAAFL, again.

Would I like everything to be free and work for us without any extra effort? Damn skippy I would. In my ideal world, we wouldn’t need companies like GW Micro, Serotek, Freedom Giantific, and the rest, because access would be built in, would not be an afterthought, and would work 100% of the time for all populations who need it. Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality, and it likely will never be the reality. Sure, it’s a lot better now. The fact that we’re even entertaining this discussion, that we can even think about expecting such access, would have been unheard of five years ago. It will likely get even better in the future, and a day when universal access is the norm rather than the exception seems likely to me. (This will present its own set of problems, but this post is long enough already.) And anyway, that day isn’t here yet.

So, yeah. Buy it if it’s useful and convenient for you. Don’t if it isn’t. It’s really pretty simple. Even though I have the Socializer, and even though I use lots of other things, it is likely that I’ll buy it myself, if for no other reason than to have another option, because it’s convenient.


Words That Sound Alike But aren’t

Posted by Buddy Brannan on June 19th, 2013 filed in Just Stuff, Opinion
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Just posted the below to a blindness-related buy/sell/trade list. People were asking to see it, so here it is…

 

Hi,

Sorry, this is bugging me a little, and I’d really like for people to put their best foot forward. Like it or not, people judge you by the words you use, so it’s probably a good idea to use the right ones, so people don’t misjudge you.

If you’re selling something, that item is “for sale”. That’s s-a-l-e. You may have something to sell, that’s s-e-l-l, and the item you’d like to sell is for sale, that’s s-a-l-e. Of course, you can have a boat for s-a-i-l (well,OK, s-a-i-l-i-n-g, but only if it doesn’t have a motor).

So, I’d like to sail my boat, which I’d like to sell, and I’ll have it for sale at the end of its sailing voyage, but the sail is not included in the sale, sorry. This should make its selling price lower than if I included the sail in the sale. Confused yet? Isn’t English wonderful?


A Note of Thanks to Amazon

Posted by Buddy Brannan on May 8th, 2013 filed in Assistive Technology, Computing, Opinion
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I just sent the following note to Amazon, and hopefully it goes to the right place. Last time I sent a note to them about Kindle, it was a lot less happy than this one.

You can send your own feedback to kindle-feedback@amazon.com . Please do, actually. Here’s mine.

Hi,

It’s been a week, and I’ve been remiss.

I’ve been remiss in expressing my sincere thanks for the accessibility improvements for blind readers that have been made in the latest version of the Kindle app for iOS. I’m sure that you’ve seen the excitement surrounding this, and I hope you’ve gotten many notes of appreciation and thanks.

Since I connected to the Internet for the first time 22 years ago (yes, really), I have seen that the Internet could,and would, afford more access to more information to people with print disabilities than we’ve ever had. This has been true, in spite of many artificial barriers that we’ve had to conquer from time to time. But even with as much access to information, not to mention pleasure reading, that we’ve had due to having open and ubiquitous access to the Internet, we knew that there was still much that was off limits to us. Now, with ebooks surpassing print books in popularity, this is a new world. The Amazon Kindle app becoming usable for print disabled iPhone users, it is safe to say without any danger of hyperbole, truly is the beginning of our information age. This is to us a bit like Gutenberg’s printing press, where we have books available to us on a scale that was absolutely unheard of two weeks ago. Even better, it is technologically possible for us to have these books in braille or synthesized speech or large print, as our needs dictate. (The high cost of braille displays is another matter that needs addressed, but I won’t address that here.)

It’s true that we want, and need, access to hardware Kindle devices, not to mention Kindle on other supported platforms, for the field to be truly level. With this recent release, I feel confident that Amazon will indeed deliver on this need. Had you asked me two weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been so confident, but I’m glad that you guys took the time to do it right, instead of hurrying to do it right now. Here’s hoping for more in this vein, although hopefully in a shorter time. I, for one, would love to whip out a Kindle full of books, although, I must admit, I’m very content with a phone full of Kindle.

If you’d like to read my thoughts on the NFB press release about the release (obviously, I have some, and they don’t seem to agree with it by much), you can do so here:

http://buddy.brannan.name/blog/2013/05/amazon-kindle-accessibility-what/


Amazon Kindle Accessibility: What?!

Posted by Buddy Brannan on May 3rd, 2013 filed in Assistive Technology, Computing, Opinion
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This week, the blind and visually impaired community got a surprise, one that we’ve been waiting for for a long time, and one that, it’s safe to say, most of us weren’t expecting. (This would be why it was a surprise, right?) Amazon announced that its Kindle app for iOS now had new accessibility features, thus making the app usable by blind and visually impaired iPhone users. They also promise improvements to accessibility on their other platforms. You can read about it at this link. I downloaded the app, with a great deal of excitement and anticipation I might add, and it appears to be everything they say it is, with access to not only the reading of books, but also highlighting, Emailing excerpts, notes, looking up words in the dictionary, and searches. In short, this app seems to have done it right, rather than doing it fast.

The day after Amazon’s announcement, I got an Email from this press release. I thought I was responding to an Email list–it was early still, and I was still waking up, but I instead seem to have Emailed instead to either the NFB’s other PR person or to the guy that runs iBooks and the Nook reader from Barnes and Noble. I think, though haven’t looked in a while, that it may well be better than KNFB’s own Blio, which should probably embarrass somebody. So, specifically, what improvements would we suggest?

In this Email, I neglected to mention Kobo or Google Play books, both of which have at least some access features, or at least, work to some extent with commending of a far inferior implementation in 2009, this current press release almost sounds angry that Amazon did anything about the problem.

I’ve played a bit with this newly accessible Kindle app, and it’s good. It was done right. Where’s the acknowledgement of that? Why commend a half-baked effort that is unsuitable for more than the most casual reading on one hand, but practically spit at a stellar example of what can be done on the other? Could it be because Amazon did it without asking for the NFB’s blessing or input first? In fact, it looks like they may not have asked for anyone’s input, as this came as a real bombshell of an announcement with no leaks.

Really, those of y’all in the national office, would a “Good work, guys, thanks” and virtual pat on the back really be that difficult? Would it hurt you so much? It would certainly do a lot to raise your PR standing in the community. Absolutely do not back away from the stance that access to Kindle on other platforms is necessary, even vital. Please don’t. Such access is critical, and we should not rest until we have it. I have no quarrel with that. But would some recognition of a good effort in which you did not have a hand really be so bad?

By way of full disclosure, I am an active member of the National Federation of the Blind. I have been one for over 20 years. Until a more effective membership organization that mirrors my own philosophy of blindness comes along, I expect to continue to be thus affiliated. That said, I fully expect that this post will not make me very popular among the leadership.

Update: The NFB’s technology center has published a review of the Kindle app, which you can read on the center’s blog. I think that the justifications for grading are fair, and I also believe the criticisms are equally fair. As I haven’t tested all these features myself, I have no reason to argue with their findings. I may well have weighted things differently, and I might have been a bit more forgiving for this being their first run at it. I may not, too. At any rate, I have no quarrel with the review, and if Amazon endeavors to improve the accessibility features they’ve implemented, we’ll all be better for it. Watch this space, I guess.

Even so, I stand by my opinion that the tone of the press release could have been more positive and supportive of these initial efforts on the iOS platform, long time in coming though they are.

Update #2: 05/07/2013:

Here’s a link to a different take on how Amazon did with implementing accessibility features. This review is much more positive, and it doesn’t seem to have run into the same problems that the NFB technology center did in their review. While some might say I’m waffling, I also have no quarrel with this review, think its points are also valid, and believe that it was conducted in good faith and as objectively as possible, excitement over access to over a million titles notwithstanding. It’s certainly possible that the reading experience differs between iPad and iPhone, where bugs may exist in one and not the other, and there may also be problems with braille display driver implementations or conflicts. I think all of us will be interested to see how more hardware combinations do with the new Kindle app.