20 November, 2007


This post was published to Technical Musings at 3:25:50 PM 11/20/2007




You might be wondering what this has to do with technology. If I could ask for your indulgence for a moment, I think you'll see the connection. For all of our friends outside the US, Thursday is a national holiday. November 25th is Thanksgiving Day. This day is supposed to commemorate the day the pilgrims (Puritans) shared a peaceful meal when the native population after a rough winter. For me, Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate my life and to look for ways to bring the same hope and encouragement to others in my situation. Anyone who reads my blog will know that I am greatly concerned with making a difference in the world. Right now, the people of Bangladesh are in terrible pain. Tragic events there have separated families. Children are hungry and dying. When we look at the devastation there, we might think, "There's nothing I can do. It's so far away." With so much turmoil there, it is difficult to know where to begin. Television cameras and other broadcasting technology have however, made us aware of the problem. And technology may provide a partial solution. We may not be able to go to remote countries to assist those in need personally, but we can and must do something. Go to the Red Cross website, to see what can be donated. If Bangladesh seems too far way, begin here at home. Get your local church, synagogue, mosque, or, community group to crochet, knit, or, collect hats, scarves, and, maintenance for the homeless and needy. Don't pretend we don't see them every day. Technology beams images of these people into our living rooms and what we as a society need to understand is that any one of us you one paycheck away from being in that situation. Did you know that one in 10 people had to choose between buying food and buying other daily necessities such as medications? What does that say about us both as people and as a nation? What kind of people do we want to be? I know, "I'd love to donate something, but I don't have money or time". While I'm proud to announce that beginning today, you do. You can simply go to the grocery store, buy extra roll of toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, or other nonfood items not covered by food stands and bring them to a nonfood pantry in your area. If you don't have a nonfood pantry in your area, talk to your local churches about being a drop-off point. It's these types is essential nonfood items that many people go without. What kind of technology do we have today? I know we've spent many hours discussing the benefits of technology for society, and I'm sure will spend many more. Right now though, we as a country; as people, have a decision to make. We have technology to help people in need, what are we going to use it? Are we so complacent; so convinced there's nothing we can do that we won't even try? Here's something simple you can do. Go to the Salvation Army website and make a small donation in your state. There, technology allows us to be charitable without leaving home. Still not enough? Unable to donate to the Salvation Army or other organization? Okay, try this. Right now, as you're sitting there surfing on the Internet, you could be feeding hungry people all over the world. You can do it without even leaving your computer chair. It doesn't require any money and there's no extensive amount of time necessary you can even get your children involved in this activity. What is it? Just go to freerice.com. As you increase your vocabulary, the sponsors of the website will donate rice to the UN to be distributed to needy countries. Currently correct answer you get, 10 grains of rice are donate it. The more vocabulary you know, the more you can donate. It's that simple. Yes, this is legit and for proof, you can go to CBS news, and look under the CBS evening news. If you know of any other programs or websites where people can make a difference during this time of need, please let me know. We have the technology to solve these problems and only by employing it correctly, can we truly make a great Thanksgiving for all. Please, remember to give thanks all year round.


Hi everyone. Sorry I've been away for so long. School has taken a lot of prep work. I finally registered for classes and by the time you read this, my MacBook Pro will probably be on its way. I will have a review of OS X .5 Leopards as soon as my Mac arrives. Needless to say, I am looking forward to it and I'm also looking forward to working with Parallels in order to run Windows and Mac OS simultaneously. There are a number of other exciting developments I'll be following, so stay tuned.

17 October, 2007

Why it's important

Well boys and girls, my classes are beginning January 14. The Visual Basic course is not being offered this semester, so I will have to take that in the following one. This semester I will be focusing on learning Java. Java is a wonderful programming language because it's platform-independent, meaning that the software you develop using it can be run on any computer. So I'm definitely looking forward to taking this class and the associated lab. Today's post, however, is not necessarily about computers.


For those of you; and I know who you are :-); who think that I only write about boring technical computer stuff, this post is for you. Through this post, I hope to demonstrate the positive impact technology has had upon my life. In doing so, hopefully you'll begin to get a better understanding of why these things are important to me. I'm not the kind of person who will blog about every technological development ever made, only those that solve my problems for me and others like me. So with that, let's begin.


The world I live in is very different to most of you. Most of us develop limitations as we get older, as our muscles get weaker `with age. My situation is different in that I was born with limitations caused by my CP. Through physical therapy, I have developed my muscles and I am training the undamaged part of my brain to take over functions that are difficult and complex such as standing and balancing. Since walking is not my primary mode of transportation, I obviously need some way to get around and that, my friends, is where technology comes into play. I have a power wheelchair that enables me to get around. I know, "yeah, so what?" Yes, of course we say that now but consider for a moment... what did it take to develop the electric wheelchair that is so commonplace today? It actually takes some very sophisticated technology. Consider what a wheelchair is made out of these days. It's made out of aluminum and other lightweight alloys that were discovered where? That's right, they were employed by NASA for use in the space program other lightweight metals were developed by DuPont to improve cooking.. That's a practical example of technology at work to make lives better. Here's another.


Consider for a moment the method I'm using to post this blog entry. Do I type? Am I able to use a mouse for prolonged periods of time? Absolutely not! I use speech recognition. When I was in high school; actually beginning in grade school; my parents had to help me complete my nightly homework assignments by acting as scribes. They took my dictation. That was the only way I could complete the work that was required of me. If they hadn't been willing to do that, I would not have been able to go to school. So for those of you that think that science fiction is boring, consider the way I write to you today. Exactly what would my life be like without the ability to express my thoughts and ideas in such an efficient and independent manner? To be honest, we don't really know. What is certain is that we wouldn't want to know. I would probably be institutionalized, if not for my ability to get around and through my technology, making a positive contribution to the world around me.


Suppose that the artificial joint had not been invented. What would happen to your grandmother or grandfather when they had joint problems? What would happen to the returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom are amputees? If wheelchairs had also not been invented, people without full use of their limbs would be crawling in the streets. That includes me. Is this really the kind of world we would want? Not so boring now is it?


We all pray for a better world. That's wonderful because prayers are answered! I'm living proof of that. But if we're going to start solving problems for people, we have to care about it. We actually have to want to make a better world for everyone to live in. We've got to give dignity to all. We've got to start looking at technology as a means to help those around us. That's why it's important. Isn't that kind of world we really want? Don't we want to solve problems to make life better for those around us? I do and if you feel like me, you'll understand why I write this blog. Going to school and learning as many different programming languages as I can will enable me to get back to those who were kind enough to do the work that brought me independence. I want to develop software that addresses specific problems. That's why technology's important to me.

19 September, 2007

IPhone: the price drop and Doing the Right Thing

Okay, I know. There are a lot of angry iPhone customers out there. For those of you that don't know me personally, I'm not made of money either. I bought the iPhone because it addresses a very specific problem for me. There is no way I could use any other cell phone on the market without great difficulty. I have cerebral palsy and therefore, I also have coordination problems. The touch screen means that I don't need to dial any numbers to get help immediately. I tap a name and that's it. I don't need to remember long phone numbers anymore because with the iPhone, they don't exist. I keep phone numbers with my addresses in my e-mail contacts. I can then sync my iPhone via iTunes with my address book on my PC. So all I have to do to make a call is tap a name. That's the power of the iPhone. It's a huge step forward for someone like me because it means that I don't have to deal with small buttons. I have a 4 GB iPhone. Recently when Apple announced the new iPod lineup, something strange happened. After Mr. Jobs introduced the new iPod nano, shuffle, and, the iPod classic, he introduced the iPod touch. What is the iPod touch? The iPod touch is the iPod component of the iPhone and nothing else. That's right, it's an iPod that looks like an iPhone and utilizes the exact same touch screen interface. Steve Jobs also announced that Apple was dropping the price of the 8 GB iPhone by $200, bringing it to $399.

This friends, is where all the trouble began. But let's look at the circumstances surrounding this announcement. The iPod touch will come in two models (8 GB & 16 GB). So why are they dropping the price of the iPhone? It's simple. Jobs and company can hear the sound of sleigh bells. That's right, Christmas is coming. The iPod touch is priced at $299 for the 8 GB model. If Apple can say, "wait, for just an extra hundred dollars, you can have the easiest cell phone you've ever used" , that's a very attractive proposition. Since Apple has discontinued the 4 GB iPhone, it is also logical to assume that very shortly the company will be introducing a 16 GB phone that will most likely sell for between $499 and $599. Do I think it was a big price drop? Yes, of course I do. I can however, see what Apple is doing. And I think that as computer users, we are use to new product cycles every six months and frankly, that's not how the cell phone industry works at all. Their cell phone models do usually come out about every two months. Would I like to have a larger capacity iPhone? Naturally I would. Given time, I will but this does not detract from the fact that my current iPhone is fulfilling the purpose for which I bought it. Yes, I love the iPod in the iPhone and I would love to be able to import more songs and movies on to it but ultimately, I need the phone as a phone. The last time I checked, my home phone does not have a 4 GB iPod attached to it. Does yours? If it does, I want to hear about that :-)! Perhaps one of the reasons that Apple's announcement caught people off guard is that we seem to have a rather odd perception of this company. We think that because they're smaller than Microsoft, they must be "on our side". Let's be clear. Choice drives innovation. It is therefore; good that Apple does things differently than Microsoft. In the end though, they are a company and like all companies, they need to make a profit to stay in business. Apple is doing the right thing by offering a $100 Apple store gift certificate to early adopters.

06 September, 2007

Mac me up, Scotty. There's no intelligent lapttops down here.

Well folks, the time has come for me to begin thinking about returning to the halls of academiia in pursuit of my eventual masters in adaptive technology. For those of you asking, "exactly what is that", adaptive technology involves both the development of new applications and, the implementation and adaptation of existing computers and software technology to assist those with disabilities. Perfect job for me, right? I agree but in order to facilitate my academic aspirations, I'm going to need a notebook computer. Naturally because of my disability, any portable computer I use must meet specific requirements in order to run the specialized speech software needed. I also wanted a rugged notebook: something that would stand up to any little mishaps my coordination problems might visit upon it. It's wonderful having CP, boys and girls :-)! For those of you that don't know what it's like, I basically rent space in my body. Just because I occupy my body does not mean I have constant control ovver it or its muscles. The brain injury, due to lack of oxygen at birth, sometimes causes my body to move in ways I don't intend. That brings me back to the choice of notebook. I've looked at "toughbooks", which are notebooks that can be used in areas which would be dangerous to normal laptops, such as construction sites. These notebooks are extremely well-made and are designed to withstand almost anything: water, dropping, being run over, etc.. The price is astronomical, however, making it an unfeasible option for my purposes. So what did I decide to do? Well, I'm buying a Mac! Can I get a " hallelujah " from the Mac crowd? This should prove once and for all to everyone that Apple is a company I watch, love, and, respect. Does this mean I'm abandoning Windows? Not at all. I have a Windows Vista media Center PC at home with an Xbox 360 that takes the recorded TV shows from my media Center and streams them via my home network to my living room. I therefore cannot give up Windows, nor would I want to. For college however, my needs are somewhat different. I need a durable laptop that can run Windows applications. I need a laptop with the appropriate amount of RAM preinstalled. Upgrading hardwarre on a portable PC is nearly impossible, owing to the size of the components in question.

So why a Mac? The Macbook Pro is made of aluminum and glass, not plastic. This makes it somewhat more durable than the ordinary laptop. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that the MacBook could withstand everything in the world, just that it's a little more durable than some of its counterparts. They are Intel-based PCs, as are all Macs these days. This means that they are capable of running Windows when necessary through either a program included with the Mac called "Boot Camp",, or, a program called "Parallels (sold separately). With "Boot Camp", you are given a choice at start up of whether you want the computer to boot into Windows or, OS X. "Parallels" is somewhat different in that it allows you to run both operating systems simultaneously. This gives you access to both your Windows applications and, those on OS X. So obviously, I will be using "Parallels". I would point out that although the Mac can run Windows, you could not legally run the Mac OS on a PC. This infuriates me at times, but that's another blog entry. The choice of running both Windows applications and native Mac applications opens up a world of possibilities. I don't see any reason why we should have to choose between types of computers. I've always been intrigued by OS X and I like the basic concepts behind the operating system. At the same time, as I previously stated above, I cannot make an "either/or" decision. Therefore, the MacBook Pro offers me the best of both worlds. The MacBook Pro also comes standard with 2 GB of RAM preinstalled. I intend to try to get four gigabytes of RAM, if I can afford it. If you're still wondering why I would go to a Mac, the iPhone proved something not only to me, but to the rest of the world. The iPhone reminded people that at any moment, Any company could come up with something that changes the way we look at everything. The MacBook Pro has certainly done it for me. I will be getting more information on my experience with this notebook in October, when I'm actually able to purchase it.

03 August, 2007

Giving People Dignity

Today as our nation stands as one grieving, hoping, and praying for those in Minnesota, I need to talk about something very near and dear to my heart. Many of you may not understand why I write this blog. I began writing because we live in a nation that promises dignnity for all. We live in a country that says, "if you work hard you can achieve anything." The reality of this country is however, somewhat different to that dream.

There are homeless people on the streets. There are people with cancers of all types who suffer daily. There are people like myself who are willing to work; willing to make a difference in the world but whose physical limitations are seen by society as an excuse for this country and others not to expect anything from its citizens with disabilities and that my friends, is what gives us our disabilities in the first place. And that's why although I have cerebral palsy, I was not born with any "disability" but rather, was placed at a disadvantage because of a lack societal expectations for people like me. "We'll give you money every month as long as we're not expected to help you do anything with your life." That's the general attitude of our country and many others. You want a good economy? Give people the tools necessary to contribute to that economy. My friends, we are a potentially great people. The creativity of the human race is astounding! Today I ask you, if we aren't taking care of each other; aren't trying to make the world better than it was when we got here, what are we doing?

We know that there's a hole in the ozone layer that's making it difficult for people to breathe. We know it's impacting our entire ecosystem and what, I ask you, are we doing about it? Nothing! You see, to me technology isn't about the latest operating system or the coolest new gadget.! It's about solving problems! What are we doing about the environment? Nothing! We know we could make hybrid cars mandatory, but we are far too concerned about profit. And this attitude is prevalent throughout society regardless of the problem in question. Don't believe me?

We knoww that there are not enough support staff to take care of the elderly and people like myself in the coming years and what are we doing about that? Nothing! We allow people to go into nurrsing homes at the age of 25 if necessary so that we do not haave to deal with spending the money to solve the problem. Dignity is not profitable. What are we doing about the elderly and people in my situation? Nothing! We know that investments in robotics could provide new treatments for people with disabilities and while there are places of ongoing research surrounding this idea, generally, what are we doing about this? Nothing! Need another example of our lack of concern for those in need?

May I direct your attention to Minnesota? There are bridges that have collapsed. We knew that they were in trouble and who do we see about that? How do we stand up and say that we're not going to allow this kind of thing anymore? We need to remind our elected officials that they are just that, elected officials. The people in power both locally and in Washington, work for the American people. What does all this have to do with technology? The point is that we have the technological and financial resources available to solve almost any problem. Sometimes I wonder if we truly have the willpower.

I write about technology to demonstrate to others what can happen when technological genius is applied to everyday problems. I'm not concerned with who makes money. I'm concerned with making the world better until something better comes along. That's the only way that there will ever be dignity for all.

21 July, 2007

IPhone goodness

Okay, before you write this post off as another fan boy review, let's get a few things straight. I'm not a fan boy of anything. I don't care who makes your computer: it's still a computer. I write this blog because I believe that we need to start looking at technology as a tool to address our limitations. By the way, we all have limitations whether we were born with them or not. My interest in technology is not to say, "this company is better than that company". I'm far more interested in looking at a particular problem such as my inability to dial a traditional cell phone without making my fingers scream for mercy, figuring out the best solution to address my problem and then, getting the appropriate software and/or hardware in place. I don't choose a wheelchair based on who the manufacturer is! I buy a chair because after doing my research; and that's important; the particular model I finally choose is the most appropriate one for my daily living. We really need to get to a point where we choose PCs the same way. I have cerebral palsy, as most of you know and consequently, I run a large mixture of devices and software. Some of it's from Microsoft, and some is from Apple and likewise, some of my most important software is from companies that neither Apple nor Microsoft may not have heard of. And that's the way it should be. Always remember that PCs whether they run Windows or OS X, should do what you the consumer need them to. If you tried to reverse that, everything falls apart. Therefore, it's not about company loyalty. It's about solving problems efficiently and getting things done in a way that makes sense for each individual user. Now class, does anyone actually remember what the term PC stands for? Anyone... anyone...? Personal computer. If the device/computer/operating system you're using right now doesn't work for you, you need to do two things.
1. Research what works the way you would like to.
2. Demand better software. Really take the time to think about what you'd like your software to do and exactly in what manner you would like to achieve that. Be specific and tell the PC manufacturers/software giants your ideas. They really do want constructive feedback. Most importantly though, remember, these devices are supposed to be designed to make you and I more productive in the ways that We need them to. Not all devices/computers/operating systems work best for all people. But today, I'd like to discuss one device that has made a difference to me: the iPhone.

I have been using this device for a little while now andI could go into great detail about why it's easier than any other traditional cell phone I've tried, but I think the best way to really make the point is with a little story. I wake up one morning; morning ritual of checking e-mail after getting out of bed and surfing the tech news sites as breakfast is being prepared by my morning PCA (personal care assistant) when, something on the Apple site catches my eye. Steve Jobs keynote from MacWorld is available on demand. So after I finish all my morning activities such as dressing, eating, and of course, visiting the restroom, my staff person can leave for the morning and I am free to watch the keynote. I make it a point to always watch keynotes and product launches from both Microsoft and Apple or for those of you that like to quibble over semantics, Apple and Microsoft :-). So I'm expecting Steve to discuss the latest iMac or PowerBook and what's he talking about instead? A cell phone. Okay," I thought, "Apple is going to release another cell phone that I will never be able to use." Then, Steve begins to describe the user interface saying, "we're going to touch this with our fingers". I was intrigued. Then he demoed the device. It wasn't the touch screen iPod that sold me, although that's awesome. It wasn't the SMS messaging that sold me. Why would I use any kind of keyboard ever?! Being able to flick through photos with your finger is pretty cool, but that's not what sold me. You want to know what sold me on the iPhone? I'm sure it will surprise you :-). It's the ability to make calls without ever having to dial a phone number.My particular case of CP impacts my dexterity and fine motor control and as a result, dialing a long number is extremely difficult. When I saw Steve make a phone call in about three taps of his finger, I was hooked. I knew this was an answer from abovve. I call my mother at her work immediately to share my excitement. She diddn't quite understand exactly what I was talking about the next day when she came to help me in the afternoon, I showed her the keynote. I was all set to try to explain why this device was going to be helpful when after we had been watching the presentation for a few moments, she turned to me saying, "you'd better save up to get one because you need it." Those of you who don't know my mother may not understand that she's not like me. I understand technology at a very high level she understands why some technology can be helpful, she usually requires that I explain why and exactly how it will be helpful to me. Not so with the iPhone. And I have to tell you, that's amazing.

So how is the phone in reality? Wonderful. Be careful not to assume that because I said it's wonderful that it's also perfect. We do after all, need something to shoot for in version 2.0 :-). If you're blind, at the moment, you're not really going to be able to use the iPhone. That will come, I'm sure. Apple does make one of the best integrated screen reading systems I've seen in the opeerating system. It's called voice over, and it's included with OS X. so I don't think it will be too long before we see some kind of implementation of the same technology on the iPhone. The phone is TTY compatible with an adapter (purchased separately through the Apple store). The touch screen is terrific. I can't speak for everyone with cerebral palsy because it impacts everyone differently but for me, the iPhone is able to interpret my gestures nearly perfectly. Most of the "buttons" are large and friendly and easy to tap and over time, because the buttons are all virtual, I believe we will see some way to make them even larger for those that need such things. In the meantime, iPhone 1.0 is a promising beginning that is changing the way I use a cell phone. For the first time in my life, I have been able to set up my own voicemail on a cell phone. I'm musing about 90% of the applications available on the phone which is, light years ahead of what I did on my old phone. There, I used about .1% of the phone capabilities because the buttons which were physical button, were so smaall! The iPhone is different. It's not perfect. It's not fair that those who are blind can't use the phone now, for instance! But the phone is so simple and so elegant to use. It works the way I think about computers and mobile devices. When I think of computers and other smart devices, I do not visualize myself interacting with them using a keyboard and mouse. That's just not the way I work. I may have trouble pushing tiny little plastic buttons on most cell phones, but the iPhone allows me to just tap the one finger; it doesn't matter which finger; to get everything I need. II do have two important complaints about the iPhone, and here they are.

1.the virtual keyboard does work well for a keyboard, but why is there a keyboard at all? Apple spent all this time developing a beautiful touch screen interface and yet... you still have to use a keyboard (albeit virtual) for e-mail? Why?? Where is the dictation engine for e-mail? They say iPhone runs OS X. Okay boys and girls, if the iPhone does indeed run OS X, where is the speech recognition for e-mail? I realize that the "Apple speakable items" is only for command-and-control speech recognition, but my point still stands.

2.the iPhone cost $499 for the 4 GB model. That of course, doesn't include the two-year contract with AT&T. The 8 GB model is $599. Again, that's before a two-year service agreement. The iPhone is a very important device and whether the initial version in usable to you or not, the innovations introduced in the phone will impact everything. I believe that this is the most user-friendly mobile phone (for consumers) ever made. But if we're going to get it to people with disabilities like myself, over all, the price of the unit needs to come down.
The iPhone does work as advertised. It does so even for me for the most part without mistakes. And I know that because this is the initial release, the software will only get better from here.

06 July, 2007

IPhone: my expectations

Well, I did it. I ordered my iPhone. I am so excited by this product and at the moment though I'm also a little annoyed. I'm not annoyed with Apple at all. They've made a great product. Yes, it is fair to say that this is a first-generation iPhone and so as with all these things, there will be further advancements in each subsequent generation. I'm annoyed by the mainstream press. I hear people saying, "Oh, there's not a "real" keyboard on the iPhone, so you can't type the way you should. Why do we live in a society that is populated by people who insist on injuring themselves by trying to type on devices that are so small and impractical to be used for that purpose? Let me ask you something. Would you consider trying to send a text message on your telephone at home? No, of course not. You'd use your computer. I hear some of you saying, "Yeah, but I need to be able to check my e-mail when I'm not near my computer." Fair enough, but if you can afford the over $5-$600 price tag for an iPhone, you can certainly afford to buy a laptop/notebook. Why do I hate the idea of text messaging on a phone? Here's the thing. As someone who has seen far too often what carpal tunnel and other disfiguring ailments can do, I'm against using any device that will perpetuate that. Speech recognition works! It's real and any notebook that you buy today can run speech recognition software in most cases. If you want to use your cell phone to do text messaging, that's fine. But unless you use something that is speech driven, it's never going to be an ideal experience. It's going to be difficult at times and you will eventually get arthritis or carpal tunnel from doing that! It's that simple. As I've said before, speech recognition is not perfect. But it will learn and adapt with proper use and correction. We really need to stop expecting devices like cell phones in their current form factors to be suitable for e-mail. They're never going to be as nice or as comfortable as a PC or Mac, period.

So what are my expectations for the iPhone? Why am I getting one? It's simple. I have difficulty dialing a regular phone but, I can simply tap on a name and dial the number. That's what's important to me about the iPhone and that alone, could save me from harm when I'm outside. The iPod is also really cool and I hear a lot of people complaining that it doesn't have enough storage capacity. Okay, I will admit that it could be a little bigger when it comes to storage size, but consider that each of my Old Time Radio shows are ripped at 48 kb a second, which is more than adequate for something that was not originally produced in stereo. These files are typically 26 to 29 minutes in length and are between 10 and 15 MB in size, depending on the file format you use. Even audio books are perfectly acceptable at 48 kb a second, which means on a 4 GB iPhone I can dedicate two GB to iPod media and still have plenty of room.

Am I saying that the iPhone is perfect? Of course I'm not saying that. Inevidetably when I get it, I will notice things that I would like to change. Will I be doing any Internet surfing with the iPhone? In a pinch, I suppose I could browse my bookmarks, but there's no way I'll be using the iPhone as an alternative to browsing the web.

04 June, 2007

Someone at Microsoft must want an iPhone. Microsoft Surface announced.

If you haven't, please read my last entry on the iPhone. If it wasn't made clear by that entry, I am very impressed with the iPhone! With the small addition of a simple to purchase waterproof sleeve to protect the touchscreen, the iPhone shouldn't be just a solution I need to alleviate the problems I encounter in using a cell phone. Hallelujah! :-)

Also in my previous entry, I discussed Microsoft's plans for the telephone of the future. Recently, Microsoft announced a breakthrough in touch computing technology that will enable such devices as the phone I just mentioned. This is a technology that the software giant has dubbed Microsoft Surface. Surface is an amazing to see. It's a touch technology that can be built into a desk, a table or any other surface of the kind. Presumably, this is where Microsoft got the name. Original little buggers, aren't they? :-) surface will change how easily people can interact with computers. Why do we need a new way to interact with our PCs?

Anyone who has been working in an office for several years can answer this question. Anyone with fine motor problems can answer this question. Anyone with arthritis or carpal Connell or repetitive stress injury in their hands knows the answer to this question. Keyboards caused pain. It's that simple! But Microsoft Surface isn't just about providing another tablet PC like user interface. The tablet PC is still based on an operating system (Windows) that was originally designed to be used with the keyboard. Surface represents as Monty Python would say, "something completely different". What makes it so different? Surface is aware of physical objects. For example if you put down a paintbrush on the desk or table enabled with this technology, it knows what it is. It looks at the object and sets to itself, "oh, this is a paintbrush. You most want to do some artwork. So I'll provide a clear surface and a color palette for you to use with this subject." So if you want to paint, all you have to do is touch the paintbrush to the table and began painting. Tired of that? You can use the same table or desk to do many other things. Don't take my word for it, watch these demos.

See what's coming? See why I'm so enthusiastic? If you think this is just some clever flash animation demo, Microsoft has been demonstrating Surface for a while. Most recently, they demonstrating at WinHEC

25 May, 2007

Cell phone problems. Apple providing a possible solution?

First, let me apologize for being gone for so long. I have been involved in several new beta projects which I'm not allowed to discuss at the moment. In addition, a slight accident with my wheelchair meant that I had to wait for my mouth to heal from nearly splitting my lip. During that time as you can imagine, it was very difficult to use my computer, as I could not talk well enough to utilize my speech recognition.
In any event, I'm back now and ready to begin posting once again.

Lately we've been focusing on Windows Vista. As things develop and I'm allowed to discuss the beta projects I've been helping with in more detail, we'll be covering Windows further. There are some potentially exciting developments in this area. For the moment however, it's time to turn our attention to Apple. Yes, I said Apple. Although it may be difficult to tell from this blog, I really do like Apple and its approach to computing. No, I'm not saying that they always have appropriate solutions for my situation, but their approach to what a computer should be is sometimes refreshing. More importantly, that approach influences the rest of the computer industry. One only has to look at how elegantly beautiful Windows Vista really is compared to say Windows 3.1 to see that Apple's influence is keenly felt.

Anyone reading this knows that the cell phone has revolutionized (sometimes for better and sometimes for worse) the way people communicate. I myself carry a cell phone when I go outside in case of situations like the one I mentioned at the top of this page. Cell phones are wonderful devices that have been made possible by the evolution of the microprocessor. Therein boys and girls, lies the issue with cell phones when it comes to accessibility. Microprocessors mean a micro-phone. Micro-phones mean big headaches for those of us with fine motor control problems. Sure, my cell phone is small enough to fit in my nasal cavity, but it's impossible to dial! Sure, the phone has the capability to do text messaging, but the keyboard is so small that you'd need to be a member of that famous cartoon singing group "the Chipmunks" in order to be able to send such a message successfully! At the Windows hardware engineering conference (WinHEC), Microsoft demonstrated the capabilities of tomorrow's telephones. If you're elderly, why should you have to look through a phone book to find what you need? The phone book really should be part of the phone. You should be able to go up to a large screen device and say literally, "I am looking for a plumber in my area. I'm willing to pay between X. and Y. Could you please provide me with a list?" After scanning the list and finding the one you'd like to call, you should just be able to touch the name on the screen and call that person. I know. I hear you saying, "it's just as easy to look it up." Wrong! It's not easy. If you have difficulty dialing a cell phone because of fine motor problems, you have no chance of using the phone book. Yellowbook.com is a good start, but it doesn't go far enough in alleviating the problem. So while Microsoft works out what to do about your telephone, Apple has a potential solution for the cell phone. That's right, it's the iPhone.

At MacWorld, Steve Jobs' keynote was primarily devoted to the iPhone. Why do I care about the iPhone? What's the big deal? The big deal is that this is unlike any cell phone available right now. The entire phone is a touchscreen. I can see some of you shrugging that off. But think for a moment. Think of the implications of that. If the entire device is a touchscreen, that means buttons that are actually easy to see! That means a contact list that's actually usable! Text messaging may still require to much dexterity for me to use effectively but just the promise of a usable cell phone is enough to get me excited. Still not sure why? Watch the introduction of the iPhone for yourself. Now as to how sensitive the screen will be, no one knows. It is possible that I'll have to use a stylus in conjunction with the phone to get the appropriate control. Either way, this is a great potential solution to a very real problem and I will certainly have more on this topic when the iPhone is released. In the meantime, I hope this entry shows that technology isn't just about computers. It's about solutions to everyday problems. And over the next few weeks, I'll be covering issues like this. So stay tuned.

20 March, 2007

Windows Vista and Speech Recognition

Hi, I'm back. It's Finally time for the long promised discussion on speech recognition.

What speech recognition is and is not.

Gene Roddenberry first introduced the general public to the notion of talking to computers in September of 1966. The crew of the Starship Enterprise enjoyed flawless voice driven interaction with the ship's computer. The system never made mistakes; required correction during the dictation of a log entry, or, seemed to need any special maintenance of any kind. It could be used by voice by many different people simultaneously. Those of you who know me, know that I'm into science fiction. You may not however, understand exactly why.

Growing up as someone with cerebral palsy, I had to face many limitations. Although I can paint and draw fairly well, my brain injury makes writing physically difficult, laborious, time consuming, and, eligible. My vision problem, which is also caused by my CP, makes driving a car both impractical and unsafe. The welfare system and social structures in place in our society today mean that our government neither expects or demands much from its disabled citizens. "As long as you just want to sit home and play with your Xbox and don't demand much out of life, we'll keep sending you money but don't expect much else from us in the way of help." This seems to be the general attitude of those in power. I assure you though, that this is only due to a lack of knowledge.

Star Trek and other shows like it show us the way things must become. In star trek for example, Geordi Laforge may be blind, but he has been provided with the appropriate technology to overcome his limitations. He wasn't expected to pay for it. The appropriate piece of technology was simply provided to him that might become a more productive member of society. Moreover, as chief engineer of the USS Enterprise D., Laforge is expected to perform his duties regardless of any limitations he might have had at birth. His crew mates expect this of him and he in turn demands this of himself. In the world of Star Trek, no one drives. They simply have a way to transport everyone safely and conveniently. In Doctor Who, if the Doctor meets someone with three heads and six arms, he's not going to say " oh god, you have three heads and six arms!" He's more likely to simply say " lovely to see you again. I haven't seen you in so long!" And that's why I watch science fiction. I'm not always interested in who's attacking our heroes this week. Although I do enjoy a good story, I'm interested in the technological and sociological messages behind these things. I don't mind telling you that I believe in miracles and I wait expectantly for the manifestation of life altering, liberating technologies.

When I was young, speech recognition was just such a technology; something to be reached for; a potential solution to my problems, but nothing more.

Today, we have speech recognition technology, but what is it really like? Does it match up to the vision holdout by Star Trek? We are getting there. Right now though, all speech recognition technology works by analyzing sound waves. It also to looks at the surroundings sentences and judges the statistical likelihood that certain words will appear next to each other. The effect of this is as if the system is playing charades. Let's say that your dictating a sentence in a letter and you want to write a sentence that says, " john, I'll meet you there." The minute you start speaking, these speech recognition software is attempting to judge exactly what it was you said. It has fractions of a second to do this because you're obviously going to want to dictate something else or go to another program, etc. So the first thing the software does is say to itself, " I noticed the name John several times in this letter. So I'd have to guess that's who this is for. And then it sounds like he dictated something that sounds like I'll eat new where." Speech recognition systems only learn to improve by proper correction. It is therefore, extremely important to follow the appropriate correction method so that the software learns from its mistakes. Otherwise, it will never improve! This isn't Star Trek! Speech recognition systems require ongoing correction to learn. It is not teaching the software anything for you to simply highlight the misunderstood text and type in the corrections by hand. Although most software packages can learn from document analysis, the best way to teach speech recognition software is to make corrections by voice. This is after all, speech recognition software and therefore it needs to hear the appropriate things to tell it that it's made mistakes! Only in this way will the software ever improve! I cannot stress this enough! When you buy and or use speech recognition software, ask for training on how to use the software appropriately. Take any tutorials that come with the software until you feel comfortable using it. Learn the appropriate correction commands! Most importantly, understand that working with speech recognition is a little like raising a child. Children are born with a tremendous amount of intelligence, however they need continual nurturing and guidance from their parents and family to learn right from wrong. So it is with speech recognition. When I was working as a certified consultant for Dragon Systems, I would get a lot of casual users who were intrigued by speech recognition. They would go to their local computer superstore and pick up the entry level version, bring it home and without any prior experience or knowledge of how the software truly works, they would expect to be dictating at 100% accuracy all the time without putting in any real effort. I would then get calls and emails saying " I bought this and it doesn't work." I would inevitably write back asking if they made corrections when the software made mistakes. Almost invariably, I would either discover that they weren't correcting at all or, were simply just dictating or typing over mistakes. This is not the way to run the railroad!

So now that that tirade is over (for the moment :-)), let's discuss speech recognition alternatives. In the world of speech recognition software for PCs, there are basically two alternatives. You can get Windows Vista with its built in speech software or, you can get Dragon Naturallyspeaking. If you're on a Mac and you want more than command and control and control abilities that can be found in OS X itself, you want to check out a company called Macspeech. I have not personally had a chance to review their software firsthand as of yet, but I hope to sometime in the near future. When I do, I will post my observations here.

Windows Speech Recognition, as previously stated, is speech recognition built into Windows Vista. It works fairly well provided you have enough RAM. If you're going to be doing any kind of speech recognition, you want at least 1 GB or more of RAM on Windows Vista! Vista's speech recognition is not just for dictation: there is also fairly decent command and control capabilities as well. For those of you unaware of what Command And Control is, it's the ability to bring up programs by speech and then interact with them in the same way (without having to use the mouse or keyboard.) As good as Windows speech recognition is, it does lack some more useful features that are found in Dragon Naturallyspeaking.

Naturallyspeaking Preferred includes text to speech technology to allow documents to be read. It also includes the ability to create simple macros to enter text. For example, in Naturallyspeaking, I have a amacro called " write my e-mail address". So whenever I say that command, guess what happens? There is no such commitments in Windows Speech Recognition. If I want to dictate my e-mail address, I have to go in to "typing mode" by saying "start typing". I can then spell out my e-mail address. Not quite as elegant as in Naturallyspeaking, is it? Windows Speech Recognition is analogous to Dragon Naturallyspeaking Standard Edition. It is possible to move the mouse by speech in Windows Speech Recognition, however, it's not always as seamless or as accurate for me as in Naturallyspeaking. This doesn't mean that mouse control by speech doesn't work in Windows Speech Recognition. It most certainly does. The process is just a little more elegant in Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Microsoft also doesn't currently offer any add-ons for their speech product. They do offer development tools for application designers, but that's not quite the same thing.

What if you're a medical professional and need an extensive medical vocabulary? Windows Speech Recognition offers no way to create such a vocabulary. Yes, you can add individual words to your vocabulary but for a large scale vocabulary of specialized terminology, this would be extremely time consuming. Dragon Naturallyspeaking Medical Solutions is the only way to go in that case, likewise with the legal profession. Windows speech recognition also offers no way to create an advanced scripting commands to perform complex tasks. This functionality can only be found in dragon Naturallyspeaking professional edition. And if you need the ability to automate tasks beyond a simple text macro, you really need Naturallyspeaking professional at this point. Having said that, no one really knows what Microsoft might add to Windows Speech Recognition in the future. The product is built into windows and that could be a tremendous advantage for the company. The Windows Speech Recognition is very much a first generation product, so we can expect further development from here on out. NaturallySpeaking 9 is compatible with Windows Vista for most editions via a free downloadable patch (9.5). (Scroll down to NaturallySpeaking section.) Patches for the professional, legal, and medical versions of Naturallyspeaking are coming.

02 March, 2007

Notice of updates

This is just a quick to note to let you all know that I very often update previous posts with new information as I learn it. With this in mind, please check back on post that you think you've already read, as there may be new important revisions. I feel it's important to update my articles periodically to provide the most accurate information possible. To that end, all of my previous posts have now been updated with new information.
Thank you

26 February, 2007

Why Microsoft annoys me (updated)

As I originally states in my previous post (before updating it), I intended to talk about Windows Speech Recognition and other alternatives today. That entry will be coming shortly, but I needed to take some time right now to discuss something that really bothers me. I mentioned in the original draft of my last post on User Account Protection, that Windows Backup can create a "previous version" of a file or files that you could immediately return to if something goes wrong. This is different from the full system backup. How you ask? It's different because in a full system backup, every file is replaced. That's great if you have a system crash, but what about if you accidentally save two files with the same name? What if you accidentally delete a file the system needs? That's when a system restore or a full backup are not necessarily the appropriate options. In that case you just want to be able to retrieve the missing file or folder without impacting your entire system. That's what the previous version function or Shadow Copy is for. So as I was looking at Microsoft's feature comparison chart for all of the flavors of Vista in an effort to help advise my father on upgrading, I realized that the shadow copy function is only available in Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Ultimate Edition, or Windows Vista Enterprise Edition.

The reason for my confusion was that originally this was going to be a feature in almost all flavors of Vista. It really annoys me when Microsoft does this. They make so many different flavors of a product; pack a bunch of features into every version. Many of these, most people will never use but the one feature you always need; that would be useful to have is always, and I mean Always, in the more expensive version. Why do they do this to us? Why do software companies feel it necessary to make so many differing iterations of a product. Oh, I know what they say. They say it's to meet the different needs of the market. That's fine. That even make sense to me. If you want to do that, do what they did for Windows XP in the beginning. I know there are other editions now, but in the beginning, there was just Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Professional Edition. That made it simple. At home I had the Home Edition and at work, I had the professional, right? Well, not exactly. You see after using Windows XP Home Edition, I discover that there was one single feature I needed that this version didn't have. Of course, this was no problem because as luck would have it, the feature I needed was was in XP Professional Edition. So of course I had to pay the extra money to obtain a version of Windows that was only slightly different from the Home Edition I'd already been using and had already spent money on to begin with. And Microsoft has done it again with Vista. Although I suppose if you think about it, the Vista situation is much simpler. Home Basic is in my opinion, a waste of money. He does the name of a backup that you can schedule. That leaves you with only two choices. Unless you're in business, you're not going to buy Vista Business. So your two choices are Windows Vista Home Premium or, Windows Vista Ultimate Edition. Now there will always be some features that you don't use but my advice is to get the highest level of Windows you can afford.

There is always the anytime upgrade option. This means that if, for example, you have Windows Vista Home Premium and you want to upgrade to Windows Ultimate, you can click an icon, pay for the appropriate key, and immediately upgrade to the next version. This works because Windows Vista comes on a DVD with all the various iterations on it. The version that you get depends on what key you type in during the installation process. Anytime upgrade does have limitations, however. You can only use it once and you can only go to the next highest version. In other words, if you have Home Basic and you want to upgrade to Home Premium, that's fine but if you do that, you cannot then use anytime upgrade to go to Ultimate Edition. You would actually need to buy the Ultimate Edition upgrade at the point. That's why I say get the most advanced Windows you can you can afford. It's a given that you'll not use all of the features in there, but there will be more of the ones you really want and more of an opportunity for anytime upgrade later on.

To clarify any misunderstandings, all versions of Windows Vista have speech recognition. Most versions of Windows Vista have a backup utility that's easy to configure and that will run automatically without prompting or interference thereafter. All versions of Vista have antispyware software built in. Most versions of Vista support the new user interface (Arrow), but not Home Basic. All versions of Windows Vista include User Account Protection / Control and Windows Backup will make a regular backups but only Vista Business, Vista Ultimate Edition and Vista Enterprise includes shadow copying.

Sorry for any confusion. Because I'd been testing this thing for so long, I assumed that they would go with their original plan. Hope this clears up any confusion caused by the misinformation. It wasn't intentional. I'll be back soon with my original plan to discuss speech recognition in Windows and other alternatives.

12 February, 2007

Windows Vista Review Part 2a: user account control, the secure desktop, speech recognition, and, the work around (revised)

In part 1 of my review, I discussed some of the reasons I chose to move to Windows Vista. I feel I should say that my philosophy on technology is that good technology; a good upgrade should make it easier to overcome physical limitations. Vista certainly goes a long way in this regard. The belt in speech recognition, automatic defrag, automatic backup, anti spyware and other security features, make Windows Vista a welcome change for me.The migration to the new operating system is not something I take lightly but having been part of the MSDN beta process throughout the development of this operating system, the benefits of making the transition to vista became very clear to me. I hope after reading part 1 of this review, you may have a better grasp on some of the features that may prove beneficial to users with and without disabilities. That doesn't mean that Vistais perfect by any stretch of imagination and that is what brings us here today.

User Account Control:
What is User Account Control? What does it do? Well, I am so glad you asks these questions. :-) It's wonderful to have such an interactive audience :-). User Account Control is something that Mac users will know about. I'm not sure what this feature is called in the Mac OS, but User Account Control as it applies to Windows, is a way for the operating system to keep track of any software installation or other task that could potentially impact the way the core of Windows itself works. This doesn't apply to everything users do, but it does apply to anything that could alter the system fundamentally at the core level. it is really important that Windows itself have a way to notify the user in these cases because this type of notification to help protect against system failure. It's particularly useful in Windows is Vista Ultimate Edition, where in case it turns out that a piece of software is causing the system to behave in an adverse way, the system keep track of these things, Windows backup can automatically create a full system backup to return to if something goes wrong; if for example, you actually install a piece of spyware that Windows doesn't catch. (note: although there is a backup utility in almost all versions of Vista except Windows Vista Home Basic, the "backup entire computer" function is not available in all versions of Vista.) Sounds wonderful right? It is. It's not the feature itself that's flawed. The problem comes when you use User Account Control in conjunction with the Windows Speech Recognition.

To implement User Account Control/Protection, Microsoft developed the Secure Desktop. Although the Secure Desktop is hard to explain in nontechnical terms, it is very easy to spot. You'll notice it the first time you do anything that could potentially impact the way the System works. Your desktop will go black and a dialog box will appear that will either say something like " this program needs permission to continue with this action". The dialog box may alternatively ask if you want to "allow" a particular action. The problem is that Windows Speech Recognition cannot interact with the secure desktop. Meaning that when the desktop goes black and these dialog boxes appear to ask for special permission, Windows Speech Recognition cannot be used to dismiss or confirm these dialog box questions. So what do you do? First, let me say that although User Account Control/protection does take a little getting used to, it's very important. As such, turning it off is not really a viable option if you truly want to be safer from making potentially system altering mistakes. So what do you do if you can't use the mouse to dismiss Secure Desktop dialog boxes? Well children, that's why we have a section I like to call " The Work Around" :-). (note: this work around is to the best of my knowledge, only achievable in Windows Vista Ultimate Edition. So although all versions of this to have speech recognition built in, if you need to use the computer hands free, you'll need Windows Vista Ultimate Edition. This is true as far as I know whether or not you choose to use Windows Speech Recognition or another program. If I find a work around for other Vista editions, I will certainly post it here.)
Step 1: open Control panel (you may need to be logged on as an administrator to do this)
Step 2: go to " Administrative Tools"
Step 3: open " Local Security Policies" (a dialog box will appear asking for permission to continue, do so.) If any other dialog boxes appear after doing this, simply say "OK" before moving on to step 4.
Step 4: double click on "Local Security".
Step 5: double click "security options" and scroll to the bottom. You don't want to change the one on the very bottom. You want the next one up that says " switch to secure desktop when prompting for elevation." Double click this.
Step 6: click "disable" and click "OK". You will notice the next time that Windows needs permission to perform a task that would normally trigger the Secure Desktop that windows speech recognition will be able to interact with the dialog boxes in question. (note: for the dialog boxes with the choices own "allow" or " cancel", make sure that the dialog box is in focus.) To do this, simply say "which to User Account Control." Then say " down arrow". You can then say " click allow" or, " click cancel"
Disabling the Secure Desktop is not as secure as leaving it on of course, but it does make the feature fully accessible to those of us who have to use alternative user input such as speech recognition. Disabling the secure desktop is certainly far more secure than entirely disabling user account protection / control.

The reason that you need Ultimate Edition to do this is that you need to be able to set the security policies. I suspect that this level of control is also available to business users, but im not as of yet tested this on Vista Business.
I hope this is helpful. Next time, I'll be discussing more on windows speech recognition and other alternatives.

07 February, 2007

Windows Vista review part 1: why I like it

The big news out of Redmond Washington is the release of Windows Vista. You heard the hype; probably read several reviews. I have also read these reviews and I have to say that looking at them on mass, it's very difficult to see just from reading them what the " must have" improvements in vista really are. This is particularly true because many of the features that are beneficial have been overshadowed by the shiny OS X style user interface. So today I thought I would share with you some of the reasons why I as a person with a disability feel vista is in vast improvement over previous versions of windows. Don't worry, I will also be discussing its shortcomings in part 2 of this review. For all you Mac fans, I will also be doing something similar for OS X in the coming weeks. So there's no need to feel left out. This should also alleviate any potential fears that I'm a Windows fan boy of some kind.… One other thing before we begin. Please don't write to me saying " I've had this problem or that problem since I upgraded." Problems and issues and shortcomings of Windows Vista are as I said, going to be discussed in the next part of this review.… Now that that's out of the way, let's get on with the reasons I like Windows Vista.

As I stated in my introduction to this blog, I have cerebral palsy. This impacts my coordination and my fine motor control. It is therefore, very difficult for me to use a mouse for prolonged periods and using the keyboard is completely out of the question! Under Windows XP, I used Dragon Naturallyspeaking version 8 to perform all PC tests. I mean everything, from e-mail to program control. There was nothing I couldn't do with Dragon. There was however a big problem and it was not one that you may be thinking of. I feel I should say that I have been using speech recognition for years. I understand what the software is looking for and am therefore, very proficient in its use. That wasn't the problem. The problem I'm referring to occurs when something happens to Windows that necessitates reformatting the hard drive. Of course I know how to do that. My issue is that after backing up my data and going through the relatively painless process of reformatting my drive, I am then faced with my arch nemesis! He hates me, and I despise him! Every time we encounter each other I feel like the losing victim at the shootout at the OK Corral. Who is this terrible menace who plagues me? He or rather it is the Dreaded Product key. Why do I want to kick product keys and in particular, the Windows product key into a big hole and bury it under 6 miles of something that's brown and sounds like a bell? As any security expert will tell you, product keys are not a good form of security. Hackers know how product keys work and consequently, they are easily cracked. Not by people like us, who are just average users who are interestingly enough, just trying to use the software we purchased, but by others with more time on their hands. Of more importance to someone like myself, however, is that product keys make everything inaccessible. If you can install windows, you can use speech recognition to overcome physical limitations… Oh, but wait, in order to install Windows you have to be able to type the product key into the necessary fields. You then have to be able to use the mouse to click the necessary buttons to answer a bunch of questions before Windows will install. Funny, I thought the whole reason I had speech recognition software is because I Cannot Do This. One of the added little bonuses I got for arriving early, was a vision problem related to the muscles in my eyes. I don't know, maybe it was some kind of door prize for being the one millionth birth that year or something. :-) Product keys are always raining very tiny microscopic print. I don't know, perhaps Microsoft is fond of the old Monty Python sketch " the value of not being seen." In any event, under Windows XP, after you struggle for hours to get the product key in, answer other questions for installation and wait for the product itself to install, you then realize you have to do it all again to install your speech recognition software. So how does this relate to Vista? One of the reasons that Vista is so much matter is that the setup process is extremely simple. Yes, you still have to struggle with a product key, but after you do that there are about two questions and then windows is off on its own to install. No clicking numerous dialog boxes is necessary. Windows just knows what to do. And after the installation? If you go into control panel, a simple few clicks will set up the built in speech recognition software in Windows so that you can control your PC entirely by voice. Worried that Windows speech recognition won't work? Well, I'm using it right now to write this blog. It's simple, accurate with regular use, and most importantly, it's built in. That means that no product key is needed for installation of speech recognition software. Hallelujah! Now I hear you asking, " is it just for dictation?" No, Windows speech recognition gives you full control over the PC. The dictation experience itself is excellent and the system will learn from its mistakes provided they are corrected in the proper manner (not by keyboard). It's a basic speech recognition solution that addresses most of the average user's needs. As with other areas of Vista, I will be dressing its shortcomings in the second part of this review. Speech recognition isn't the only thing that makes Vista my must have operating system. There have been numerous improvements in other areas as well that address other limitations that are part and parcel to my CP.

One such area is in visual scaling. Visuals scaling is the ability to easily; stressing easily; and increased the DPI (dots per inch) of the screen. This enlarges all the fonts throughout the operating system as well as the screen elements without having to adjust these individually. This feature was available in Windows XP however, because Windows XP is not designed for high resolution displays or necessarily for wide displays, it was always terrible looking not to mention hard to find. In Windows Vista, you can simply right click on the desktop and go to "personalize" An item appears on the left hand side of the screen that says " change font size" you can increase the font size to any level you wish using the custom settings, but I have my display set to one of the default settings of 300 DPI. You must have a wide screen monitor to be able to do this and have a look decent. If you don't have a wide screen display, you can still increase the DPI to about 120 and windows will look very nice. The advantage of increasing the DPI over simply using the accessibility options is that by using the DPI adjustments in conjunction with adjusting your display size, you don't lose any of the colors of the interface. On the other hand, if you use high contrast under accessibility options everything becomes black and white or white and black, etc. You then lose all of the potentially helpful animations that are built into Windows now to help you see what's going on. If you need high contrast, by all means use it. If you just need bigger print, adjust your DPI and display size. Visual improvements can be found throughout Vista. The aero user interface is beautiful and is rightly compared with OS X. The transparency can be adjusted to make it easier to see through Windows that are on screen. All in all, I really like the user interface. Vista isn't just beautiful though. The OS is also smarter in settle ways.

The system provides numerous ways to interact with it. In addition to the aforementioned speech recognition, tablet PC functionality is built into most flavors of Windows Vista. This means that if you are unable to talk to the system because your voice is not consistent enough, there is another option beyond typing. Many new PCs are coming with touch screens so that you can take advantage of this tablet functionality. Windows Media Center is also now built into most versions of Windows Vista. Gone are the days when you had to buy a specialized PC in order to enjoy digital media. Although some extra hardware may be required, this is becoming very inexpensive in comparison to a few years ago. Maintains too has become easier. The system will be fragment itself without you scheduling it. Backups are performed in a similar fashion, once the operating system knows exactly where to back up to. Vista also has built in spyware protection. There are also many other improvements too numerous to list here. Overall stability has been improved dramatically. In my mind, anything I don't have to tell the system to do in terms of maintenance is a plus! :-) I have far more important things to do than to worry about maintaining my PC.

With all these great advances, you might think that Vista couldn't be any better. Don't be fooled into thinking that there aren't things that could be improved or that are missing from Windows Vista. We'll discuss those next time in part 2. For now though, I just wanted to give you some perspective on why I as someone with a disability couldn't run any other version of windows. I hope this proves helpful.

03 February, 2007

Introduction: updated

Hi, let me give you a little bit of background on what this blog is about. I was born with cerebral palsy. As many of you familiar with that know, it can impact fine motor skills. For those unfamiliar with CP, it's a brain injury that results from the lack of oxygen (usually at birth, though not always) so the only difference between me and a politician is that I admit that I have brain damage :-)! As I hope this blog demonstrates however, this injury did not impact my intelligence or communication skills. Actually, I think truth be told, it's more likely that due to my physical limitations caused by CP I really had to learn to communicate well with others because my mouth unlike many areas of my body, actually works nearly as advertised :-).

Like a lot of people in my situation, technology holds the key to helping me overcome any limitations or as I like to call them, inconveniences that provide good humor, brought about by my CP. As someone who worked as a computer consultant, I have a very unique perspective on technology. I am Not writing a computer Manual. I'm not here to provide technical support. So please don't write me asking" how does this work or do you know why xy or Z doesn't work? I do not know your particular setup. There are hundreds of variations when it comes to hardware and software interplay. What I'm here to do is to share my thoughts on technology in the amusing way. I'll give you my thoughts on what's going on in the tech world as it relates to my own brand of humor and way of looking at the world. Although I occasionally get frustrated by my physical limitations at times, I do really enjoy the wisdom and humor my cerebral palsy has given to me. I hope you will too. I always write colored by these experiences. I hope this will prove refreshing and informative for those of you kind enough to read this blog. You will hopefully discover for yourselves that although I Physical balance, :-) my views on technology are balanced. Remember, I'm sharing my experiences and thoughts. I recognize that these may not be yours, but that's why I emphasize that these are My thoughts. See, my blog, my thoughts :-)? Really neat how that works. :-) At the same time, if there's something going on in the technology world that impacts you personally that you'd like my thoughts on or my opinion of, feel free to let me know. It's my intent to keep this as lighthearted as possible. I will not argue that one company's better over another. I will not argue that one operating system is better over another. I will however, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each of these things for me personally. I hope this proves helpful and enjoyable to you. Be sure to check back often even on entries you've already read. In an effort to provide the most accurate and up to date information possible, I will frequently update and revise existing entries.
Thank you, you're a wonderful audience :-)