• Category Archives Mac
  • Continuation of Mixing the old with the new. Nokia C5 and iPhone 4S.

    There were a few interesting questions and points made as a result of my post yesterday. Firstly, let me just remind readers that I love getting your Emails and phone calls but it would be nice if you would comment on the site instead of contacting me privately so as other readers can have the benefit of reading your questions and observations.

    Firstly, Jenny asked if the C5 has wifi. NO. It doesn’t although as I’m not using this phone for any data usage this actually makes no difference to me. I’m interested in what you might use wifi for though. Are there apps on the S60 platform that you would use?

    Nicky touched on the idea of using an iPod for listening to Music and using Apps. This is a very good idea. The iPod is smaller, lighter and cheaper and if you’re not using it for phone calls or texting then there’s no need for 3G. However, the iPhone battery lasts for a very long time when not used as a normal phone and there is nothing that the iPhone can’t do that the iPod does so there’s no need to change over if you already have an iPhone. Also, because I could potentially change back to the thinking that one device is just more convenient selling the iPhone would be a mistake because a 64GB iPhone 4S is not a cheap toy at all. I’ve already done this in the past. I moved back to a Nokia phone for a while about three or four years ago but after a while I missed the power of the iPhone so I went back again. However, at that time, I wasn’t running both phones simultaneously so things may be different this time. For me, the iPhone has almost become essential. I use Facetime with sighted people when I need something looked at, I use the many social networking aps to stay in contact with people, I read the local and national news, I keep up to date with Email and I even use it for GPS occasionally. However, I have a tip for you. I have a wireless Vodafone dongle. I usually have my laptop with me when traveling to and from work and this wireless dongle has a nice place in that laptop case. When I really want Internet access on the iPhone while traveling I just turn on that wireless dongle, connect to it from the iPhone and I have the same data access as I had when using it as a phone. Really, the only down side to this is that I have a few more devices to carry around. However, this is more than made up for by the efficiency of being able to make and receive calls and write text messages quickly and comfortably. I’ve been using this method now for just over a week and so far it’s working quite nicely. However, ask me again in a month. Maybe by that time I’ll be tired of carrying an extra phone around with me.

    Just one more note. I have given serious consideration to an iPad or an iPad mini however as a blind person I simply can’t understand why one of these devices would be appealing to me. The larger screen makes absolutely no difference. Why not just use an iPhone or an iPod. The iPad mini feels lovely and sexy. It’s slim, curved and light but once you get over that what’s the benefit if you can’t see the screen?

  • Mixing the old with the new. Nokia C5 and iPhone 4S.

    I’m sure you couldn’t care less what phone I’m using or why, but I want to explain something to you.

    I am now using a Nokia C5 for day to day phone needs. I haven’t completely moved away from the iPhone but for making and receiving calls and sending text messages there’s just no beating the convenience of a classic mobile phone. When I want to dial a number I simply key it in on the numeric key pad. When I get a text I can respond to it with one hand if I want to. When I’m looking for a contact I dial in the first few letters and it searches for it. Finding Frank for example takes me less than two seconds. Finding frank on the iPhone takes a lot longer.

    That’s not to say that I have anything against the iPhone or I have gone away from Apple products. I just got sick of fluffing around with a phone when all I wanted to do is answer or hang up a call. In fact, I’m going to get my frustrations out here by listing some of the things that are driving me crazy about the iPhone. Read on though. I’m going to also tell you why I carry an iPhone around with me as well.

    • When I hang up a call I should be able to press the power button but this only intermittently works. It is fixed in some updates but breaks again with the next.
    • Taking the iPhone away from my ear causes it to go to loud speaker. I know this is by design but it’s irritating.
    • A bug that has been on the iPhone since IOS4 has caused Voiceover users to encounter an issue where while on a call the phone intermittently switches back and forth to the loud speaker.
    • Texting on the iPhone on-screen keyboard is horribly slow, cumbersome, unproductive and difficult. Even Flexy isn’t great if you’re in a noisy area and you can’t hear the phone. Also, it’s badly designed when you’re holding it up to your ear to hear the text to speech synthesizer.
    • Bugs are frequently not caught or not fixed. For example, in IOS 6, Voiceover should speak new notifications when the screen is locked if the option is enabled but this no longer works. This senseless disregard of simple bugs has turned me off Apple to a large extent. In fact, because of this I recently sold my Mac book air.
    • The battery life is absolutely terrible. I charged my Nokia C5 on Sunday evening and I won’t need to charge it until tomorrow night. Imagine that. Three days of phone usage on one charge!
    • The iPhone is too big and it’s getting bigger! I don’t like the extra bulk of the iPhone 5. I also don’t like having to put a case on my phone. If it is vital to have a case on a phone to stop it from becoming easily damaged then the phone is badly designed.

    The iPhone is still brilliant. As I said before, I don’t want this post to seem like I’m gone against this product. I still carry one around with me and I use it when in range of wireless networks. I know you might think this is crazy and I would ordinarily agree with you but access to the Internet and apps simply can’t be rivalled by any other phone. The iPhone has more apps than any other platform and with thanks to the voiceover screen reader as blind people we have the benefit and luxury of having access to the vast majority of these. It’s a fact that I simply wouldn’t want to do without the connectivity provided to me by the iPhone however again, as a simple phone and text utility the iPhone has a long way to go before it is efficient in comparison to classic mobile phones. In fact a few people have commented that call quality is clearer when I speak to them from the Nokia C5 and I also find that I can continue a conversation for longer when traveling home by train than I can when using the iPhone.
    I have examined other platforms however although I think they have a lot of merit for most mobile phone users, they unfortunately can’t compete with the accessibility of the iPhone. Specifically Android, Blackberry and Windows phone. The Android platform has a screen reader and it is making slow and steady progress. I would like to see this reach the point where it can meet the expectations of usability and efficiency set by the iPhone. The Blackberry platform has also improved recently but the stability of the screen reader on this platform doesn’t seem to have lived up to the hype. Finally Windows phone. Ah, good old Microsoft. No accessibility for blind users at all. There’s absolutely no screen reader on this platform. I can only hope that they’ll fix this soon because I actually like what I’ve read about this platform so far and I have really enjoyed using previous versions of Windows mobile. I know that since 7.5 the platform has changed substantially but I loved the interconnectivity between the mobile and desktop platforms.

    I want to say something to you about Windows Mobile for a second. In the nineties Microsoft launched a mobile platform. The user interface was based on the PC desktop. This idea was a complete disaster. Microsoft had to completely change their approach to Windows mobile to win any kind of market share. It was acknowledged that the expectations and requirements of users were vastly different for both platforms. This bought about the lovely idea of the today screen that we have enjoyed on Windows mobile for about ten years. In Windows 8 and Windows mobile 8 this today screen has become much more powerful with its evolution into the start screen. In 2012 Windows 8 for the desktop and laptop has taken on a look and feel similar to Windows mobile. About twelve years on from the catastrophe that was Windows CE for mobile devices with its user interface based on the desktop version of Windows we now have Windows 8 for the desktop based on the user interface on mobile devices. So, I have two questions for you. Is Microsoft looking at another disaster or do users really want this new and improved today screen on their desktops. I’m not sure. For me, I wasn’t too happy with Windows 8. I found that even after customization of the environment it was still trying to push its own objectives onto me. Use Microsoft services for sign on, cloud storage, search, mail and chat. Of course they can’t be anti-competitive so alternatives are available but it’s easy to see what the preference is. Your thoughts are welcome.

  • Dell XPS13

    I gave the Mac book air a fair shot. I lasted two months but when with every update, problems weren’t fixed and bugs seemed to get worse, I decided enough was enough. So, two weeks ago I started looking around for alternatives. I’ve decided, I’m sticking with Windows for the foreseeable future but the size of the Mac book air was still really appealing because of its keyboard and its size. Comparable systems on the Windows platform are called Ultra books. There are a few good names in this area. Acer, Toshiba, Sony, Samson and Dell. In fairness to these companies, they are pretty much neck and neck with their offering. They are governed by the limitations of the hardware in the form factor of ultra-books so there aren’t major differences in the specifications. Weight, size, processor, RAM and storage is all very equal among these systems. It wasn’t easy to make a choice based on website specs.

    Fortunately, I was very lucky to know several people who could let me spend some time trying out some of the ultra-books from the main providers. HP, Toshiba and Dell were definitely the winners of the bunch for what I wanted. Unfortunately, almost all of the ultra-books I tested felt very flimsy and cheap. Maybe it seems silly, but I want a laptop that’s going to feel and look great. It doesn’t matter that I can’t see it, when I walk into a meeting with this, I want people to know that I take computing seriously and I take care in what I choose. The feel of it is hugely important. A laptop with a spongy keyboard is uncomfortable and sloppy. If it has a big boxy body then it’s just not sexy. Let’s face it; I spend more time on a computer than most. It’s important that I’m happy with everything when I finally settle on buying a laptop.

    I finally decided on the Dell XPS. The keyboard is incredibly comfortable, it is very light, the front has a lovely shape, my wrists don’t hit off the touch pad when I’m typing, it has just enough USB ports, the battery life is just about adequate, it’s very quiet and it performs well. Of course, it goes without saying that it has a solid state disk and four GB of RAM.

    I put Dell through hell while buying this laptop. The machine I tried out was six months old and it had a number of annoying problems. The wireless adapter frequently dropped the connection and the fan would spin up for absolutely no reason and remain on at full throttle for ages. These were recognised defects in the first model of the XPS13 however from only a day of using this one; it would appear that they have been rectified. I certainly ensured that I got confirmation in writing that the issues had been resolved in the unit I was about to purchase before I made any decision. I was torn between the XPS13 and the XPS14. The extra inch allows Dell to cram a lot more power into the laptop but in the end I decided that portability was a little more important than power at the moment. Plus, although the XPS13 isn’t as powerful as the XPS14, it’s by no means weak. It easily handles Windows 7 and Windows 8, Office 2010, Visual studio, the VSphere client and a plethora of other applications. Also, for the past few years, I find that I spend most of my time on system administration so I don’t need a huge amount of power to get my job done.

    So, there you have it, I’ve given up on the Mac. I don’t mind telling you, I’m relieved. If you like, I can go into all the reasons at another stage but for now, all I’ll say is, it’s nice to be more efficient while out and about again.

  • Thought’s about the Mac; post 2 – Tips and tricks.

    It’s funny how easy it is to get motivated to write a new blog post when using such a comfortable keyboard. Sorry, Emma expects that I’ll mention the keyboard during every Mac related post… I aim to please. 🙂

    I’m learning a lot about the Mac and the way OSX does things every day. I thought I should list some of the little tips and tricks I’ve picked up. I should give credit where credit is due of course. A lot of what I learn is shared freely by the Mac users on Twitter. Without them I think I would have found this process particularly difficult.

    I’ll break these down into a list.

    • When using the YoruFukurou Twitter client with Voiceover, you will find that if quick nav is turned on replying to tweets can be a little hit and miss. Pressing enter on a tweet may result in the wrong name being added to the text field. The very simple solution to this is to turn off quick nav while in this application. This actually has the effect of making navigation around the various tables, tabs and edit fields much easier.
    • In mail, voiceover tells you that a conversation has a number of unread messages. Again, when using quick nag expanding the is conversation to read the messages in it is not as straight forward as you might think. You have to interact with the message, find a particular graphic and hit VO space to activate it. Again, it’s one of those situations where the message table works best if you turn off quick nav. To do this, press the left and right arrows together. Then you can expand the conversation by pressing right arrow. For some reason, Voiceover isn’t particularly responsive when reading messages and at times, if a conversation is collapsed it can fail to read anything at all. This could be something I’m doing wrong though. Of course, any comments regarding this or any other Mac post are more than welcome.
    • The widget area is cool! I’m still getting to grips with it but from what I’ve been able to figure out so far, widgets are reasonably accessible for the most part. I’m still looking for a nice RSS reader though but I’m sure I’ll find one eventually. I think the widget area is easier to use when the trackpad commander is turned on. Double tap the right side of the track pad to bring up a list of widgets. Configuring some of the widgets can be a little hit and miss but it’s certainly possible given some time. For example, the weather widget let me configure my locality but the done button wouldn’t work when I used the arrows in conjunction with the VO modifier to navigate to it. I found that I had to delete the county and country from the text box and re-add it again. This time, instead of using the arrows, I tabbed over to the done button and hit VO and space to activate it. I have no idea why but this works perfectly every time. By the way, when I say I hit VO, I mean that I am using the standard Voiceover modifier keys. These are control and option. Yes, unlike Windows and Even Linux screen readers that have just one modifier button, Voiceover has two that need to be pressed together. In my view, as a beginner I should add, this complicated modifier is just the start of what is one of the most mind bending keyboard command structures I have ever had the misfortune to come across. Seriously, I don’t know what the person who came up with these keyboard commands was smoking but it must have been some powerful stuff!
    • To bring up the notification bar, swipe with two fingers from right to left starting at the very edge of the track pad. Swiping from the middle or more accurately, not swiping from the very edge of the trackpad will cause voice over to stop interacting with the current control. I like this actually. To get out of the notification area, either scrub the trackpad with two fingers or press escape. Both actions do the same thing essentially.
    • To get the number sign, press command and 3.
    • To get the Euro sign, press command and 2.
    • In the menu extras area, you can’t just press space when using quick nav like you could in previous versions of OSX. I know that it was called something different in previous versions as well but it’s basically the same thing. I don’t know why they have broken the convention in this single area. It’s actually a bit frustrating. Anyway, as I’m sure you know, either press VO and space to activate the item or use the and down arrow combination.
    • Don’t underestimate the power of the Voiceover help. Press VO and h to launch this. Using the commands help is brilliant when getting started. Not only will it list the commands, you can press enter on one of the commands to perform that action. One of the commands I find most useful is in the general menu. It’s “Bring window to front.” So many windows are launched containing system messages but for some reason you can’t set focus to them using command and tab. Pressing VO, shift and F2 usually does it though. Oh, that brings me onto another irritation while using the Mac. On the Mac book pro and the Mac book air, a number of Voiceover commands such as this also require you to press the function key as well as for example, VO and shit. HOwever, it doesn’t actually say this in the commands list. It’s annoying to think a command doesn’t work only to find that it’s one of the few that requires the function button for some reason. I’m not even sure why! Almost all of the apple keyboards are the same. Why it would require the function key is a bit of a mystery to me.

    Ok, my bus is getting to it’s stop so I have to go. Let me know if you have any questions or better yet, any suggestions.

    Until next time!

  • Thought’s about the Mac; post 1

    Sorry for not posting yesterday, I’m still getting use to this Mac. Because OSX is very different My plan is to document my progress as I learn more about how OSX does things. of learning an entirely new screen reader at the same time. Because of this, a lot of my findings are from the perspective of a blind MAC user therefore unfortunately may not be as interesting to the sighted readers of my blog. However, stick around, you might learn something… It’s a huge learning curve and it’s compounded by the necessity of learning an entirely new screen reader at the same time.

    As I was saying before, I’m comfortable with some of the more administration type tasks required on the Mac such as joining them to Active Directory, configuring group policy for them, installing different AntiVirus etc but actually using it from an end-users perspective was completely new to me. Fortunately I’m not starting at square one though.

    Right, lets get started. The first thing I do when getting comfortable with a new system is install the applications that I use the most for day to day life. That’s a calendar, notes, Email, Twitter and some kind of text editor. A few years ago in the Linux world, I recorded a lot of audio tutorials to assist users with these tasks but I’m delighted to say that I don’t have to this time. I’m coming to the Mac game later than others so a brilliant website is doing a much better job than I ever could. It’s AppleVis. Go over there and listen to some of their podcasts. I couldn’t recommend them highly enough

    Now that I have my mail, calendar, notes, text editor and twitter applications set up I am much more inclined to use the Mac over my PC. That’s not to say I think the Mac is better than the PC, I’m not sure about that yet but it means that I force myself to use the Mac to give it a fair chance.

    For mail, notes, calendar and text editing, I’m using applications that are shipped with OSX. Thanks to OSX 10.8 Mountain lion, integration with iCloud is stronger than ever so notes, reminders and even files are shared across devices almost instantly.

    For Twitter, I’m using YoruFukurou. Is that the right spelling? Ah who knows! I’m too lazy to go look. What kind of a name is that anyway? Don’t get me wrong though, It’s a brilliant application. Probably one of the best twitter clients I’ve ever used. The only thing I would say, and this is try across all applications on the Mac, consistency of keyboard navigation could do with some attention by the Voiceover developers. Sometimes quick nag is perfect, sometimes it’s absolutely terrible and actually causes applications to behave very erratically. In fairness to YoruFukurou the reason why this is such a brilliant Twitter client is it supports dozens of keyboard shortcuts making it very easy to reach almost every Twitter related task.

    One application I didn’t mention is for messaging. It’s called Atium. Overall, this application is very good but if comparing it to the usability and efficiency of using Windows Live Messenger, I have to say that it’s lacking a lot. For example, in Windows and Linux, when I get a new message I expect the screen reader to announce it automatically. On the Mac, everything is very manual. That would be fine but without some kind of feedback, messages can and will be missed.

    I will definitely blog in more detail about my experience on the Mac but I don’t want to make the posts too long. Come back again tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll have had time to write some more thought’s down.

  • My first post from Mars edit.

    I bought my first Mac on Friday. I couldn’t pass the opportunity. Now, I’m determined to use it as my primary non-work system. This means finding applications that I can use easily and efficiently for mail, Twitter, web browsing, RSS and of course, blogging. I could of course add posts using the browser but I like being able to write off line and posting later when I get the change. One thing I have to say at this stage though is I really love the keyboard on the mac platform. I’m using a Mac book air at the moment and I find it incredibly comfortable.

    So, anyway, as I said in the title of this post, I’m writing this post using an application called Mars edit. This application costs just over 31 Euro and it seems to be worth it. I’m still getting use to it but already I’m writing a new post within seconds of opening it for the first time so it can’t be that difficult.

    I’m going to keep this post short for the moment. Just a quick observation. When it automatically corrects a mistake, it makes a sound to let me know. Isn’t that cool?