[Athen] FW: ATMac

Ron Stewart ron at ahead.org
Fri Jan 18 08:21:45 PST 2008

Some good info related to Mac Access.


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Sent: Friday, January 18, 2008 11:11 AM
To: ron at ahead.org
Subject: ATMac

<http://atmac.org> ATMac

<http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/atmac/~3/218625922/> Apple Keynote: What does it mean for assistive tech users?

Posted: 17 Jan 2008 09:42 PM CST

The Macworld Keynote was a few days ago now, what are the implications for Mac OS X users with disabilities?

For those who aren’t following avidly, the new announcements from Apple included:

§ <http://www.apple.com/macbookair/> Macbook Air - A slimmer, lighter laptop which can optionally be used with a flash memory drive.

§ <http://www.apple.com/timecapsule/> Time Capsule - A self-contained wireless backup drive intended to be used with Leopard’s Time Machine backup software.

§ <http://www.apple.com/iphone/?sr=hotnews> iPhone Software Upgrades and <http://www.apple.com/ipodtouch/?sr=hotnews> iPod Touch Software Upgrades adding functionality and upgrades.

§ <http://www.apple.com/itunes/store/movies.html?sr=hotnews> Movie Rentals with iTunes now available.

§ <http://www.apple.com/iphone/?sr=hotnews> iPhone software developers kit to be released in February.

§ <http://www.apple.com/appletv/?sr=hotnews> New AppleTV Software and a lower price for AppleTV

There have also today been updates to QuickTime and iTunes available via the “Software Update” in Leopard. There may have been some other small bits and pieces I’m missing - I didn’t watch the actual keynote - but that was the main stuff at least.

So, are there any assistive technology (AT) implications of these new announcements? In my view there are many possibilities and and it seems that the rest of the OS X “disability blogosphere” agrees with me - I’ll link to other articles where I’m aware of them.

The <http://www.screenlessswitchers.com/?q=node/24> Screenless Switchers Podcast number 21 apparently covers the blindness and visual impairment implications but I haven’t listened to it yet and there’s no transcript so I may unintentionally double up on things they have said.

MacBook Air

First the MacBook Air. The main differences between a regular MacBook laptop and a MacBook Air is that the Air seem to be these:

§ Air is significantly thinner and lighter - see <http://www.engadget.com/2008/01/15/apple-macbook-air-and-macbook-pro-size-showdown/> Engadget’s Photos to get a good idea of the differences.

§ Air is somewhat less powerful.

§ Air has a smaller size hard drive.

§ Air has the possibility of a flash memory drive (no moving parts) instead of a regular hard drive.

§ Air doesn’t have a removable battery or a CD/DVD drive.

§ Air has a large multi-touch touchpad, the same technology that’s in the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Samuel Sennott at AllTogether has already pointed out
<http://alltogether.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/apple-announcements/> the AAC possibilities of the MacBook Air - if used with a flash drive, it essentially has no moving parts which will make it much more durable than anything with a spinning hard drive and as it’s a full computer rather than a specialised device it’s more flexible than many AAC devices in its use. The one problem I see in terms of AAC device use would be the battery life. Five hours is claimed an the MacBook Air website and website claims are usually “best case scenario”, but even 5 hours of use would not be enough for an entire day’s use without recharging. And if the Air was also used for other things such as school/work, watching movies, playing games, then the battery life is a bigger problem. You don’t want your AAC device to have a flat battery just before you tell the taxi driver where you live so he can take you home, for example - they have to be as reliable as possible. I hope this is something that can be overcome because the Air certainly has many plusses as an AAC device. One thing that springs to mind is that it has an iSight camera built in so if somebody ports <http://www.cameramouse.org/> Camera Mouse or similar to OS X then people who need head tracking will be able to use the Air as an AAC device and/or general laptop by themselves.

Another use for a MacBook Air with the flash device option may be for users who are rough with their computers due to uncontrolled movements, weak/unreliable grip, or other disabilities that lead to them dropping or bumping the laptop frequently. I don’t think anybody has tested one to destruction yet but I assume a computer with fewer moving parts will be tougher than an average one.

The lightness of the MacBook Air also makes it ideal for users who have weakness and/or fatigue problems. It takes less strength and less stamina to carry and move a machine that’s lighter. This is likely to be especially important for students who are likely to have books and other heavy objects to lug around also.

Time Capsule

The main reason the new wireless Time Capsule backup device is great for OS X users who are disabled is that it takes virtually no effort to set up, and zero effort to use with Leopard’s Time Machine software once it’s set up. If I understand right, as long as your Time Capsule is set up then just turning on your computer in the same house is enough for the backups to function correctly!

Firstly it’s great because users with disabilities probably have things to spend limited energy on that are much more urgent than backups. There’s no need to teach personal attendants or other helpers about doing backups, and no worries that anybody will forget them. As long as it’s set up and turned on, your backups will happen.

Secondly, for most of the OS X users that I know at least, much more of our lives are saved on our computers than for average able-bodied people. For example, I use my computer to dial the phone for me and as a caller ID device so every phone number I know is entered into Address Book, so if I loose all my data I can’t phone anybody. I use my computer for videos and talking books and etexts, so if I loose my data I have nothing to read or watch. <http://atmac.org/about-ricky/environment/> I use my computer for a lot of things! Or imagine somebody who uses their computer as their main AAC device - loosing their data would mean literally loosing their language. I could obviously go on with endless examples, but in short: backups are vital for everybody who uses a computer for anything significant, but for somebody who uses a computer for assistive tech needs it’s even more vital. Something that makes it a “set and forget” thing that any non-technical user can manage is a boon.

iPhone and iPod Touch software upgrades

I’m not sure exactly what the access implications of these are - I don’t have an iPod Touch and the iPhone is not available in Australia yet. If anybody has more information, I’d love to know about it.

Movie Rentals with iTunes

For those with mobility impairments but decent broadband connections, this looks like a great thing. I’m not sure how many countries, if any, outside the USA are going to have movie rentals available - here in Australia you still can’t buy TV shows or movies from the iTunes store so I highly doubt the rentals are going to show up. Hopefully this is something that will spread geographically, however.

The contributors over at DeafMac have found that <http://www.deafmac.org/blog/?p=172> movie rentals support close captions including when they’re transferred to the iPhone which is great news for caption users.

That’s all I know about for now… more news to follow.

- Ricky Buchanan
<http://atmac.org/2008/01/18/apple-keynote-what-does-it-mean-for-assistive-tech-users/#more-127> (more…)

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<http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/atmac/~3/218625923/> MacSpeech Dictate

Posted: 17 Jan 2008 07:34 PM CST

With the release of MacSpeech Dictate, we are entering a new era in speech recognition for Mac OS X. MacSpeech Dictate is the most accurate, easiest to use speech recognition program ever made, and it is exclusively for Macs. MacSpeech Dictate works the way you do, in the applications you use every day. Just speak, and see your words appear in Microsoft Word, Pages, Mail, iChat, or anywhere else.

Based on the award winning Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition engine, MacSpeech Dictate will astound you with its amazing accuracy. The words you utter are written exactly the way you said them. MacSpeech Dictate gets it right the first time. Accuracy is so good, in fact, you may be tempted to give up typing!

Website: <http://www.macspeech.com/> MacSpeech Dictate

ATMac Comment: Dragon Naturally Speaking widely acknowledged as the best continuous speech recognition program for Windows that’s available, and far better than MacSpeech’s iListen product for OS X. Having a new MacSpeech program that has all of MacSpeech’s integration with OS X and all of the accuracy of Dragon’s product seems like a dream come true!

This product will be available from February 15th, and there’s a discount for iListen owners - of which I am one, even though I couldn’t get it to work. I wish ATMac was well known enough that people gave me review copies of things! Have to work on that … but stay tuned, and if anybody gets their paws on a copy of MacSpeech Dictate please let me know how it goes so I can report back here.

- Ricky Buchanan
Edited to add: I found out from the Lioncourt.com article that <http://www.lioncourt.com/2008/01/17/new-dictation-software-boasts-of-voiceover-compatibility/> MacSpeech Dictate is advertising VoiceOver compatibility so hopefully VoiceOver users who need speech input as well as the speech output of VoiceOver will be able to use this new product! That’s great news from MacSpeech!

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