Using the Talks Object Viewer and Battery Extender

February 22, 2010

I posted the following rather verbose instructions to the Talks mailing list. These instructions will use the Talks Object Viewer so you can track the active profile in the simple yet useful Battery Extender application. they’ll make the Battery Extender application a little easier to use and serve as a tiny tutorial for the Talks Object Viewer.

Battery Extender, which you can get from is a simple application you can use to control the power draining features of your cell phone. Typically you would configure it to be more aggressive as your battery charge wears down. It comes with several profiles that you can configure. It’s very accessible with Talks, and I assume any screen reader.

I should also mention that there’s a free version and the paid version that costs $3 in the US. The free version lets you control

  • back light brightness and
  • back light timeout.

The paid version will also let you control

  • screen saver timeout,
  • bluetooth,
  • GPS settings,
  • close applications and
  • autorotate.

I’ve been using the trial of the paid version and the free version for a while now, and I have noticed it’s increased my battery life. I plan to upgrade to the paid version as soon as I see another sale on Handango.

The only thing you need to set up in the Talks Object Viewer for Battery Extender is to label the graphic that indicates which profile is active. Here’s how I did it on my E71X. I’d assume it would be pretty much the same for every hand set.

First go into Battery Extender. You’ll be presented with a list of profiles. To make the rest of the steps easier, I’d suggest making sure you know which of the profiles is the active profile.

You can do this by arrowing to the profile you want to make active and pressing the select key. If the profile actually comes up then it’s already active and you can use the back key (soft key 2) to get back to the list of profiles. I’ll assume we’ve made the Improve Battery profile the active profile by arrowing down to hit and then pressing the select key until the profile itself comes up. After this, you can use the back key to get to the list of profiles, and you’ll know that the Improve Battery profile is the active profile.

You can also toggle the reading of the graphics to see which profile is active. Use [Talks],[Long 4] to toggle on the reading of all graphics. On my E71X I just saw an unlabelled icon next to the active profile. You may see a icon next to each profile, so you’ll be looking for the one that’s different from the rest. If you’ve made the Improve Battery profile the active profile then this profile will have the unlabelled or unique unlabelled icon in front of it. Note that if you already made the Improve Battery profile the active profile then you don’t need to use [Talks],[Long 4] to see which is the active profile. If you’ve toggled on the reading of all of the graphics then you can use [Talks],[Long 4] to toggle back to ignoring unlabelled graphics.

Once you know which profile is the active profile then you can use [Talks],[Long select] to bring up the Object Viewer and label the icon that indicates which profile is active. Note that you can do a lot with the Object Viewer, and I’d suggest reading the Talks manual to get a feel for all of the power of the Object Viewer. Stephen Giggar’s also done an audio tutorial for the Object Viewer, and I’m sure it’s available from Blind Sea.

Again, just to make things easier, make sure the active profile also has the focus. So in the list of profiles, arrow down to the Improve Battery profile and bring up the Object Viewer with [Talks],[Long select]. You’ll see a list that include the screen ID, title and so on. You want to arrow down until you hear something like “focus C749836D Improve Battery”. This string in the middle is the icon you want to label.

Press the select key to bring up the details for this object. Arrow down to the line with the icon on it. You’ll hear something like “icon C749836D”.

Press select and you’ll be taken into the Talks dictionary where you can label this icon. You’ll be placed in the field which has the string “C749836D” the current label for this icon. You want to leave that alone and down arrow into the field for the replacement string. Arrow down to that field and type “Active” or whatever you want to hear read before the active profile in Battery Extender’s profile list. Arrow down once more to select the application where this replacement will be made. The default is Global, but I hit the select key and changed this to Battery Extender.

Once you’ve filled out this screen, use soft key 1 to bring up the list of options and select the save option. You can now back out to the Battery Extender application, and you should hear “Active Improve Battery.” Now you can arrow up and down the list and when you press the select key, you’ll hear “Active” before the profile name that you just made active.


In Search of a New Portable Media Solution

November 26, 2009

I’m looking for a new portable media player. I’ve been using a Sansa e280 with a 16G memory card running Rockbox. I’ve been very happy with Rockbox, and the Sansa in general, but I’m on my second Sansa e200 this year, and I thought they’d both developed the same problem. The headphone jack developed a short and the stereo cuts in and out. I looked this up on the web, and apparently this isn’t an unusual problem with the Sansa e200 series of portable media players. As it turns out, there wasn’t a problem with my second Sansa. the problem ended up being with my ear buds instead. This still got me thinking about getting a new portable media player though.

In looking to get a new portable media player, I want to consider all of my options. Right now, I think I have four options:

  • get another Rockbox capable portable media player,
  • get one of the accessible iPods,
  • get a portable media player made especially for the blind or
  • press my E71X cell phone into service as my portable media player.

I’ll way the pros and cons of each option below, and share what I’ve uncovered so far, but I’m looking for any opinions, advice or pointers to anything or any information I’ve missed.

Rockbox Capable Portable Media Players

In addition to my Sansa e280, I also have an iRiver H20 running Rockbox. As much as I like this player, I’d really like to get a memory card based player instead of one with a hard drive. I like the smaller size and convenience of the memory based players. Plus, with the 16G card, by Sansa e280 has more capacity (24G) than my hard drive based iRiver H20 (20G).

When I cross reference the list of supported players on the home page for Rockbox with the Rockbox Buyer’s Guide, I see that the Sansa e200 series is the only memory card based portable media player capable of running Rockbox. As I said above, I’m looking for another option, so I can avoid the potential problem with the headphone jack. I’m also not a fan of the wheel interface used on the Sansa e200 series of media players.

I know the Sansa e200 is going to be one of the less expensive options, so maybe I should just buy a couple of them and take my chances on the headphone jack. I got my most recent Sansa e280 from eBay for around $40. The only problem is that you need to make sure you find a V1 version of the Sansa e200 series, since the V2 version isn’t supported yet. This can be tricky since the only reliable way it to check if you’re talking about a V1 or a V2 player is to check the firmware. I had good luck just asking the sellers on eBay what version of the Sansa they were selling, but it’s still an inconvenience.

Another option is to get a Sansa e200 series player from Accessible Electronics!, which will be a refurbished V1 model and will come with rockbox installed. It isn’t hard installing Rockbox, but it would be nice knowing you’re getting a V1 model and knowing that it’s in good enough shape to run Rockbox. Of course, you’re going to end up paying a little bit more than you would on eBay.

Accessible iPods

I know the newest iPod Shuffles and iPod Nanos let you use iTunes to enable voice clips to turn your iPod into a talking media player, not unlike rockbox. The iPod Touch can also run VoiceOver. When I compare the different iPods it looks like only the 32G or 64G iPod Touches will give me the capacity and accessibility I’m looking for. This would mean I’d be spending $300 to $400 for my new portable media player. A 16G version of the 5th generation iPod Nano, which I could get for around $180, might also work. I also found 8G 4th generation iPod Nanos at Accessible Electronics! for $95. I’d like more capacity, but I do like this price.

It also seems that with the iPod Touch I’m getting an awful lot of machine to play my music and podcasts. I may come to love all of the features of the iPod Touch, but there seems to be some overlap in functionality between my cell phone and the iPod Touch, so I’m not sure how much I’d use all of those features on the iPod Touch.

I kind of feel the same way about iTunes. On one hand, I like the idea of having a single application where I can manage my music library, my podcasts and my portable media players. I’m pretty much currently doing this now with Winamp. Again, my concern is with the size of iTunes though. I guess I’m also a bit anxious about the closed nature of the iPods. I like the fact that I can play almost any media format on my Sansa running Rockbox, and if I want to, I can just access it with Windows Explorer. If I’m going to start using iTunes, I’d also like to be able to use it to manage my non-Apple media players.

Portable Media Players Made Specifically for the Blind

I’ve done a bit of research on the portable media players made specifically for the blind, and although I like the idea of using commercial products, there are some aspects of these media players that really intrigue me. After consulting GW Micro’s comparison chart, I think I’ve ranked the players in the following order:

  1. BookSense
  2. Victor Reader Stream
  3. Plextalk Pocket

I also found the following podcasts useful:

What intrigues me about these portable media players is that I can use one device for basically everything I want to listen to, e.g. Music, podcasts, Talking Books and NFB Newsline periodicals. The price put me off originally, but they’re in the same ball park with the iPod Touches. Of course, they don’t come with any memory, but I already have a 16G memory card that I got for $30 a month or so ago.

Using my E71X as a Portable Media Player

I like this option because that means I could carry around one electronic device instead of two. Running Talks and an assortment of built in and 3rd party applications would let me access most audio content. I think I’d be out of luck with Talking Books and some DAISY formats.

I guess I see a dedicated portable media player as a bit simpler. When I’m reading a book at night before I go to sleep or when I’m doing something else, I like to be able to just press a button or to and start listening where I left off. I don’t want to always have to load an application and then look for a book or a bookmark. The battery drain also worries me. Cell phones have so much to do already and they go through their battery charge so quickly that I’d hate to be without my cell phone because I fell asleep listening to a book one night and missed a key overnight recharge.

Internet RadioFan appears to be accessible

February 5, 2009

Today I checked out the application Internet RadioFan from the web site “Giveaway of the Day – free licensed software daily” at the URL I was pleased to find that it seems to be completely accessible with JAWS.

According to the web site:

“The program Internet RadioFan allows you to listen to online radio and watch TV broadcasts on the Internet. All the radio and TV stations are grouped by country while the description of each channel contains the name of the city from which the broadcast originates and the style or genre of the given station.”

The direct URL for Internet RadioFan is

I downloaded Internet RadioFan and was listening to a radio station and then a TV station in just a matter of minutes. It seemed completely accessible with JAWS. I still haven’t checked out any of the advanced features, such as setting presets, but I was able to arrow and tab around the screen, move up and down the lists of TV and radio stations and bring up the TV or radio station I wanted to listen to. Another must for me, is that Internet RadioFan allows you to set it’s volume independently of the system’s or JFW’s volume. I know we have other choices, which seem like they might have a larger selection, but Internet RadioFan seems like a keeper to me.

I didn’t see the price in US dollars right off, but it’ll be free from Giveaway of the Day until 2PM US central time.

Audio Comparer seems to be accessible, for the most part

February 1, 2009

Today I checked out the application Audio Comparer from the web site “Giveaway of the Day – free licensed software daily” at the URL Although I wasn’t sure how useful I would find this software, I decided to check it out. It seems to be accessible, for the most part, but it doesn’t seem like I personally will find it very useful.

According to the web site:

“Audio Comparer will listen to your entire audio collection and then will be able to quickly locate duplicates and similar audio files based on their sound, not tags. The program will estimate duplicate songs’ quality and advise you which ones are better to keep and which to delete.”

The direct URL for Audio Comparer is

I downloaded the application, and I was able to successfully kick off a comparison of the music on my system. Everything was quite accessible, except there were a few unlabelled buttons. they were in the usual places, such as the browse button when you’re adding directories to the list of directories that should be compared, so it wasn’t hard to figure out what the buttons should do.

When the compare was complete, a pair of boxes come up. One box has the list of all of the tracks that were compared. This is the box that has focus, and as you move up and down the list, information on the track fills the screen. This information can be gotten to by using the JFW cursor. There’s another box that lists the results of the comparison. On my system this was blank. I’m not sure if this is because I still needed to do something or because I didn’t have any duplicate tracks. I suspect the later, since I manage the music I put on my system pretty carefully. I couldn’t get the focus over to this box using the keyboard or the JAWS cursor, but maybe this is because the box was empty. I tried to check the documentation, but there isn’t any documentation for this software yet.

I think this application could be quite handy for those people who have a larger or more dynamic music collection than I do. I also suspect that, although it won’t be totally accessible, it’ll be quite usable for a blind computer user. For my part, I don’t see much need for this application, so I’ll be using Revo Uninstaller from to remove Audio Comparer from my PC.

Why I didn’t sign the Video Description Petition

February 1, 2009

I saw a request on VICUG-L, the Visually Impaired Computer User Group List, to sign a petition “asking  Disney to include an audio description track on their movies released on  DVD.” The petition is titled “Video Description” and it’s hosted by at

Although I agree with the intent of the petition, namely to have Disney include video description on their DVD’s, I felt that the petition overstated it’s point. I realize that a strong case has to be made if Disney and other companies are going to listen to such a petition, but I don’t agree with a statement like “We [blind] cannot enjoy movies if the movies do not have video description tracks.” I enjoyed plenty of movies before I even heard of described video, and I may still enjoy a movie today that doesn’t have described video.

I recently discovered the site “Blind Mice Movie Vault” at, which is a collection of MP3 files each containing the sound track of a movie with described video. This is the first time I’ve done more than watch the occasional movie with described video, and I’m finding that described video does make the movie more enjoyable. I’ve listened to movies I’ve seen several times before, and although I always enjoyed them in the past, I realized that with the described video, I’m picking up on things I never noticed before including video cues that help flush out the plot.

I’ve also realized that video description is an art form in itself. Although almost all of the video description I’ve come across is professional and competent, there is some video description that is better than others. I also feel that not every movie lends itself to video description, or said another way, adding video description to a movie where the beautiful panoramic scenes are the major appeal of the movie probably isn’t going to make the movie enjoyable enough for me to want to listen to it. Granted listening to a description of the beautiful scenery or the action scenes with all of the special effects is better than not getting any description at all, but when there’s more described video than there is dialog it becomes more of an exercise in dramatic reading than a movie.

Getting back to the petition, I also have a small issue with the statement “If you wonder if video description tracks are really necessary to understand what is happening, consider watching one of the Disney movies with your eyes shut. There are so many details that are conveyed visually, but not audibly, that it is impossible to understand what is going on at any given moment, much less understand the entire plot.” As stated above, I don’t think it’s true that “it is impossible to understand what is going on at any given moment, much less understand the entire plot” when you listen to a movie without described video. There are plenty of movies where I thought I followed the plot just fine and even had to explain it to my sighted friends. The issue I wanted to point out though is that asking a sighted person to close his eyes and imagine what it is like to be blind, isn’t the same thing as being blind. When I watch a movie, I have years of experience listening for audio clues to help fill in the blanks created by the absence of the video. A sighted person has no such experience, and can’t help but be left with a feeling of helplessness. Although this plays well when soliciting sympathy for a fund raiser or a petition like this, I can’t help but feel it also does a bit of harm by furthering the notion that the blind are lost without video descriptions and help from the sighted.

Like I said, I want the petition to succeed, and I would have signed it myself if it had been worded a bit differently, and I didn’t feel it conveyed the notion that the blind cannot watch TV or movies at all without described video.

By the way,    VICUG-L is the Visually Impaired Computer User Group List. Archived on the World Wide Web at You can subscribe by sending a blank email to

Document Backup is accessible, for the most part

January 31, 2009

Today on the web site “Giveaway of the Day – free licensed software daily” at the URL they have the application Document Backup from Insofta, and it is accessible, for the most part.

According to the web site:

“Document Backup is an easy-to-use solution intended to automatically backup your important data to a local or network hard disk, CD, DVD, Blu-Ray or HD-DVD disc or even to an FTP server. Compressed backups (in the zip format) save space and incremental backups save time.”

The direct URL for Document Backup is

I downloaded, activated and had my first backup with document Backup in just a few minutes. When you start it for the first time, you’re presented with the wizard to create a new job. Everything in the wizard was completely accessible. Once you’ve got a new job created, you end up in the main screen, which is the only area I didn’t find completely accessible. the layout seems pretty simple though, and it was easy enough to figure out what to click on with the JAWS cursor. From this screen, I was able to start the backup I created in the new jobs wizard, and I was able to check on the contents of that backup. Again, everything but that initial screen was completely accessible.

The application itself seems pretty basic; I didn’t see any significant features that aren’t already included in MS Backup, which has been my backup solution to this point. The interface did seem easier to use though and more intuitive. For example, it took me quite a bit of reading and trial and error to accomplish in MS Backup what I was able to do in Document Backup in just a few minutes. Of course, I had all of that experience with MS Backup behind me when I brought up Document Backup. It also seemed easier to create and schedule incremental or differential backups and not have them overwrite each other in document Backup than it is to do in MS Backup.

In conclusion, Document Backup is a keeper and I’m switching over to it as my backup solution.

It looks like Document Backup costs $29 normally but of course, it’s free as long as it’s on Giveaway of the Day.

LeaderTask may be Somewhat Accessible

May 14, 2008

Today on the web site “Giveaway of the Day – free licensed software daily” at the URL they have the application LeaderTask, and it may be somewhat accessible. According to the web site:

“LeaderTask is a business organizer for a modern person. LeaderTask has a smart system for managing projects, tasks, contacts, events. Want to complete more? Get tired less? Earn more? And permanently improve the quality of life, work hard less and contemplate peacefully more? LeaderTask will help you with that! LeaderTask = Scheduler + Personal Information Manager + Calendar + Address Book + Organizer!”

The direct URL for LeaderTask is

As I said yesterday, I’m always looking for a good PIM application, but I’m never optimistic they’ll be accessible. I gave LeaderTask a chance, and after playing with it for a few minutes, I decided it’s worth keeping around and spending some more time with. I’m still not optimistic that it’ll work out, but between keyboard short cuts and use of the JAWS cursor, it looked like I could get to everything. For a PIM application to be effective, it not only has to be accessible, but it has to be easy enough to use and have enough features to make it worth using over a simple text editor. I’m not sure LeaderTask will end up being a PIM application that will be worth using, but it’s still on my system!

General Knowledge Base Doesn’t Appear to be Accessible

May 13, 2008

Today on the web site “Giveaway of the Day – free licensed software daily” at the URL they have the application General Knowledge Base, and unfortunately, I didn’t find it accessible. According to the web site:

“General Knowledge Base is an innovative knowledge management software allowing an easy and effective management of all types of knowledge bases. It is an optimal tool for categorizing and finding articles, documents or data. It allows user to keep documents systemized, to add notes and attachments, capture and store web pages from the web.”

The direct URL for General Knowledge Base is

I’m always looking for a good PIM application, but I’m never optimistic they’ll be accessible.

After downloading, activating and installing General Knowledge Base, you’ll find a General Knowledge Base submenu in Start Menu -> Programs. I tried both the Editor and the General Knowledge Base application. In both cases, I found that JAWS didn’t track the cursor or the highlighted menu items. As usual, I tried using the JAWS cursor, but I just wasn’t able to figure out how to even get started. Since I wasn’t optimistic it was even going to work before I started, I didn’t end up spending much time playing with it.

I ended up using Revo Uninstaller from to remove General Knowledge Base from my PC.

D’Antoni and the Knicks

May 12, 2008

I used to be quite a big fan of the Knicks, but I haven’t followed them too closely ever since Jeff Van Gundy left. I was hoping they’d make the right coaching decision though and start back down the path towards competitive basketball in the NBA.

I’m not sure Mike D’Antoni is the answer though. They should definitely improve and as the roster turns over into one more suited for D’Antoni’s style of play, they should be a lot more fun to watch. I believe in the old adage that defense wins championships though, and I’m not sure a D’Antoni coached team will ever have a championship caliber defense.

Unlike a lot of Knicks fans, I wasn’t a big fan of Mark Jackson coming to the Knicks. I won’t be surprised if he ends up being a good coach, but I’m a big fan of experience, and to my knowledge, Mark Jackson doesn’t have any coaching experience at any level. I was actually hoping for Avery Johnson. I think he’s proven he can coach, and he can coach defense.

All that said, I’ll probably be more of a Knicks fan, now that they have D’Antoni there, than I’ve been the last few seasons. Now let’s hope they can attract some free agents and score big in the draft!

Premium Booster 2.8 Doesn’t Appear to be Accessible

May 4, 2008

Every day I check out the web site “Giveaway of the Day – free licensed software daily” at the URL If I see something that might be interesting, I go ahead, download it and give it a try.

Today they have Premium Booster 2.8, and unfortunately, I didn’t find it accessible. According to the web site:

“Premium Booster is a powerful optimization toolkit with a set of unique features. It will scan your PC for problems and repair found issues which may be hindering your Windows performance.”

After downloading, activating, installing and running Premium Booster, you’re presented with a screen where you click on a button to perform the given action. The buttons aren’t reachable with the keyboard, so I tried using the JAWS cursor. Unfortunately the buttons also aren’t labelled. After a few minutes trying to figure out what the different unlabeled graphics are through trial and error, I gave up. There are enough other similar programs that are accessible, I didn’t think this application was worth the time it was taking. I ended up using Revo Uninstaller from to remove Premium Booster from my PC.