Important Messages, such as Service Disruption.

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We are closed for the Christmas holidays from the evening of Wednesday 20 December 2017 through to Tuesday 2 January 2018.

We would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and happy New Year!

My Initial Thoughts on the RNIB Navigator App

At lunchtime, I took the new RNIB Navigator app for a "test drive". Given I have more to say about it than can be accommodated in a tweet of 140 characters, I thought I would write a quick blog post with a few observations.

As background, I've been told by Rehabilitation Officers I have excellent mobility skills. I feel a dog provides the best form of mobility for me, but I am now working well with a long cane and am very reliant upon echo location which is essential for getting to some of the places I need to go to locally. In this context, I am very familiar with the names of streets in the area, how they relate to each other and the public places on them.

With all that in mind, I tested the app today and overall was impressed with how it worked. As you would expect from an app developed for blind people, it is completely accessible. I found all the Buttons convenient to access and the prompts from VoiceOver were excellent and were automatically spoken according to the settings I had previously activated. I'm very glad RNIB have made it available.

In the past, I have used GPS technology in a pedestrian mode and particularly in cars as I travel widely every week and I like to know the places we are passing and how long it will be until we reach our destination, that kind of thing. I look forward to trying Navigator in that context this week.

However, from a pedestrian perspective, I found Navigator to be as good as anything else I've tried, and the best way I can describe that is "adequate". I use it as a guide only as to notify me what's around, how to get from one location to another and so on, but I don't expect it to be precise. Navigator, for me, is not precise. It often advised me to turn into streets when I had already done so for example. So in summary, I wouldn't use it to locate a place exactly but more as a means of telling me when I was in the vicinity. To say again, this is typical of GPS products I've tried and because I have the skills I do, I can work with that.

There are a few other points I should make.
1. I've read a lot on Twitter about this being a new app and so the feature set may be lacking and we should bare with the developers. That is not how I see this. The model adopted is the Seeing Eye US-based app from Sendero, which has I think been around for about a year now. The new part about this is the adoption of it by RNIB and as a consequence its usefulness within the UK. To repeat, the technology used is the same and I would have thought therefore it ought to be a little more sophisticated.

2. As an example, the ability to store a favourite location other than your home address does not seem to be included, and that surprised me. One possible work around could be to check in at the place on Foursquare, as this is one of the databases used for Points of Interest. But this means interacting with another app, and I have also read that Foursquare are possibly removing the ability for a person to "check in" within the near future, or at the very least there may be a separate app for this. I don't use Foursquare these days and so I am not as up to speed on this as I should be. But returning to the point, I would have thought the ability to store a favourite point of interest or location would have been fairly fundamental. At the very least this would have helped Rehab Officers in terms of assisting blind people to mark specific locations either en route or when one has reached a frequently used destination. I'm sure there will be a logical reason as to why favourite places are not included however. But there has to be a better method of marking often visited locations rather than checking in on Foursquare as this could potentially pose as a security risk I would have thought.

3. Despite what I've said, I see using Foursquare for points of interest as fairly important, such as locating public buildings. The other method of selection for P O I's is the Tom Tom database, which does not include all locations I would expect in this area. I wonder how this facility will fair when Foursquare services are redesigned later this year? It will be interesting to see. Lets hope Navigator will still be able to interact with it.

As I say, I'm really pleased that RNIB have the app available and I'll certainly keep using it for the moment and see what develops. Thanks to them again for bringing the Sendero product to the UK.

SoundTaxi Scripts for JAWS

Today I had occasion to use the audio file conversion program SoundTaxi. I quickly created some JAWS scripts for it which contain the following:

  • Shortcut keys to activate many of the menu options.
  • Additional spoken prompts and reading of the static text when in Settings.
  • Hotkey help.

In addition, when in the list view of files being converted, press Control+Insert+1 through to 3 to hear status information.

If anyone wants the scripts they are Free to Download! They have been tested for JAWS versions 11 through to 15. If they work for you, fantastic! Enjoy!

Spotify Accessibility with JAWS

Despite it being available on mobile devices, there are some of us who do like to use Spotify on the computer. I've certainly come to enjoy listening to it particularly to preview new music before purchasing it.

During this past week, Spotify appear to have updated their version of the software to V0.9.8.296 which rendered the text on the screen so it was no longer accessible to JAWS, the screen-reader I primarily use. A set of JAWS Scripts for Spotify is available for a small cost. I don't use them personally as I chose to script the application myself. But plenty of people do. Whichever solution used however, the text does not seem to be available on screen.

I did get a primitive solution working for the latest release but wanted to go back to my old scripts. This would mean, for the moment, going back to the previous version, V0.9.7.16. Here is how I did it.

  • Uninstall your old version of Spotify.
  • Download a previous version of Spotify from this page.
  • Run the installer but do not log in.
  • Download the Files I have created housed in a zipped archive.
  • From the "Run" dialog in Windows, (accessed by pressing the Windows Key+R), type %appdata% and press Enter.
  • Browse to the Spotify folder and press Enter.
  • Paste the files from the zipped archive into this folder, preventing the program from auto updating.
  • Run Spotify and enjoy.

I hope that helps someone.

Accommodating Specific Requests in Studio Scripts

Hi everyone

Most likely on Saturday, I will be posting a new build of the StationPlaylist JAWS scripts. I am going to keep the existing set on the website as well because we know that
one is stable and very good. But I’ve made some significant internal adjustments in this latest one, so you should only download this upcoming build if
you are affected by one of the following issues.

Accommodated a customer request, he wanted all the new script functionality to be available to him for Studio V5 as well as 5.01, this is now done.

Those few people who have problems with not getting track notification endings, or where various functions return 0 values such as remaining track time,
have had a fix applied. This is a StationPlaylist Studio API limitation on some machines. There is a special mode to activate which I will detail in the
release notes if this happens to you.

Problems typing the grave accent character as reported by a user. You now press the grave accent sign twice quickly to type the sign into your text,
pressing it once acts as usual.

Two problems relating to the Wavestreaming server provider. We did obtain a Wavestreaming account with AutoDJ specifically for the testing.

First, the encoder connection isn’t being acted upon when using the SAM encoders. In fact this is not a problem related to jaws as some people believe, but I’ve applied a workaround nonetheless. 

New feature, ability to stop and start the AutoDJ on Wavestreaming accounts. You need to tell jaws what the starting URL is, the stop URL and the password.
There is a wizard to guide you through this training process. Once jaws knows this information the AutoDJ can be started and stopped with two keystrokes.

I think that covers just about everything. More over the weekend.

Brian

StationPlaylist 4.33 and JAWS

Hi everyone

Since I launched the JAWS scripts for SPL Studio 5.01 particularly, something has become fairly clear, which is that there are some machines where JAWS and Studio do not interact well together for a variety of reasons.

I have therefore made the decision to prepare a set of scripts for SPL Studio V4.33, for those who wish to use them. In terms of features, these scripts will be almost comparable to the 5.0 and 5.01 scripts, although clearly there are some things I will not be able to implement, simply because of new enhancements which 5.0 gives as a native program. But certainly I have done my best to bring them into line.

The 4.33 scripts will contain features such as the ability to set focus to the list of tracks when the Enter key is pressed, enhanced arrow key support, newer sounds, more reliable reading when in the playlist viewer, revised documentation, and so on.

The licence to obtain the SPL Studio 4.33 scripts will work in the same way as for the 5.0 and 5.01 scripts, that is 25 dollars for a year's support and upgrades. Anyone who has a licence for the 5.0 series will be able to obtain the 4.33 set at no additional cost.

For optimum performance, I still do recommend SPL Studio 5.01 because the feature set is greater, and on all of our machines, including those we use for broadcasting on a permanent basis, we've experienced absolutely no problems at all. But as a fall-back position, the additional 4.33 set of scripts will be available. I'll post again as and when the scripts are ready, but given I've been working hard on them recently I don't expect the wait to be too long.

Have a great day!

The Future of the StationPlaylist Scripts for JAWS

During the past four years, I have been very happy to develop and support the JAWS scripts for StationPlaylist Studio. I have been assisted tremendously by Ross and his team at StationPlaylist with adjustments to their program in order that it can be made more accessible, and those accessibility improvements continue into the upcoming release of V5.01. All this has ensured that blind people using JAWS can very easily create and manage playlists, while taking advantage of features as songs are playing. The scripts have in fact almost become their own program as they contain so many features. Very many people are using these scripts on both internet and FM-based stations around the world.

Because as yet there is not an updated tutorial which teaches people how to use the program within the context of JAWS, I am often contacted by radio stations who need help not only with the functionality of the scripts themselves but also in terms of general setup and operation. This assistance I have gladly given, but it does take quite some time to help those people, in some cases several hours.

As more and more people use the scripts, clearly this impacts upon the number of support requests I receive which are all carried out in my own time, which is more limited than it used to be. As a result, from 27 August 2013, I will be levying a charge towards the scripts. This will ensure they are actively developed and supported. For some time, I have asked for donations towards the upkeep of the project, but sadly, very few people donated considering the number of individuals who are using them and need support as a result. I want to see the scripts grow in terms of what they offer while ensuring people get the support they need.

The ownership of the scripts will transfer to our internet radio station, Team-FM, and as such from the launch of the new scripts will be hosted on the Team-FM website. More details about that to follow.

A free set of scripts will be available so you can download them before deciding whether to purchase or not. You can use these, however periodically, you will be given information regarding Team-FM which cannot be silenced with the Control key. Purchasing an authorisation file will remove these announcements and allow you to use them without restriction.

The new scripts, to be launched on 27 August, already contain new features and improvements. For example, the entire Options dialog box is far more accessible, giving clear announcements regarding how you should interact with a specific field. The Set Temporary Cue facility, together with the ability to use the time search capabilities within the Insert Track dialog, are also now very accessible. These will be explained in the accompanying documentation. In addition, pressing Enter within the Insert Tracks dialog will now set focus automatically to the list when a search for tracks has been computed by the software.

If you use the SAM Encoders, there is added functionality. As soon as a connection to the server is made, playback of the highlighted track in Studio begins almost instantly. So as you can see, development is very much ongoing.

As and when StationPlaylist Studio V5.01 is released, the facility to report the remaining time in a playlist is greatly improved and more accurate than it has ever been.

Purchasing An Authorisation File

When you purchase the scripts, you will receive:
The SPL Studio scripts authorisation file and script updates for a period of one year.
Support on difficulties you may be having with the scripts for one year.
Access to our Email list where you can discuss features for script improvements and announcements of script updates.
To repeat, the scripts will be launched on 27 August. When version 5.01 of SPL Studio is released, support will be provided to facilitate enhance access to it very soon after.

The cost for the authorisation file and yearly support and updates is $25 which can be paid via PayPal using the form below if you would like to be one of the first to benefit from the new features on 27 August. Please ensure in the comments accompanying your payment you include your JAWS serial number and the preferred email address where we can correspond with you.

People purchasing licencing and support in subsequent years will receive a substantial discount, but clearly we are some way off that. In addition, anyone who has donated anything towards the project during the past 12 months will receive the amount they have donated as a reduction of the charge for the scripts. So if you donated $5, the cost will be $20. To reiterate however, this is an exceptional circumstance.

In summary, the older scripts are still available until 27 August, whereupon they will be replaced with the newly updated version, by default with periodic announcements given. Don't forget also that StationPlaylist Studio is a very accessible program in its own right, without scripts, and there is nothing to stop you using it without them if you so wish.

Thank you for your understanding and I hope you will continue to enjoy using, and benefiting from, the scripts for StationPlaylist Studio. If you have questions, please send an email message to brian@team-fm.com.





Chicken, Good Question

A Question mark hovers over what this dish is, a curry? A casserole? A stew, maybe a bit of all three? All we do know is that this hearty mixture of tender chicken, vegetables, beans and potatoes, cooked in a thick, luscious, softly spiced sauce is really good! This amount makes four generous bowls.

Download the Audio Demonstration of this Recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 oz 30g butter.
  • 1 tsp 5ml flavourless oil.
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped.
  • 2 tsp 10ml curry paste.
  • 1 lb 454g boneless, skinless chicken fillet, cut into cubes.
  • 1 orange and 1 red bell pepper, seeded, quartered and cut into thin strips.
  • 2 large or 4 small zuckini (courgettes) cut in half lengthways if large, sliced.
  • 1 400g can, about 2 cups, chopped tomatoes.
  • 300g, 1/2pt coconut cream.
  • Salt, freshly cracked black pepper.
  • 1 tbsp 15ml tomato paste.
  • 1 410g 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 1 500g 18 oz can cooked new potatoes, drained, rinsed and thickly sliced.
  • To serve: Naan bread, fresh Coriander, (cilantro), to garnish.

Method

  1. Place a large pot over a high heat. Add the oil and butter, stir and cook until you can hear no more sizzling.
  2. Add the onions and cook quickly over a high heat, stirring all the time for 1-2 minutes until beginning to soften. Tip: adding a tiny bit of salt is helpful here as this draws out a little moisture and prevents onions from browning too much.
  3. Add chicken. Cook, stirring, until the chicken is sealed and slightly browned, maybe 3 minutes.
  4. Add curry paste, reduce heat a little and cook stirring until aromas begin to rise from pan. Then turn heat back to high and add bell peppers. Stir these in and allow to Sauté over high heat for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add zuckini, carefully stir them in and allow them to sauté for a few minutes. This careful frying at each stage really improves the flavour of the finished dish and guards against wateriness later on. Now reduce heat to medium, put on a lid and allow the meat and veg to steam and mingle for 7-10 minutes.
  6. Remove lid, turn up heat, add tomatoes, coconut cream, seasoning and tomato paste. Stir and taste, make sure spice and seasoning's right.
  7. Carefully stir in the beans and potato slices. Check again for seasoning. Bring to a bubble, then turn down, partially cover and simmer for an hour until the meat is tender, vegetables are soft but not mushy and the sauce is fragrant, creamy and thick.
  8. Serve in deep bowls, it needs nothing with it really, you could serve naan bread to mop up the sauce, or you could sprinkle the top with fresh chopped coriander or crunchy shards of broken poppadom or even freeto which would give a nice contrast to the soft stew. Enjoy.

More Dropbox Folder Management with JAWS for Windows

Quite a number of people have retweeted via Twitter my blog entry concerning the management of Dropbox folders, included it in newsletters and asked questions by Email. Because of the questions I've received, I am preparing this blog entry which I hope answers them.

Password and Security

If you have not logged into the Dropbox website for some time, it is possible that you may be asked to reset your password. This is in line with the Dropbox added security policy implemented last year which they proposed some time before they implemented it.

Should you be asked to reset your password, activate the "Send Email" Button on the page you are viewing and an Email will be sent to you. This message will contain a Link taking you back to the website. Press Enter on the Link in the message in order to do so and follow the instructions given.

There is a further strand to Dropbox security if you care to implement it. This is called "Two Step Security". Two-step verification adds an extra layer of protection to your account. Whenever you sign in to the Dropbox website or link a new device. Once implemented, you will need to enter both your password and also a security code sent to your mobile phone. Here is how to implement Two Step Security:

  1. Browse to the Dropbox website at www.dropbox.com and ensure you are logged in.
  2. Press Insert+F7 to bring into view the list of Links on the webpage, and select the Link containing your name. Press Enter.
  3. Press Insert+Escape to refresh the JAWS Virtual Buffer.
  4. The screen now in focus presents details of your account. From here, you can change the Dropbox account settings and see how much space your files are occupying together with the total space remaining.
  5. Again, using the list of Links if you wish, press Enter on the "Settings" Link.
  6. Press Insert+Escape to refresh the JAWS Virtual Buffer.
  7. Again, using the list of Links if you wish, press Enter on the "Security" Link.
  8. Press Insert+Escape to refresh the JAWS Virtual Buffer.
  9. On this screen you will enable the Two Step Security. You can also in addition change your password if required. But for now, using the list of Links if you wish, press Enter on the "Enable" Link.
  10. Press Insert+Escape to refresh the JAWS Virtual Buffer.
  11. Press the letter B to locate the "Get Started Button". Press Enter on the Button.
  12. If necessary, press Insert+Escape to refresh the JAWS Virtual Buffer.
  13. Locate the "Password" Edit Field on this page and ensure you type your password into it. The Quick Navigation key, E, can be used.
  14. Press Enter to click the "Next" Button.
  15. Note that on this screen, you may need to disable JAWS "Forms Mode". If so, press NumPad Plus to do this and read the screen with the Arrow keys. This screen asks how you would like to receive your security codes. There are two Radio Buttons, "Use text messages, Security codes will be sent to your mobile phone", and the other is "Use a mobile app, Security codes will be generated by an authenticator app." Select the Radio Button of your choosing by pressing the Space Bar on it.
  16. Finally, press Enter or Space Bar on the "Next" Button. Now follow the instructions you are given depending upon the option chosen.

Sharing a Folder with Collaborators

It seems I was wrong. People are finding the process of sharing folders with others difficult. Here's how to do it:

  1. First create the folder using Windows Explorer on your computer. Assuming the Dropbox Windows application is installed, launch it from the Desktop.
  2. Create the new folder in the usual way you would do within Windows.
  3. When the folder is created, focus on it in order it is selected, and activate the Context Menu with the Context Menu key, or press Shift+F10.
  4. Press Down Arrow repeatedly until you reach the item "Share This Folder ..." and press Enter on the item.
  5. Press ALT+Tab to focus upon the Dropbox website which will have been brought into view after a short pause. Alternatively, you can select it from the Insert+F10 "Window List" utility and press Enter when it is located.
  6. Press Insert+Escape to refresh the JAWS Virtual Buffer.
  7. The screen now in focus is the important one in respect of sharing the folder. It contains several controls, some of which I will mention. The first is a Check Box, "Allow Members to Invite Others". You may wish to uncheck this box in order that you have complete control as to who gets invited. Your collaborators cannot invite anyone you do not wish to see the files if this is unchecked.
  8. By pressing the Quick Navigation key, E, locate the second, (not the first), Edit Field and ensure Forms Mode is enabled if necessary by pressing Enter.
  9. Type the Email address of the person you wish to collaborate with. It is a good idea to ask the potential recipient for the Email address to which the Dropbox account he or she has is assigned.
  10. Most importantly, press Tab twice, (not once). It may feel a little sluggish but just go with it.
  11. JAWS will probably say, "Edit", at this point. This is the field in which you can enter a personal message, not essential.
  12. Deactivate Forms Mode by pressing NumPad Plus.
  13. Review the screen with the Arrow keys and you will probably see the potential collaborator's name, or at the very least, an Email address, which is hyperlinked.
  14. Press the letter B to reach the "Share Folder" Button and press Enter on it.
  15. Press Insert+Escape to refresh the JAWS Virtual Buffer. The process is now complete.

Dropbox Folder Management Using JAWS for Windows

Dropbox is an excellent tool for storing files. It can be used so you can share your personal files among different computers or mobile devices you own, together with sharing files with others, such as people with whom you wish to collaborate on a document.

However, the interface does present some accessibility challenges for screen-reader users. This article seeks to address them in conjunction with the screen-reader JAWS for Windows. You may be able to adopt similar strategies with alternative screen-readers.

Dropbox Notifications

While it is true that you can press the keystroke Insert+F11 in order to view the Dropbox notifications in the Windows System Tray, (such as whether files are uploading/downloading or if "all files are up-to-date", the J-Tools set of JAWS scripts from Astec at www.astec-at.co.uk make interacting with Dropbox easier. You can press a keystroke to instantly hear Dropbox file status information, another to drop right into your Dropbox folder and a third to view the Context Menu for it including working with your Preferences. The Preferences multi-page Dialog Box is also made more accessible.

Folder Management

By far the task most people have difficulty dealing with is either leaving a shared Dropbox folder or, (as an owner), removing someone from the folder. This article will work through both scenarios. The process of creating an invitation to a user via Email to join a folder is accessible so I will not cover the steps unless anyone specifically requests them.

Leaving a Shared Folder

If you are not the owner of the folder, (in other words if you did not originally create it), you may care to leave a folder you previously had access to. Here are the steps involved. They are all accessible.

  1. Browse to the Dropbox website at www.dropbox.com and ensure you are signed in.
  2. Using the list of Links feature, (Insert+F7), locate the name of the folder with which you no longer wish to be associated. Each folder name is hyperlinked. Press Enter on the desired folder name.
  3. Each time you work through a step in this process, a new page is not rendered on the Dropbox website, so JAWS has difficulty in revealing the newly updated content to you. To rectify this, press Insert+Escape to refresh the JAWS Virtual Buffer.
  4. Using the JAWS Find facility, (~Control+F), type the word, "Share", and press Enter.
    Hopefully, the cursor should be on the line entitled, "Shared Folder Options". If it is not, press F3 until JAWS announces these words.
  5. When the cursor is on the appropriate line of text, press Enter. Do not be concerned that it is not a Link or a Button. In fact it is a Button but JAWS cannot detect this as a standard control.
  6. Press Insert+Escape again to refresh the Virtual Buffer.
  7. Press the letter B to reach the, "Leave Shared Folder" Button and press Enter on it.
  8. Press Insert+Escape again to refresh the Virtual Buffer.
  9. You may be prompted as to whether you wish to leave the folder. Locate the appropriate Button if so and press Enter.

Removing a Subscriber to a Dropbox Folder

This process is more troublesome but using JAWS it can be achieved.

  1. Browse to the Dropbox website at www.dropbox.com and ensure you are signed in.
  2. Using the list of Links feature, (Insert+F7), locate the name of the folder containing the member you wish to remove. Each folder name is hyperlinked. Press Enter on the desired folder name.
  3. Each time you work through a step in this process, a new page is not rendered on the Dropbox website, so JAWS has difficulty in revealing the newly updated content to you. To rectify this, press Insert+Escape to refresh the JAWS Virtual Buffer.
  4. Using the JAWS Find facility, (~Control+F), type the word, "Share", and press Enter.
  5. Hopefully, the cursor should be on the line entitled, "Shared Folder Options". If it is not, press F3 until JAWS announces these words.
  6. When the cursor is on the appropriate line of text, press Enter. Do not be concerned that it is not a Link or a Button. In fact it is a Button but JAWS cannot detect this as a standard control.
  7. Press Insert+Escape again to refresh the Virtual Buffer.
  8. Using the JAWS Find Facility, (Insert+F), type the first part of the person's name you wish to remove and press Enter. Hopefully the cursor should now be on the line of the person's name.
  9. Now here is the tricky part. Using Insert+NumPad Minus, route the JAWS Cursor to the PC Cursor and begin exploring the text on screen with the Arrow keys. This is not as easy as it sounds because, very often, the text within the Internet Explorer page is obscured and JAWS cannot detect it. In addition, the JAWS Cursor sometimes is not correctly routed to the Virtual Cursor, but in most cases, it is. If JAWS cannot latch onto the name of the user you wish to remove, try maximising the Internet Explorer window by pressing ALT+Space then X. In any event, you may need to use Up or Down Arrow in order to locate the name with the JAWS Cursor.
  10. When the name is located, you should hear on that line of text the name of the user followed by the word, "Joined". There may also be additional text on this line comprising Dropbox folder names, but provided you hear the name it should be fine.
  11. At the end of the line containing the name is a graphic. This graphic cannot be detected by JAWS even if its Graphics setting is set to read "All". Press the End key on the keyboard and then press the Left Mouse Button, (NumPad Slash).
  12. Press NumPad Plus to return to the Virtual Cursor.
  13. Underneath the name of the user in the Virtual Cursor, you will now see a list of three items, each of which is hyperlinked. One item will be "Kick Out User". Press Enter on this Link.
  14. Press Insert+Escape again to refresh the Virtual Buffer.
  15. This page contains two new controls. One is a Check Box, where you can specify whether the user you are about to remove should keep a copy of the files. You probably do not wish them to. The second is a Button, "Kick Out", which is self-explanatory. Press Enter on this Button. The process should be now complete.

Cassie's Unboxing

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