I’m speaking at Macworld | iWorld on blind accessibility – calling my speech Blindfolded! Week one of my VoiceOver learning experience. SCOtutor for Lion from Don McAllister from the Mac App Store. Rod Simmons reviews Award Wallet free in iTunes and the Android Marketplace. He also dedicates the Backyardigans Castaways song to the NosillaCastaways. George from Tulsa tells us about the free, cross-platform application DiffMerge from Sourcegear.com. In Chit Chat Across the Pond Bart goes through his “Autumnal Cleaning” computer style.
Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday October 30, 2011 and this is show number 336.
Week One – VoiceOver
For years I’ve tried to get in as a speaker at Macworld, and I’m thrilled to announce that this year I was accepted! I’m sooo excited about this, because the paper they excited is really risky – the name of my presentation is Blindfolded! Yes, I’m going to do my entire presentation blindfolded, demonstrating the VoiceOver accessibility features of iOS and OSX. I did this to force myself to learn how to do it. I’ve played around a bit from time to time but quickly I turn it off because it drives me nuts. I’ve decided to approach this like learning a language, you can try to take a class once a week to learn Spanish, or you can live in Spain for the summer – immersion is the only way to go. so I have 2 months to learn to be at least moderately proficient at navigating iOS and OSX.
I thought I’d keep a running diary of what I’m learning and talk a little bit about the learning process. If by some miracle I get good at it quickly I won’t’ do weekly updates, but for now it looks like this might be a torturous trail.
Let’s start with the iPhone. If you’d like to play along with our home game while you’re listening, try this. Open Settings, go to General, and then down to Accessibility. There’s more than just accessibility for the blind in here, but for now just turn on VoiceOver. Two things happen when you do this. First the phone starts to speak to you, but it also oddly gives you visual clues showing you what’s active on screen by drawing a box around the item. Now this is SUPER handy for me to figure out when I’m botching things up, but I don’t really know why it’s there for the visually impaired.
the hardest thing to get used to in VoiceOver on iOS is that you don’t tap items to select them, you double tap. Makes sense because you have to touch it first with your finger to figure out what it is, so a single tap wouldn’t work. I’m getting reasonably good at remembering to double tap but my accuracy appears to be pretty bad, I often have to double tap 2-3 times before I get it right.
I’m working really hard at learning to type, which is quite a challenge. I’m a touch typist, running around 60 words per minute. Oddly, this appears to be a disadvantage because it turns out my brain doesn’t actually knows where the keys are, each finger knows where the keys are it’s supposed to push. So on a keyboard my right ring finger knows where the “o” is, but when I’m using my index finger on an iPhone, my brain has only a vague recollection of where the “o” is. I was shocked by this and fascinated by the way the brain works.
There’s three ways to type in VoiceOver. When you drag your finger over a key, the nice lady says “o”. then if you hang out there for a bit, she says the military call name for it, Oscar. Kind of cool if you didn’t catch it at first. Then to type the key you can double tap, but we already discussed my reliability at double tapping in the same location. Here’s the really odd way, you can hold your finger down on the o key so you don’t lose your place, and then tap with any other finger on screen to select it. I’m still getting the hang of which fingers to use, but this works maybe closer to 80% for me now. Oh, and remember the nice lady tells you the key you’re on? A completely different lady tells you when you’ve actually successfully selected the key. When you hit the space bar after spelling out a word, the second nice lady reads the word allowed to you, but often reason she tells me the word and then tells me I’ve misspelled it!
As of week one of my journey, it takes me about 12 minutes to post a one line tweet or email, and I have to open my eyes to fix things about 5 times. I’m hoping I get better than this in the next 8 weeks!
Sadly, iOS is MUCH more successful for me than OSX. I’m discouraged right now about OSX, but I’m still confident I’ll get there. They have a 23 page tutorial that lets you practice each thing you learn which is awesome. The bad news is there’s SOOOO much to learn! They have what they call the VO keys, control-option. So when they tell you how to navigate, the instructions will say vo-right arrow. That’s not too bad. But I can’t remember when to use the right arrow vs. the down arrow and I keep getting it wrong. Then there’s selecting controls – you have to use vo-shift and arrows. Try right now on your keyboard to hold down command-control-shift. With one hand. Yeah, you have to kinda mash all three buttons with your thumb or risk dislocating your ring finger as you reach around.
I also studied some videos that explained this mysterious thing they call the rotor. For the longest time I couldn’t find it, and not being able to find it I couldn’t figure out what the heck it even was. I finally found it in a PDF document on accessibility and watched a video explaining it. You hold down the vo keys, then on the trackpad rotate two fingers to turn on the rotor. Still don’t know what the rotor IS though. Once it’s on, you rotate two fingers on the trackpad WITHOUT the vo keys held down, and now you get a visual indication on screen of a radio-like dial. As you rotate your fingers, it will change from links to headings to forms and more. Ok, still don’t know that that means. More studying reveals that once you set the rotor to say, headings when you’re on a web page, you use a two fingered swipe on the trackpad to move down the page jumping from heading to heading. Does your head hurt yet? Mine sure does! I thought learning all of the Lion gestures was hard, this is the graduate study course in gestures!
I absolutely do not have the hang of this yet, but I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, it’s only been about 4 days so far. It’s good to know that I have friends like Slau, Darrell, Shane and the Tech Doctor to help me when I get stuck! Stay tuned, hopefully on next week’s installment of Blindfolded! you’ll hear me say, “wow, can’t believe I thought this was so hard!”. Hopefully.
SCOtutor for Lion
I’m sure you all know Don McAllister and his fabulous training series, Screencasts Online, right? If you haven’t checked them out, go over to screencastsonline.com and check them out after the show. He gives one free session a month and then 2 or 3 paid for sessions via a subscription service. His instruction is over the top fantastic. The thing that amazes me most is that even though I consider myself quite accomplished on the Mac, I’m CONSTANTLY learning from Don. He sees things in the menu that simply escape me, and I don’t know how he does it.
Recently he did several segments in a row all about Lion and the changes to some of the core apps like Safari and Preview along with changes in the Finder, like Quicklook, versioning, how auto save works, Launchpad and Mission Control. As I was watching and learning I thought of my friends Diane and Bill who just recently switched back to the Mac after about a 15 year hiatus, and I was trying to think how to get them to see Don’s instructions. Not sure they’d be consistent subscribers but I knew they’d get a lot out of this particular piece.
Then I took a look at the next session he posted, and it was all about the Mac app he’s had created called SCOtutor for Lion. He’s packed up all of the sessions about (more than two hours of content) into a video player application. It’s got chapter markers so you can jump right the the part you want to learn (or re-learn) and it even has subtitles in English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and Simplified Chinese, and more languages on the way.
This is the perfect app for my friends, and you get all this Don McAllister goodness or only $4 on the Mac App Store. I put an affiliate link in the shownotes so you can go check it out. If you like it, and I’m 100% certain you will, be sure to leave Don a comment and rating. Heck, it’s the number one paid app in Barbados, it’s GOT to be good!
Rod Simmons on Award Wallet
Award wallet is a Frequent flyer miles, hotel, credit card, and Gift certificate tracking program. The service will track you rewards and let you know before they expire. The iOS app give you all your award point information in the palm of your hand including account numbers you are frequently asked for.
Most important It can alert you prior to points expiring. I forgot to mention it can also upcoming trips as it is linked into your accounts. I love this service. Again it solves a problem you have that you don’t really know you have.
The iOS app is basic but I have note with all my account travel numbers. This gives me the same thing but with more value
Thanks, Rod – this sounds great! Just today I was booking a hotel room and had to go fetch Steve to find his Starwood hotel number. I have to ask one question though…did you say you have a rewards card for the Bass Pro Shop? Really? If you get enough points do you get free worms? Well in any case, I thought the listeners should get to enjoy just a little bit of the Backyardigans song, “Castaways”:
Using a Screenreader? Click Here to play the Backyardigans Castaways Song directly on Youtube.
Well now that’s just great. We will ALL hear that song in our heads every time we say NosillaCastaways. Thanks a lot for that Rod!
Let’s clean our palettes from that with a word from our sponsor, the lovely folks over at Bluemang Learning, makers of ScreenSteps and the new Clarify software for Mac and PC. Clarify is a tool that lets you write quick instructions to someone complete with screenshots with annotations, and also allows you to throw in some text if you feel necessary. In a few quick steps you’ve got an email ready to go that will point them exactly where you need them to go. I have to tell you, the outpouring of excitement and enthusiasm over Clarify has been amazing. I’ve been getting letters from all over from people who already owned ScreenSteps and added Clarify to their arsenal of tools, to people who never saw the need for ScreenSteps but Clarify just fits perfectly into their needs. Lore Schindler wrote in that she was excited because she could get a cross-platform version of Clarify to run on Windows at work, and use Clarify at home on her Mac. I hope you’ll take a look at the free trial versions of both Clarify and ScreenSteps and find the tool that fits your needs. Check them both out over at bluemangolearning.com.
George from Tulsa on DiffMerge
Three of us at two locations share 18 GB of irreplaceable paper scanned to PDFs There are hundreds of files.
We keep a “master” and sync two other hard drives to it, both as backup and for active use. I’m reluctant to call it a “system,” though it does work. I think it would work better encrypted to the cloud with one shared data set. But, first, it seems a good idea to verify that changes over the years are included in the “master” and not instead added only to a “duplicate.”
I tried a visual comparison in Pathfinder, and my eyes glazed over. Clearly, this is the kind of brainless high accuracy task for which computers were invented.
Way back, I’m pretty sure I could have written a DOS batch command to do exactly what I wanted. Pushed to the wall and offered a last smoke, maybe I could use the Mac and some Unix commands to do my heavy lifting, but I’d rather not.
Thus my search for a GUI program to automate the comparison. Several possibles at Apple’s Mac App Store, none with good reviews.
Macupdate offered DiffMerge, cross-platform Freeware from Sourcegear.com
DiffMerge is one of several programming tools written by Sourcegear.
I needed only “Folder Diff,” the least sophisticated of DiffMerge’s three functions. FolderDiff “performs a side-by-side comparison of 2 folders, showing which files are only present in one folder or the other, as well as file pairs which are identical or different.”
“Diff” and “Merge” show changes among files and allow in-line editing of content. Merge is said to safely and automatically check three files for differences and output a merged result. I think these functions could be invaluable to a Coder. Sourcegear includes a very good PDF manual within the DiffMerge download. I used DiffMerge on both Snow Leopard and Lion.
You’ll find links, and a Screensteps Tutorial, in the Shownotes. MacUpdate Link for DiffMerge, DiffMerge on Sourcegear.com, Link to Download Barry Tuckwell performing Mozart’s Four Horn Concertos
Hey George, this is REALLY cool. I very often want to run the diff command, and I know I should remember how to do it in the command line but I just don’t any more. Having it in a lovely free GUI is just awesome! I downloaded it, and made sure ClamXav was scanning my downloads folder before I opened it up. what a great tool, this will definitely come in handy.
Did I mention to you how excited I was to get accepted to speak at Macworld 2012? Oh, guess I did mention that. Well anyway the folks from Macworld sent me a PDF to read, click little checkboxes, and then sign. I thought I’d whip open preview, figure out a way to drag some slick check marks from the Apple Character viewer and then add my signature. What a nightmare that turned out to be. I found the checkmarks in the Character viewer, but when I dragged them into Preview, they were HUGE. No matter how I tried to drag the corners of the tiny little graphics, they just wouldn’t budge, and I couldn’t move them around to the right places. I fooled around with this for about 10 minutes before I realized I was using the wrong tool for the job.
I popped open PDFpen from Smile instead, and when I dragged in the check marks, they were actually pretty close to the right size immediately but I could easily drag the corners to make them perfect. I filled out the form using PDFpen, and then dragged in my signature file, resized it right in PDFpen, and then printed it all to PDF again. I’m not sure I had to do that last part but I figured that would make it all one graphic instead of them now having an easily extractable signature in my PDF. PDFpen saved me time, saved me grief, and allowed me to not procrastinate sending back my acceptance form (which is what I normally do when things get too hard. Check out PDFpen and all the other great products from Smile over at smilesoftware.com.
Chit Chat Across the Pond
- Apple release an update to Quicktime 7 for Windows – should now be on 7.7.1:http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5016
- Yet another reason not to steal software – a new and sophisticated Mac Trojan is being embedded in pirated software being shared over Bit Torrent:http://blog.intego.com/new-malware-devilrobber-grabs-files-and-bitcoins-performs-bitcoin-mining-and-more/
Two interesting little FYIs WRT security:
- Google search is going SSL for people logged into Google:http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/making-search-more-secure.html
- iOS5 introduced support for Google Safe Browsing data, helping iOS devices keep users away from known-malicious sites:http://blog.intego.com/google-safe-browsing-data-syncs-to-ios-devices-via-itunes/
Main Topic – Bart’s Digital Autumn Cleaning
I’m moving towards starting back into work full-time after my long illness, so I felt it was time to take control of my digital life. I was spending too much time just managing things, and not leaving myself enough time to actually DO things!
For the last few months I’ve been slowly taking more and more pieces of my digital life in hand, and re-thinking, simplifying, and optimising them. Less to think about, less to go wrong, less distractions, and more automation!
- Switched to a new password manger – 1Password (working on a review)
- Moved passwords from my old manager manually to allow:
- weeding out of dead passwords
- re-organisation into better groups (using tags)
- changing of weak passwords
- Moved my domains MX records away from my hosting provider to GMail
- Gave me better spam filtering
- Gave me bigger mailboxes
- Gave me server-side mail filtering
- A personal address
- A work address
- An address for the small amount of consulting I do
- An address for podcasting
- My iCloud address for FaceTime & iMessage
- logged into the various services and updated the stored email addresses to the relevant one of the remaining few core email addresses
- Created a folder (or ‘label’ in GMail lingo) called ‘Notifications’, and made a sub folder for each email-generating service
- Set up mail filters to automatically move these mails to their relevant folders,being sure to hit the checkbox to skip the inbox.
- This removes massive distractions from the inbox, and allows me to manage the time I spend on each service each day – I only see Flickr mail when I choose to have a look at what’s going on in Flickr today etc..
- Updated the very few pages that are actually on my website to reflect the current reality, instead of the reality a few years ago when I set up the current incarnation of the site!
- To further cut down distractions, I consolidated my social networking – biggest victim here was Linked In – big generator of email, tiny generator of anything useful (for me)
- I also consolidated my IM services – biggest victim here was ICQ – I messaged everyone who I only had an ICQ address for, and asked for a GTalk or an MSN ID, everyone had one, so bye bye ICQ!
- Before I got ill my main machine was my 17″ MacBook Pro, it had almost all my core data on it, and I’d access what I needed from my iMac over the network when I wanted to work on a bigger screen – my MBP is a Core Duo Intel machine with 2GB of RAM, my iMac then was a G5 with 1.5GBof RAM.
- While I was ill my G5 iMac finally died, so I picked up a 27″ Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM in the refurb store for a very good price (it was a year old model) – then I added an extra 8GB of RAM from OWC for less than €100 including shipping etc..
- Then Lion came out, and my Core Duo MBP could not be upgraded
- Then iCloud came out and was Lion only
- I’ve now moved all my data onto the iMac, and effectively decommissioned the MBP – it’s now just used for web browsing, and for taking with me when I’m going away for a few days to my parents or grand parents place.
- I have no plans for a new Laptop – iMac + iPad & iPhone is enough
- To that end, I bought a VGA adaptor for my iPad, and Keynote, so even when I have to go give presentations, I won’t need anything more than my iPad!
Backup and security:
- Now that I’m all Lion, all my hard disks are encrypted, internal disks, external disks, and backup disks – the lot!
- bought a HD dock that supports SATA & IDE, and culled the absolute herd of external disks on my desk – bought a new 2TB drive to hold my data, and the only drive in a case now is my TimeMachine drive – all backups are on bare disk that get dropped into the dock as needed.
- Changed off-site backup strategy – now use two encrypted bare disk, one of which is always at home, and one of which is always in work – at no point are both disks ever in the same place as the computer. Both disks have the identical name, so the Mac, and backup tools, see them as the same disk.
- Switched to only using arRsync for my non-TM internal disk backup, because I need to exclude a bunch of stuff to get it all to fit onto my 500GB external disks – all direct clones now done with Carbon Copy Cloner
- I’ve let a bunch of domains I had “just cause” expire
- slowly moving all my non-.ie domains over to Hover.com where they do free domain privacy – most places charge for that, so I never paid, and that created a LOT of spam
That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsors for helping to pay the bills: ScreenSteps, and Smile. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at email@example.com, follow me on twitter at twitter.com/podfeet. I contribute a fair amount over on Google Plus nowadays so just search for me by name if you want to circle me up. If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.