This week I’m joined by Darren Carr, host of the Mac Quadcast. Darren is an Apple blogger and podcaster and he’s also paralyzed from the neck down. We spend a bit of time talking about how on earth he does all of this. Just learning how he types 20-30 words per minute using only his eyes (not to mention editing audio and video) was fascinating. After he explained the accessibility tools he uses, we switched gears. I shamelessly stole the format he uses on his show to interview Apple-centric guests to interview him. We talk about his favorite Mac of all time, his favorite iPhone, what album and movie he’d put into a digital time capsule so people would know what geeks liked 500 years from now, and the most enjoyable question, what would you do if you could control Tim Cook with Siri for a day.
You can find Darren’s writing and his podcast The Mac Quadcast at themacquad.com and you can follow him on Twitter @themacquad.
Shownotes (mostly stolen from Darren)
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and how you got into the Apple/Mac world.
- Currently a Blogger, Podcaster and trying to get into YouTube screencast and video reviews.
- In 1987 I was paralysed from the neck down and ended up on a life support machine, this was caused by a virus which attacked the Spinal Cord.
- Used a BBC Micro Computer with Head Stick for a couple of years. A local accessibility specialist saw headmaster adaption at a conference and gained funding from the local education authority (HeadMaster worked on the Macintosh Plus, so that was my first Mac).
Despite my disabilities, I went to The London School of Economics and graduated in 1998 with a BSc in Government.
I’d love to learn more about the accessibility tools you use. How do you access your Mac and iOS devices for “normal” use?
- All of my Mac access stems from the HeadMaster adaption. I now use a Tracker Pro which has a small receiver that sits on top of the screen and a small reflective dot which sticks to the centre of my glasses. The receiver picks up the position of the reflective dot and small movements of the head (therefore dot) moves the cursor on the screen. I use a sip/puff switch for left and right mouse clicks and an onscreen keyboard for text input. (this setup enables access to virtually every application on the Mac)
- iOS is much more limited, I’m not over keen on being strapped up to adaptations for mobile devices so I just ask my carer to do what I need to do.
How do you record podcasts?
- I ask somebody to position my mic in the correct place and put my headphones on my mac access system mentioned earlier enables me to control everything. My software for recording is the standard Audio Hijack, Skype/Discord, Loopback, and Farrago. I use Logic Pro to do any audio adjustments and then edit using Fission. I also use a service called Auphonic to set the correct podcasting sound levels.
How do you record and edit video?
- I have to rely on somebody to record video for me (under direction), I received a gimbal for (ZHIYUN SMOOTH 4 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer) Christmas so am looking forward to playing with that. Screencasts are done by myself using the setup mentioned earlier, unlike most people I speak to I prefer Camtasia to ScreenFlow and editing is done by myself using iMovie (hope to upgrade to Final Cut when finances allow) and Camtasia.
In the history of Apple, what is your top piece of hardware is there a particular reason (design, usability, innovation, just plain fun)?
- I’d have to say the Macintosh Plus, the first computer that I had full access to and ignited my interest in the world of Apple, even on the tiny 9-inch monochrome screen I started designing, writing, playing games and everything else a geek does.
Favourite iPhone and why?
- Everyone loves their first iPhone, mine was the iPhone 3GS but I think my favourite is my current one iPhone XS Max, I love the edge to edge screen, the camera is amazing, love the design.
What are your views on the current iPhone (design, functionality, ect.), have you upgraded to iPhone Xs or Xs Max?
- As I just said I have the iPhone XS Max and love virtually everything about it. Still not convinced about face id. Only two faces very restrictive,
What hardware are you using for podcasting?
- Either my 27” 2017 iMac 5K Retina or my 2015 MacBook Pro with Retina Display, Focusrite Solo audio interface on the iMac and a Zoom U22 USB audio interface on the MacBook Pro, a Shure SM58 XLR Microphone and Bowers & Wilkins P3 On Ear Headphones.
What is your most useful Mac Application, and biggest time wasting app/service on Mac?
- Most useful Ulysses, all of my writing starts there (Blog posts, show notes, personal writing etc.)
Times wasting, not a big social media user but enjoy playing World of Warcraft (always play every Sunday evening with a couple of friends) and also love playing Chess (ICC is a great online club) (one game can easily turn into twenty!)
What is your most useful iOS Application, and biggest time wasting app/service on iOS?
- My most used apps are whichever podcast catcher I’m using and Audible for audiobook neither of which I class as time wasting.
Don’t really waste time on iOS
If you could control Tim Cook via Siri for a day, what hardware project would you initiate/increase investment in? Following this where would iOS and macOS be heading.
- This is easy for me, I’d have Tim on the phone to the S Lady team an invest in basic voice functionality. For apps such as Apple Books, it would be great to be in an ebook and just say S Lady turn page and one page would turn. Or in the Apple TV Remote app to say S Lady up, down, left, right to have complete basic control over the Apple TV, being paralysed from the neck down the Siri button on the Apple TV is completely useless as I can’t press it.
Are there any services that you would point listeners toward, not necessarily Apple?
- Setapp – loads of apps for a really low monthly price, also includes the Ulysses subscription.
Apart from the podcasts you are involved with (and obviously the NosillaCast) which one do you never skip an episode of and would recommend?
- The usual tech podcasts that Mac Geeks follow (Mac Power Users, The MacCast, The Mac Geek Gab)
- Dead Rock Stars, they take a different ‘Dead Rock Star’ each week and take a look at their life often quite irreverent.
- Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review podcast of the BBC Radio 5 Live movie show, two old blokes wittering on about films, oh hello to Jason.
The Quadcast Digital Archive
I’m starting a page on the website ‘The Quadcast Digital Archive’ that if still around in 500 years will give an insight into what us geeks loved. So what is your top:
An album that has been released digitally (all time).
A movie that has been released digitally (all time).
- Shaun of the Dead – 2004 – Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
Audiobook or ebook that has been released digitally (all time).
- Audiobook – Ernest Cline – Ready Player One