Monday, October 5, 2015

Google - The Driverless POD car

Google Driverless POD car
Google Driverless POD car

Driverless car is most definitely very interesting and neat, but there are so many downsides to this.

First, this whole driverless car in my opinion totally goes against the American way of life. Americans have serious love affair with cars and taking them out of it clearly would be seen as a threat against their way of life. Huge part of people life is spent driving to and from places and homes.

Second, when it comes to safety, no matter what technologies are used to make the Google driverless pod car or any driverless car drive on its own there is always HUGE RISK factors to consider. Realize these cars are controlled by COMPUTER PROGRAM and how many times a day do you run into problems with your computer. Computer programs can fail so many ways even simple as interference from a signal and these days we have too many signals everywhere. Not only that. What about hackers? I am sure we once or twice came in contact with these people in our life. I would be surprised if you didn't. Lately, I am sure you heard of hackers attacking and taking control of latest cars that are outfitted with computer systems for convenience. And then, sometimes electronics can fail for weird reasons. For instance, few years ago, a lady driving on a highway with her cruise control enabled lost control of her car. She simply couldn't get her car to slow down. They believe it was because of her cruise control malfunctioning. What if parked driverless car decides to take of on its own without you inside. After all it is controlled by a computer program. It doesn't know any better....LOL

Third, I don't care what anyone says about these cars, but it is not PRACTICAL. Would you trust this car to take your kids to school all on its own? You mind as well put a stranger in the car with your kids. Plus, think of all the job loses when and if they implement these new technologies into latest cars - taxi drivers, delivery people, truck drivers, school bus drivers, bus drivers, etc will all loose their jobs. You know that won't go well with people especially unions.

So, these cars are neat and interesting, but I wouldn't be expected to find them in 50 or 100 years at your local dealership for above mentioned reasons. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

AXS Map: Crowdsourced Accessibility Reviews of Businesses

AXS Map is an app available for iOS and Android that allows users to rank the accessibility of local businesses. Using the location of the device users can search for nearby businesses and rank the accessibility of the location in very basic terms. More detailed accessibility information and information for people with a wider range of disabilities would improve the app.

While accessibility standards established by the government are exact and technical, AXS Map uses a star rating system. For example, a businesses that is easily accessible to people with disabilities would earn a five star ranking. The app also allows users to rank a business based on the noise level, which can be helpful for people with hearing impairments, and by light which can be helpful for people with visual impairments.

I was recently involved in a "Mapathon" were a group of people used the app to map parts of the city. This experience helped me understand the value of the app, as some businesses had serious accessibility issues such as numerous steps with no ramps.

The data that is inputted through the app or the website can then be viewed by people interested in the accessibility of a business. For example, a person with a physical disability could check the app to make sure that a coffee shop had a ramp.

If the AXS Map platform becomes popular it could even prompt businesses with poor rating to make improvements.

While the concept behind AXS Map is good, the implementation is a little rough. The app is not intuitive to use and can be frustrating. However, it does work once you get familiar with the interface. The app also requires users to enter their email which could steer some users away.

To use AXS Map visit or download the app for iOS and Android. Click here to download the app for iOS and click here to download the app for Android.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Inspiration Maps Updated with iPhone Support and More

Inspiration Maps displayed on iPhone 6

Inspiration Maps iconThe mind mapping and outlining app Inspiration Maps, which was previously only available on the iPad, is now available on the iPhone as well. The app is a valuable tool to help students organize their ideas and start the writing process. Users can drag text boxes around the screen to easily produce webs of ideas. Inspiration Maps is particularly helpful when writing about complex topics that require a well planned and organized essay. Inspiration Maps can be also be helpful when beginning an essay to visualize the structure that the written piece will take.

With the larger screen iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus in makes sense to bring the app to the iPhone. If you are concerned about not having enough room to effectively use the app on your iPhone, a free version is available here.

The update also makes in easier to select multiple text boxes or images at the same time. Now users can press and hold on the screen in order to lasso a group of images.

The updated app is available for $10 is the App Store. Click here to download the app. Click read more below to view more screenshots of Inspiration Maps for iPhone.

graphic highlighting brainstorming

screenshot showing ability to add graphics, notes, hyperlinks, and audio

screenshot showing the ability to flip between web and outline view

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Latest FireFox 39.0 LEAKS memory

latest firefox

I don't know about you, but the latest Firefox is not working like the previous versions use too. I am running Firefox 39.0 on Windows 7 and it crashed on me few times. If not, it crawls down or completely blacks out so much that I find myself having to restart FireFox every 15 minutes. Well, I found out that it is LEAKING MEMORY really really really really reallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllY BAD. It leaks memory when running idle without going to any website for GOD SAKE. So, I went online for solution and many people have said that they are not having any problem. And then, there are those who are having problem just like me. It turns out that this memory leak has something to do with FireFox Addons.
 So, I disabled all the addons on my FireFox. It has helped a lot, but it still crashes or blacks out only that it takes longer.

When I run Firefox 39.0 with all the addons enabled, its crashes with memory at somewhere 1.5GB. And without any addons enabled, it crashes with memory at somewhere 500MB.

What is going on FireFox? Oh well, I guess good things can't last forever.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bright Future for Apple Accessibility with Lisa P. Jackson in the Lead

Headshot of Jackson wearing red shirt

Apple recently updated the bio of Lisa P. Jackson to reflect her new role overseeing accessibility at Apple. This expands her previous responsibilities of overseeing environmental initiatives at Apple. Ms. Jackson's official title is now Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been vocal regarding his views of the importance of accessibility. This new management change, which puts a Vice President level executive in charge of accessibility for the first time, seemingly reaffirms Apple's long-standing commitment to accessibility.

Apple has been a leader in accessibility. Its products include superior accessibility features out of the box. Features such as VoiceOver, Speak Selection, Zoom, AssistiveTouch, and Switch Control give people with disabilities equal access to Apple products at no additional charge. From personal experience I can say that these features are truly life changing and positively impact many people.

Even considering Apple's past success there are areas for possible improvement. One example involves training sales people about the accessibility features. On recent trips to Apple Stores, I have had some experiences that are not consistent with Apple's commitment to accessibility. For example, the Apple Watch on display had its accessibility features disabled. While Apple likely wants to limit confusion for customers who do not use accessibility features, this does not promote equal access. Part of the magic of the Apple Store is being able to walk up to a shinny new product and try it out. With the accessibility features disabled, and the sales people unfamiliar with how to enable these features, users with disabilities don't have an opportunity to fully explore the product. Apple should be showing off these features, not hiding them. Apple would be doing a great service to its customers with disabilities to prepare its store employees to talk about accessibility features as well as they talk about other features.

Ms. Jackson has proven herself to be a very capable leader.  She has the ability to continue Apple's accessibility superiority and solve existing challenges. Her work on environmental initiatives has been very successful, propelling Apple towards the top of the technology industry in terms of sustainability. The future of Apple product accessibility seems bright, and I am excited to see what innovations come next.

To read Lisa Jackson's full bio from Apple click here. Photo credit: Apple.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to mount your encrypted USB hardrive?

If you are running Linux OS like Ubuntu and you recently try to mount your encrypted USB hardrive, then you probably got error message "Unable to mount." If so, then you probably don't have cryptsetup utility installed on your system. It is needed to encrypt and decrypt device.

To install the cryptsetup, open terminal window and enter the following command as you see it exactly:
sudo apt-get install cryptsetup

Once it successfully installs, then you should be able to mount your USB hardrive after entering your passphrase using GUI or terminal.

Friday, April 17, 2015

How to fix No Sound in Windows 7 Home Premium Edition?

Windows 7 Home Premium Edition No Sound Fix
Windows 7 Home Premium Edition No Sound Fix
Before I give you my solution to Windows 7 Home Premium Edition No Sound Fix, lets make sure we are on the same page.

My computer system is Compaq Presario SR1817CL Desktop PC. For audio output, I have AC'97.

When I first installed my Windows 7, everything went well except for the sound. I went all over the Internet in search of fixes and there are plenty of them with different approaches and techniques. Being new to Windows 7 for the first time, I tried my best to follow their instructions and steps but nothing helped. In the process I may have screwed up my Windows 7 installation. However, all along there was a very simple solution to my sound problem.

After messing around with Windows 7 for about 2 hours, I learned that you CAN'T trust what Windows 7 says that it did or is doing. You should always try to enable or disable a process or function to see if the system is STILL having problem. What do I mean by that? Well, since my system was having sound problem, I saw the typical signs.

no-sound-in-windows-7-fix icon
no-sound-in-windows-7-fix icon
System message: No Sound Device Installed

Windows 7 itself searched online for sound driver for my AC'97 output and it kept reporting that it can't find any driver. I tried to look for sound driver for my computer on the manufacturer website myself and still can't install it. So, I ended up shifting through more websites and then I came upon a piece of information on Windows 7. That is even if your system says no sound driver found or can't update driver, try enabling and disabling the component and then try updating for the driver.

So, this is what I did. I opened my control panel-->device manager. There in the tree view window look for device in the list with yellow warning triangle. Yours might be under OTHERS or Sound, Video and Game controller category. Right click on it. In the popup menu first click on DISABLE and then ENABLE. At this point, Window 7 might start to automatically search and download driver. If not, click on the UPDATE DRIVER SOFTWARE option. Then, another window might open asking if you want to yourself search or the system search online for driver. Just have the system search for the driver. At this point, it should successfully download and install the sound driver and you don't even have to reboot your computer system. For me as soon as it got done installing the driver, my speaker icon red X disappeared. I HAVE SOUND NOW!!!!!!!!!!!

This is what I did and it worked for me and I hope it does for you too. Thanks for visiting my blog.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How to install VitrualBox Guest Addition (VBoxGuestAdditions.iso) on Linux (Ubuntu)?

Honestly, I have to say that I never ever spent this long trying to install a simple ISO file before. I went through so many self-help forums and websites still couldn't get the Guest Addition installed, but there is obviously a simple solution, which I overlooked. The reason I wanted to install guest addition to my VirtualBox was because my virtual machine wouldn't go fullscreen but acted like it was only 1078x768 or something.

Here are the steps in installing Virtual guest addition (VBoxGuestAdditions.iso) on Linux (Ubuntu). I am using VirtualBox 4.3.10 for Linux.

  1. Before you begin, you must have already created a virtual machine using an operating system of your choice as shown below. I installed Linux Elementary OS.
    Snapshot of Virtual Machine
    Snapshot of Virtual Machine
  2. Start your virtual machine(VM) by clicking on the start button. Once it is up and running click on the Devices pull down menu on your VM. In the bottom of that pull down menu, you will see an option "Insert Guest Additions CD Image..." Click on it.                                                                 
  3. At this point, VM will either tell you that you don't have Guest Additions Image and if you want to download it now. Just go ahead and click on the download button, but if you still have problem, then you need to download Guest Additions ISO image yourself. Then, follow this step. If everything went well you probably won't see anything or even a confirmation saying that Guest Additions is installed. What that means is that it didn't install guest addition yet but you have only mounted the ISO file. Now, if you were like me who ran into "Can't mount Guest Additions Image," then you probably already have Guest Addition Image opened or linked to your VM. Then, you should move on to the next step, but make sure VBoxGuestAdditions.iso is linked to your VM by going to VM->Settings->Storage->Store Tree Listbox. Another way to verify that you have successfully mounted your Guest Additions ISO file to your virtual machine is by opening the VM folder and file explorer like dolphin. Once it is opened, you should see VBoxGuestAdditions.iso listed on the left hand side. Don't close the dolphin file and folder explorer yet. Leave it open for you will be using it in the next step.
  4. Now, click on the VBoxGuestAdditions.iso mounted image listed in the left-hand side in the Dolphin files and folders explorer in your VM. When you do that, on the right-hand side Dolphin will display all the files and folders within VBoxGuestAdditions.iso. You will see bunch of .exe files and linux related files. If you are like me running Linux on your VM, then you should look for in the list.
  5. Now, is the file you need to run to install Guest Additions ISO image for your VM. To run the file, first you need to find its absolute path to the file. So, right click on the file and click on properties. Just copy the direct path shown on that popup window. Then, open a terminal window. There type in the following after the prompt sudo ./your-direct-path-to-the-file/ Then, hit enter. At this point, it will ask you to enter the password. After that, it will run through the installation.
  6. After installing VBoxGuestAdditions.iso, you will need to shutdown and restart your VM for Guest Additions to be applied to your VM. That's all. Now you should see your VM fullscreen.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Apple Watch Accessibility: Possibilities, Challenges, and Unknowns

When the Apple Watch launches next month it will mark the launch of Apple's first new product category since the iPad. The iPad was a game changer in terms of accessibility, bringing numerous features designed for people with disabilities at launch. How will the Apple Watch compare and what are some of the challenges and possibilities for the Apple Watch related to accessibility? A lot of questions remain unanswered, but the wait will soon be over.

Apple Watch is rumored to include built-in software accessibility features when launched, however these reports have not been confirmed by Apple. It would make sense and align with Apple's patterns if they included features such as VoiceOver and Zoom in the Apple Watch. While the inclusion of these features seem likely, how these features are implemented will be key for people with disabilities.

The Apple Watch could prove beneficial to people with various disabilities. Apple has already demonstrated the navigation capabilities of the Watch which include providing distinctive taps when a wearer needs to turn left or right while walking. This feature could aid blind and visually impaired users when navigating unfamiliar areas. Additionally, the device could help remind users to complete daily tasks like taking medication. The watch, which can be used for Apple Pay purchases and other forms of authentication could benefit users with physical disabilities who cannot handle a credit card for example.

Just like with the iPad, app developers will likely be key in coming up with unique assistive apps. The initial developer tools have some limitations that could hold back developers, but hopefully useful assistive apps will still be made available.

With all the potential benefits there are some challenges that stem from the device's small screen and buttons. First, the "digital crown," which is a small dial on the side of the Apple Watch, could pose challenges to users with physical disabilities and dexterity challenges. The "digital crown" which is used for scrolling and zooming may be difficult if not impossible for some people to operate. It will be interesting to see if Apple will devise a software solution to this potential challenge. Similarly, the small screen with small icons may prove difficult to press for some users.

Apple's new "force touch" gesture could also prove challenging for users with physical disabilities to preform. A "force touch" is a harder press on the touch screen display that invokes distinct actions from a lighter tap. From Apple's demonstrations, this gesture seems vital to the operation of the watch so hopefully a software solution will be available for users who are unable to preform this gesture.

Hopefully the Apple Watch will follow in the iPad's foot steps and be a game changer in terms of accessibility. If you are thinking of purchasing the Apple Watch, but have doubts about your ability to interact with the device due to a disability I would strongly recommend heading to an Apple Store in April to try one out.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Voice Dream Writer: Word Processing Plus a Whole Lot More

Voice Dream has become a well-known name in the assistive technology community because of Voice Dream Reader: a text-to-speech reader available for iOS devices. Now the developer has released a new app called Voice Dream Writer which aims to support writers with special needs. Voice Dream Writer has features that can benefit people with a wide range of needs including people with dyslexia and people who are blind or visually impaired. People without disabilities can also benefit from the app. For example, english language learners could benefit from spoken feedback and other features offered by Voice Dream Writer. 

The text-to-speech feedback is designed to help writers find mistakes in their writing. The style of text-to-speech reading can even be changed to help writers focus either on spelling and grammar, or on content and organization. The app also offers easy access to an outline view that can help with organizing a document. Other features allow users to look up words phonetically or look up words by its meaning. 

The text-to-speech feedback can be accessed as users type so they can verify that a word or sentence was entered as they intended. This helps writers identify words or phrases that looked correct, but upon hearing them read aloud sound incorrect. The app will also read back text that has been dictated to help users insure that their voice was transcribed correctly.

When it is time to review a document, Voice Dream Writer includes some very thoughtful features for editing. The app includes two customizable proof reading modes that use text-to-speech to help with the editing process. The first is designed to help writers edit the content of their document. In this mode words are read back using text-to-speech sound natural and smooth: as they would when reading a book with Voice Dream Reader. This allows writers to focus on the content and organization of their document. 

The second mode reads text back in a somewhat choppy manner which allows users to focus their document at the micro level. This mode is ideal for editing spelling a grammar because the lack of flow with the text-to-speech voice makes it easier to focus on each word rather than the overall content of the text.

Each proofreading mode is customizable with options to announce misspelled words, spell homophones, and speak punctuation and capitalization.

Similar to Voice Dream Reader, Voice Dream Writer includes the ability to change the visual style of the app. Font size, character and line spacing, margins, text color, and background color can all be changed. Additionally, users can change the text to speech voice and speaking rate to match their preferences. Text-to-speech voices purchased in Voice Dream Reader are available in the Writer without an additional purchase. The pronunciation dictionary also syncs between the Writer and the Reader if both are installed on the same device.

Text files can be imported from iCloud Drive or supported third party services such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Unfortunately, users can only import text files and not Microsoft Word files. Documents can be exported as HTML, RTF, Microsoft Word, or Apple Pages format.

Click read more below to continue to read the review of Voice Dream Writer. Some of the most innovative and helpful features will be described below.

Some of Voice Dream Writers most helpful features can be found in the right sidebar menu. First is a dictionary which can read back the definitions of a word (This feature is currently not available in Voice Dream Reader without using VoiceOver). The second tool allows users to enter a word spelled phonetically to find the correctly spelled option.  For example, if I typed "receat," it   might suggest the word "receipt," as an option. Unlike some other apps, these suggestions are not made based on the context of the surrounding text. Users can tap on each suggestion to hear the word spoken aloud. This feature is extremely helpful for poor spellers, especially when they are in a situation where using dictation would be inappropriate or unavailable. 

The last feature on the right sidebar is the option to look up a word by meaning. For example, if I was writing about organizations which donate money to charities, but could not think of the word "philanthropic" I could search "donate money" and "philanthropic" would be one of the suggestions. This can help reduce instances of a word being at the tip of your tong, but you can quite think of the word.

In the left sidebar menu is an outline view. Users can select to view an outline of their document by heading, paragraph, or sentence. Users can then simply rearrange paragraphs or headings by dragging and dropping. This is helpful for the planning stages of writing as users can plan different paragraphs and fill in the content after they are finished planning.

All formatting in Voice Dream Writer is done using markdown. This means that all editing is done in plain text, but symbols inserted before or after words cause the words to be formatted when the file is exported. For example, adding a # or * before a word will cause that word to be formatted as a heading or as italic font when exported. This system has some positives and some negatives over conventional formatting that is found in Microsoft Word and Apple's Pages. 

For blind users this system can be helpful because the special characters such as # and * will be spoken allowing them to quickly recognize when a portion of text is bold or italics. In other word processors italics and bold text may be read normally making it more difficult for blind users to determine how the document is formatted. However, for sighted users this system may be unfamiliar and therefore more difficult. It would be nice if Voice Dream Writer had both the option of using markdown and for editing in rich text and allowed the users to decide which option worked best for their needs.

Finally, Voice Dream Writer includes a new innovation which improves the text selection and cursor movement process for VoiceOver users. These tasks are normally difficult for VoiceOver users. VoiceOver is a built in screen reader available on iOS devices that allows blind and visually impaired users to use gestures in order to use their device. When VoiceOver is enabled, Voice Dream Writer automatically adds three buttons to the bottom left of the screen. The first button controls the cursor and accepts a combination of multi-figure taps and swipes to move the cursor forward and backwards through the document. The second button adjusts how much the cursor moves with each swipe of the first button. This button allows the cursor to move letter-by-letter, word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence or paragraph-by-paragraph. The third button allows users to easily select text and then copy or cut that text. This system of selecting text and moving the cursor with VoiceOver is much faster than the method used in other apps and is a major benefit of Voice Dream Writer for VoiceOver users.

Voice Dream Writer is available for all iOS devices running iOS 8 and higher. While iPhone support is certainly convenient when writing a quick email, the iPad's large screen seems best suited for longer writing. Users who want to use the app for writing long pieces will probably wish to use a Bluetooth keyboard for faster typing. People using Bluetooth keyboards will also enjoy the ability to use keyboard shortcuts with the app. More keyboard shortcuts will be added in future versions as well. For example, in the future users with Bluetooth keyboards will be able to enter a key combination to quickly find all misspelled words.

In all Voice Dream Writer has many superb features that can help writers with a wide variety of needs. Hopefully rich text editing and the ability to import Word documents will be added in a future version. Voice Dream Writer seems like it would also make a great Mac app and hopefully someday people will be able to use these features on their Macs. Even without rich text editing and Mac support, Voice Dream Writer seems amazingly polished and well thought through for a version 1.0 app. To purchase Voice Dream Writer for $10 on the App Store click here. The app will be on sale for $8 until Sunday, February 1, 2015.

If you�re still unsure about the apps features watch the video below in which Winston Chen, the developer of Voice Dream Reader and Voice Dream Writer, walks viewers through his latest app.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Keeble Keyboard for iPad: Flexible Text Input for Users with Special Needs

Keeble is a virtual keyboard for iPad made by AssistiveWare. The app is only available in English for iPads running iOS 8 and above. As a result of new features available in iOS 8 the Keeble keyboard can be used in almost every app on the iPad including mail, Safari, and messages. Keeble gives users a number of customization options to make text input easier for users with special needs such as motor challenges, dyslexia, and other disabilities.

One option available is the ability to change the appearance of the keyboard. Users can change the color of the keyboard which could be helpful for users with visual impairments. The higher contrast colors can be more easily seen compared to the white and gray colors of the default iOS keyboard. The layout can be change from a QWERTY layout to an ABC layout if desired.

Keeble also includes word predication to speed up typing; especially for Switch Control users. The word predication features is slightly more advanced than iOS 8's built-in word prediction. Keeble allows users to change the number of predictions offered above the three offered by the default iOS 8 keyboard.

Keeble also allows users to change how the keys respond to taps and presses. This is especially useful for users with motor challenges that may cause accidental taps or presses on unwanted keys. Hold duration can be set to change how long a key must be held before that character is entered. With this option enabled, quick accidental taps will not be registered. Additionally, the backspace repeat can be customized to avoid accidentally deleting text. A "select on release" option is also available which will enter text on release of a key instead when the key is pressed.

The last customization option allows users to turn on spoken feedback of the text they type. Feedback can be given letter by letter, word by word, and/or sentence by sentence. This feature allows people with dyslexia or poor spellers to confirm that what they words they think entered are the words that they hear being spoken back to them using text-to-speech. While this feature is useful it can only be enabled and disabled via the apps settings. If there was an option to turn on and off auditory feedback directly, it would be much easier to access the feature when needed and disable the feature when not needed. Users can totally turn off the iPad's speakers but this will also mute all other audio output. There is space on the bottom right of the number and symbol entry keyboard where quick access to this setting could be added.

The Keeble app costs $15 on the App Store. To download the app click here. Click read more below to view screenshots of the Keeble keyboard.