Oct 212013

After using the iOS 7 switch interface for a couple weeks, I’ve gotten pretty adept at navigating various apps. But one element of app design really frustrates me. Some apps include a menu that can be brought up with a tap on the screen. Unfortunately, the menu disappears after a few seconds. Those of us who use switches don’t have enough time to activate menu items before the menu vanishes. This design flaw is prevalent in magazine and reading apps like the New Yorker and Instapaper.

From an accessibility standpoint, it would be better if menus remain visible until dismissed with another tap (the Amazon Kindle app does it right). As app designers become more cognizant of basic accessibility principles, problems like this should disappear. Komodo OpenLab, the maker of my TECLA Shield, has great resources on how to make apps more accessible.

Oct 082013

I ordered the new Tecla Shield DOS last week so that I could access my iPad using the switch control function in iOS 7. It arrived yesterday and I used it for a couple hours last night. Here are my initial thoughts.

Setting up the Shield couldn’t be easier. Developer Komodo OpenLabs deserves huge kudos for developing a truly plug-and-play device. It only took me a few minutes to select the proper mode on the Shield, connect my switch, and pair the Shield with my iPad. After a little fiddling with the Switch Control settings in iOS 7, I was up and running.

Apple has done an excellent job creating a switch interface that provides comprehensive control, regardless of how many switches are being used. Even with a single switch, I could open apps, scroll, flick, and perform other gestures. I could also type, albeit slowly, using the on-screen keyboard. The scanning rate and mode can be adjusted on the fly using an intuitive menu. The interface is also surprisingly smart. If I select a volume slider, the pop-up menu gives me the option to increase or decrease the volume. Well done, Apple!

The interface isn’t perfect. Some apps don’t play well with switches, particularly those with pop-up menus that don’t remain on-screen long enough to be activated by a switch. Developers will need to do a better job of designing apps that are accessible to everyone. Apple also really needs to add a word prediction function to its keyboard. I won’t be blogging from my iPad anytime soon.

I’ll post a video of me using the Shield in the next few days. Apple and Komodo OpenLabs have done a tremendous service to people with disabilities who, until now, have been excluded from the mobile computing revolution. Together, the Tecla Shield DOS and iOS 7 are a revolution in accessibility.

Sep 262013

A young Turk in Detroit has assembled a homemade mind-controlled flamethrower.

This is pretty much the best news I’ve heard all year. I must contact this young man and persuade him to become one of my henchmen. I’ll even offer to put him in charge of the rest of the henchmen, contingent upon me actually recruiting other henchmen.

Now, someone help me steeple my fingers so that I can do a proper evil laugh.

Sep 232013

Over the weekend, I experimented with the switch control function on my iPad using the built-in camera. iOS 7 allows users to activate the switch function by turning the head to the left or right. I was able to operate the iPad intermittently, but not on a consistent basis. The iPad had to be positioned in just the right spot to read my head movement and, even then, the interface could be fussy. My limited head movement probably didn’t help matters. Someone with more range of motion might have better luck using the camera. Perhaps future versions of iOS might be able to recognize more subtle gestures like eye blinks.

I just ordered the Tecla Shield, which will allow me to use an adaptive switch with the iPad. I’m expecting much better results using that method. Even though I have only been able to use the switch interface on a limited basis, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far. Apple’s accessibility team did an excellent job creating a comprehensive interface that can access all of the iPad’s functions with just a single switch. I’ll post more detailed impressions and possibly a few videos once I have the Shield up and running.

Sep 132013

I splurged on a new TiVo and set it up last night. The new interface is handsome and snappy while the additional tuners and storage should be more than adequate to feed my TV addiction. This wasn’t a necessary purchase by any means, but I’ve long since resigned myself to the fact that I’m powerless to resist the new and shiny.

Sep 052013

I’m in the midst of ripping all of my DVDs and Blu-rays onto my hard drive so I can access them from any screen in my house. It’s a tedious process and movies with subtitles are particularly tricky to transfer, but something about the process appeals to my inner obsessive compulsive. I’ll probably need to invest in more storage before this project is complete, but I might be more inclined to revisit titles in my library if I don’t have to search for the disc.

Physical media may be dying, but I’m not quite ready to abandon my archive for the cloud.

Aug 212013

The new TiVo models (the Roamio moniker is terrible and should be sent back to the marketing hell from whence it came) may compel me to replace my aging TiVo HD. The ability to stream to my iPad is a killer feature that might allow me to get rid of the antiquated TV in my bedroom. The cost for the top-end model plus a lifetime subscription is a bit high, but it would likely provide a steady fix to my TV addiction for several years.

I’ve heard rumors that Apple may release an updated TV device that could upend the traditional cable model, so it may be worth waiting to see which toy would serve me better.

Jul 252013

I’d like to pick up the new Chromecast streaming stick for my bedroom television. Unfortunately, my bedroom TV is an old CRT circa 2002 and it doesn’t have an HDMI port. It may be time to finally upgrade to a newer model. Streaming video to my iPad works perfectly fine, but I like the idea of using my tablet as a remote. And a TV might have better sound than my muddy iPad speaker. For now, I’ll put this under the category of “Might Be Nice”.

Jun 282013

9to5Mac uncovers a new accessibility option in the forthcoming iOS7 that allows users to control an iPhone or iPad using head movement. A video at the link offers a demonstration of the head gesture system. I probably don’t have enough head movement to make this work for me, but I’m sure others will be able to make good use of the feature. What intrigues me more about this function is that it appears to support other kinds of switches to mimic touch gestures. Will this be the key to me finally being able to turn pages independently? Stay tuned.

Jun 252013

Google Reader can’t stop giving me urgent reminders that it will disappear on July 1st. As if I could forget. After stubbornly clinging to the “denial” stage of grief for the last few months, I finally set up a Feedly account. It should be adequate for my needs and I’m sure I’ll settle in before long. Letting go of a favorite but now defunct website or application has become de rigeur for longtime surfers like myself. I’m still mourning the loss of the original Hotwired. The death of Reader may be the death knell for substantive reading on the web, but the other diehards and I will do our best to keep the RSS flame burning for a while longer.