Apple's iTunes is one of the most popular music management programs available--allowing users to download, organize, and enjoy music either directly on the computer or by transferring it to an iPod or similar player. Unfortunately, it has also been one of the most frustratingly inaccessible pieces of software for people who are blind to use with screen readers. Brian Hartgen of T&T Consultancy in the United Kingdom has changed all that for JAWS users by writing JAWS scripts for iTunes that make encountering the software a friendlier experience. With the iTunes scripts installed, JAWS users can now import songs, albums, or audio books into the iTunes library; hear announcements of tracks or entire albums being played; transfer music or books to the iPod or iPod Shuffle; organize music into "play lists" for sequential or random playback; adjust volume and speed; and more. You can read the complete documentation by following this link: <www.tandt-consultancy.com/itunesscripts.html>. The scripts themselves can be downloaded along with a trial authorization for a sample version that will run for ten-minute periods. For iTunes itself, go to <www.apple.com/itunes>.
The iTunes scripts for JAWS cost 30 pounds UK, or $45 in U.S. dollars. To purchase, call T&T Consultancy. From the UK, call 08452-30 30 15. U.S. and Canadian customers should call 44 (0) 1782 644 141.
NBP Blog Keeps Books Current
The National Braille Press (NBP) has been a leader in the production of braille books and leaflets relevant to computer users who are blind or visually impaired. Keeping information current in a field where change is the norm and updates are continually released can be problematic. One NBP author, Anna Dresner, has addressed the problem of keeping information in her books current with an online blog.
Any information related to her books Braille.com and Beyond, Finding eBooks on the Internet, and The iPod Experience can be immediately posted online, so that readers of those books can check regularly for any of these titles and learn about the latest fix, upgrade, or improved technique for access. To find any newly posted information for any or all of the above titles, visit <http://nbpupdates.wordpress.com>. If you don't already own these informative guides, you can purchase them from National Braille Press online at <www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html> or by calling 800-548-7323.
Personnel Changes at HumanWare
On March 5, 2006, HumanWare announced the appointment of its new CEO, filling a vacancy created by the tragic death of Dr. Russell Smith and his wife Marian in a plane crash last August. Dr Richard Mander, who has quite a comprehensive cross-disciplinary background in technology, will lead the company into its next era. Dr Mander will be located in the company's headquarters, in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Among Dr Mander's numerous startups, patents, honors, and degrees are a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Stanford University, a seven-year stint as senior usability engineer and program manager for Apple Computer in the U.S., the World Class New Zealander Award from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and, most recently, his appointment as chief technology officer for Navman in New Zealand. Although his experience has included a wide sweep of products from personal digital assistants to digital cameras to handwriting recognition and speech recognition, and his work has affected disciplines as diverse as computers, banking, health care, and finance, his overall focus, according to a company press release, is on the human interface.
Gilles Pepin, CEO of HumanWare Canada, who has acted as CEO since the death of Dr. Smith, announced that, due to family issues, he was not able to relocate from Canada to New Zealand. He will continue to lead HumanWare Canada and play a key leadership role as the company moves forward. For more information about products or personnel at HumanWare, visit <www.HumanWare.com>.
A Free Utility for Accessing PDF Files
Jamal Mazrui of the Empowerment Zone makes available online a free program that converts single or several PDF files to plain text to facilitate easier reading and navigating with screen readers. Download it from <www.empowermentzone.com/p2tsetup.exe>.
MP3 Player for Mobile Phones
Viking Informatics Ltd. has released an MP3 Player designed to work with mobile phone screen readers such as Mobile Speak and TALKS. The program promises to play MP3 files (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-2.5, ABR, VBR), to show playlists on phones, display bit rate, frequency, title of track and time elapsed, and to give easy access to such controls as volume and continuous fast forward and rewind. The program offers full support for Bluetooth headsets (such as Nokia 7650 and Siemens SX-1), and runs on a variety of Symbian-based phones including Nokia, Panasonic, and Siemens. For additional information, send e-mail to: <email@example.com> or visit: <www.allaboutsymbian.com/software/item/Mp3Player_for_MSpeak_and_TALKS.php>.
"Speaking of Skype" is a new four-hour audio tutorial developed by Jonathan Mosen, designed for blind or visually impaired users of the popular Skype application. Growing rapidly in popularity, Skype enables users to talk via Internet telephony to anyone in the world--for free. With a computer, an inexpensive headset with microphone, and the Skype program, you can be having "phone" conversations via the Internet while enjoying clarity often superior to quality rendered by traditional telephones.
The "Speaking of Skype" tutorial provides information for users who are blind or visually impaired who are either novices or power users of the program. Instruction covers setting up a Skype account, installing JAWS scripts to make the program a friendlier one for the blind or visually impaired user, managing contacts, setting up conference calls, getting a phone number for your PC, and more.
The program costs $14.95 (with an optional additional $5 for updates through April of 2007). It can be purchased and downloaded at <www.mosenexplosion.com/sos>.
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