Friday, May 28, 2010

Just Push the Button

On my desk sits the “Easy Button” – you know the one (from Staples). When pressed it says (with a touch of surprise in a kind of funny, raspy voice) --- “That, was easy!”

Most things can be done in one of two ways, the easy way or the hard way. Still we tend to default to the expectation that some things, like technology, have to be difficult, and then forget to look around for the easier approach.

Recently I have been seeing this phenomenon manifest itself in this very blog. The posts about experiences with my iPhone and iMac (and next, iPad) have generated interest from readers to do the same, and to contact me with an enthusiastic thank you, or a request for some more advice.

I am delighted to receive the comments and questions but wonder if they are missing their easy button.

The correspondence relating to my blog posts, almost all, comes to me via email. Now that is not the easy way, there is a box for your comment, right below the post. On the other hand, finding my email address, which must be searched around for, is a lot more trouble. Yet, nearly 100% of my correspondence comes in via the hard way.

I am also getting comments and queries about accessibility training for Apple products. My answer is “the easy way of course.” Sign up for One to One Training at the nearest Apple Retail Store. Any other way is the hard way. There is nothing better than one year of unlimited training sessions for $99. There has never been a better value, and there is no better training. They just make it easy.

Look no further, you are holding the button!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Can You Say CAPTCHA?

When I wrote a post titled “What’s Up with Visual ID?” a few weeks ago, I had no idea the appropriate technical term was CAPTCHA. I should have become suspicious when my Google search for Visual ID turned up almost nothing related to those squiggly distorted words and numbers that tell a computer you are a person.

Had I searched for CAPTCH, an acronym which roughly stands for “Completely Automated Public Test to Tell Computer and Humans Apart, I would have found a lot more dirt on this spam busting creation, including the whole CAPTCHAs history in Wikipedia.

Having the appropriate term did not change much about my understanding of these little enigmatic pieces of text that are practically impossible to identify if your vision is impaired, and even difficult to identify if it’s not. I was not surprised to learn that people in the business of accessible technology, at Google, Apple and Microsoft, harbor a deep dislike of the CAPTCHAs, as do I.

So, do me a favor, try a couple of CAPTCHAs on the live demo at reCAPTCHA…and try out the “audio challenge” while you’re there. What do you think? Have you seen, or heard, any better ways to prove you’re only a human.

I was surprised to read that some 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved every day.

Makes me wonder how many aren’t solved?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

App Happy

App Happy

As if Tap Happiness was not enough, my iPhone provides another seemingly endless stream of satisfaction – the App. At first, I’ll admit, all the icons on my iPhone were of little interest to me. The whole app conversation elevated my anxiety. I wanted to keep it simple, so I began by learning one application at a time.

No, I did not read the manual, in fact, it doesn’t come with one. I did it the easy way – One-to-One Training at the Apple store (on Fifth Avenue). They make the learning as good as the knowing. This is real empowerment!

App by app I began to see that making calls was just the tip of the iceberg. There are over 100,000 optional apps available for the iPhone, but much of my happiness, so far, has derived from the standard apps that Apple loads on every iPhone.

Contacts: The perpetual home for all of my contacts. It all goes into the iPhone: names, multiple phones and emails, addresses; and it’s synched to my computer, so I won’t ever have to start up a new phone book again.

Messages: For text messaging. Yes, I am a texter – did not even think it would appeal to me – but it does.

Camera: I can – take a picture, email, text it, or save it to my photos.

Weather: Love having the current weather and the forecast for home, and as many other cities as I wish.

Voice Memo: This is my big bonus, a voice recorder for reminders, instructions, meetings, interviews. I have recorded One-to-One Training and travel directions. It is both usable and useful.

Notes: This I totally love too. It’s simply a yellow-lined pad that you type notes into. I am a compulsive list maker (who was having a hell of a hard time reading her own scribble). Now I have all my multiple lists stored in the phone. At this moment, there is a list for Whole Foods, Target, Things to Discuss with My Sister, Books to Read, and naturally, the general To Do List. Notes can be emailed and are simple to create or delete. Editing I have not completely figured out, but I will.

Clock: World clock is the best reference – no more counting on fingers what time it is in Rome. There is an alarm clock with snooze, and a timer--all things I use.

Calculator: A fabulous, simple to use, talking calculator built right into my phone. I can figure 40% off at Bloomingdales, or divvy up a restaurant check among friends, in a matter of seconds. It’s one of those apps I use every single day.

iPod: The iPhone battery seems to have a life of its own and there is often no telling how long the charge will last, so I tend not to listen to music or read books on my phone. A One-to-One Trainer suggested creating a playlist of my favorite tunes, and I do use it from time to time on the treadmill, when I can plug into a charger.

Compass: I was in Chinatown shopping the produce markets, when I realized I was completely lost…no idea how to get back to Canal Street. I had ventured into unknown territory and could not read the street signs to get myself out. Then I remembered the compass and pulled out the iPhone and clicked on the compass and kept moving in the direction most north. I found my way back to Canal, got my bearings, and felt a little like Dora the Explorer.

All of these apps will talk to me with Voice Over, or they can be magnified with zoom. They can be used, equally as well, with whatever vision you have, or don’t have. Everybody gets these apps. Anybody can use them. That’s what I call Happy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tap Happy

Since “Overcoming Techno-Crastination” I have become one happy tapper. Using the iPhone with Voice Over requires just a tiny bit more interaction – and I don’t mind at all. We give a double-tap to activate and a three finger swipe to advance a page, as opposed to the typical one finger touch or swipe.

I have been asked several times if it’s just too much tapping, a notion that makes me laugh out loud. Trust me on this one, there is no degree of difficulty in tapping twice.

There is actually a lot of flexibility, using the iPhone with Voice Over is not strict. For instance, one of my favorite discoveries is that once the icon of button has spoken – letting me know that I have touched on “Contacts” -- a double tap anywhere on the screen will open the list. No need to hit the exact icon or text box. This forgiveness is especially helpful on the keyboards, where landing a thumb on those tiny keys more than once, can be challenging.

It sounds like a lot more to do than it actually is, after a short while, I think the actions become imperceptible.

The voice that comes out of my iPhone does get some attention. It can be turned down low or off completely, or I can keep it private by having the buds in my ear.

I can be on an elevator or in line at Starbucks and my phone will announce an incoming caller, or read a text message. It’s a sound I love to hear.

Coming next…learn where all this tapping takes me.