Sunday, November 27, 2016

Kelly and Company Segment 4 nov 24 iOS Settings

This week on my contribution to Kelly and Company, I talked about the Settings area of iOS. The conversation went quite well and I felt good about actually covering all of the key points I intended to. I hear a good many complaints from people who feel that iOS won't let them do what they want. Whenever I've probed deeper, I usually find that what they want is perfectly possible. They just didn't know where to find the choice they were after. Chances are that the choice they were unaware of was in the Settings area of iOS. It really pays to invest time in getting to know the many choices presented through this application. You can do things like choose which apps can interrupt you with information. All options regarding how Voiceover behaves are in the settings app. Storage management, security settings, connectivity choices and many more choices effecting how your iOS device works are also found in Settings. You'll want to drop in often as your situation changes.

There are a great many options. Rather than try to cover absolutely all of them, I'll leave that to the user guide Apple has already created for your iOS device. You can use iBOOKs to read it. Instead, I'll explain how to get around in setings and cover some key areas in detail.


Think of the Settings app as a kind of tree. There is a long trunk with major branches spaced out along it. The trunk and branches can be navigated like straight lines with left or right flicks using one finger. Three-finger swipes upward to advance or downward to scroll up towards the top can be used to skip through settings faster. Double-tapping on a setting or area of settings will cause you to either change the setting if it's a toggle or else enter the branch of related settings. Double-tapping on settings within a branch might lead to branches of more specific related settings off the preceding level of specificity. For example, the "general" branch contains settings effecting the behaviour of your iOS device. The "accessibility" branch contains an impressive array of options to make iOS devices useable by people with disabilities. The "storage and iCloud Usage" branch allows you to view and manage how much capacity you are currently using on your device and in the cloud connected to it. Having all these options spread out in what seems an endless line can be daunting. Once you understand how it's all organised, you'll appreciate the thought which went into making things intuitive and simple. Let me show you around.

The settings are organised with the first 

options letting you control communication methods your device uses including WIFI, Bluetooth, phone carrier, etc. Double-tapping on the desired option takes you onto the branch related to that area. For instance, double-tapping on "Wi-Fi will take you to where you can turn Wi-Fi on or off, choose which network to connect to and whether it connects automatically to networks it finds. Similarly, the Bluetooth option takes you to where you can pair your iOS devices with a wide range of accessories like keyboards, speakers, headsets, etc. You can also choose to deactivate Bluetooth when you don't need it. This can save battery power.

Past these settings are options related to the behaviour and appearance of your device. This range begins with Notifications and ends with Photos and Camera. This is the patch which is most crutial to really know thoroughly. The "Notifications" branch lets you determine which applications can alert you to things which happen. while you're otherwise occupied. It also lets you choose which aps can place notifications in an area called the Notification Centre for later review. The "Do not disturb" option lets you schedule periods where you won't be interrupted by incoming calls, messages or alerts from various apps you may have. The "Privacy" branch is another important stop if you have concerns about what information is shared by your device. Of particular importance is the "General" branch of settings. Perhaps "limb" would be a better description as there are a multitude of branches packed into this area. The "Accessibility" ranch will be of special interest to blind users as it is where you'll find settings to control Voiceover. Options related to Braille are also found in the Voiceover branch of settings. The "General" limb also contains settings related to device storage management, region and language settings, and other important options you'll want to change every so often.

Past the "General" settings, you'll find branches related to display brightness, sound, and things like mail, calendar, and music. I often go into the "music" branch of settings to change the EQ option. The Lounge preset works great with my Earpods. Also, given my hearing loss, I appreciate the Late Night preset.

These are followed by settings related to services Apple provides or third-party companies provide which are tightly integrated into iOS. For instance, you'll find settings dealing with Facebook, Twitter, iTUNES, etc. The Vimeo service is the last of these third-party services. It provides a means of storing and sharing videos taken using your iOS device.

After that, any other settings will relate to apps you acquire. For the most part, they determine whether apps are allowed to access things like the microphone, camera, etc. Most often these days, apps will contain a "more" tab which will have nested within it a "settings" button. This lets developers spare users the need to visit the Settings app. As you acquire more apps for your device, the Settings area can grow very large indeed. However, all the really important branches wil remain close to the top.

Getting Around:

Starting at the top left, you'll find a search field. This can be used to search for specific settings which may be deep into the tree. You just need to know a word related to what you want to do and type it in. You can also flick left and right using one finger to make your way through the options or branches in order from top left to bottom right. There are a great many options so this can be rather cumbersome when in a hurry. To move past many options at once, you can use three-finger swipes upward to go deeper or downward to go towards the top. Over time, you'll learn how many swipes will take you near a setting you're interested in. You can then flick left or right to move precisely to the setting you want. This is how I most often get around in Settings.

Siri can also get you quickly to settings of interest. For example, hold down the home button to activate Siri and say "show voiceover settings". While it can get you to settings fairly specifically, it can't always control them. You can tell Siri to turn Voiceover on or off but can't tell it to connect to a Wi-Fi network. You'd have to tell Siri "sho Wi-fi settings" and then use the touchscreen and Voiceover to attend to connecting to the network yourself. Also, you can't do things with Siri like turning Voiceover hints on or off or setting the speaking rate. Remember that Siri is meant to be a personal assistant. It was never designed to let people do absolutely everything by speaking to their iOS devices.

Once you're in a branch or subsection of settings, you'll always find a "back" button located at the top left corner of the screen below the status bar. This lets you exit that branch and move back towards or onto the main trunk. For instance, Voiceover settings are three levels deep. Level one, "general". Level 2, "accessibility". Level 3 "Voiceover". Using the "back" button while in Voiceover settings returns you to Accessibility settings.

Within branches of settings, things are often divided by headings. This speeds up navigation once you turn the rotor to "headings". Flicking up or down with one finger will move you to the next or previous heading if they are present. For instance, headings within the "Accessibility" settings include Vision, Interaction, Hearing, Media, and Learning. Once you reach a desired heading, flick right to go to options related to the heading. The first option under "Vision" is Voiceover. Double-tapping on this will bring you into Voiceover settings.

Some settings are toggles while others are branches. If a setting is a branch, it will always say "button" after the name of the setting and status information. For example, flicking right onto the Voiceover button, you'll hear "voiceover on button". Double-tapping on this brings you to Voiceover settings. The first button you come to within Voiceover settings will say "voiceover on". After a short pause, presuming hints are enabled, you'll hear "double-tap to toggle setting." If you double-tapped this button, you would shut off Voiceover. Airplane mode is the first option in the main trunk of Settings and is also a toggle. Double-tapping it instantly activates or deactivates airplane mode. This mode instantly turns off all transmitions from your iOS device such as bluetooth or Wi-fi making it safe to use on airplanes. Among the various settings, you will also find sliders. You can change the value these are set to by flicking up or down with a finger while you're on them. Brightnes and volume settings are examples of sliders.

The Accessibility Shortcut:

One thing I tell blind users of iOS devices to do right away is to set their accessibility shortcut to Voiceover. The accessibility shortcut makes it easy to turn on or off an accessibility feature that is most important to you. Once it is set, pressing the home button three times rapidly will toggle the feature on or off. Set the accessibility shortcut to Voiceover to easily be able to turn it on or off at will.

1: Go to settings, general, accessibility.

2: Go to the very last setting. Using the rotor to move to the "learning" heading will speed this up. Once there, flick right to the last setting; "accessibility shortcut"

3: Double-tap on this button and flick right. You will soon reach "voiceover". Double-tap on this to set the accessibility shortcut. Provided you've done this correctly, when you flick left or right through the options, you should hear "selected" when going onto the Voiceover option.

4: Try it out by pressing the home button three times rapidly. If you hear "voiceover off", press the "home" button three times again to turn it back on.

Now, you can easily recover from when Voiceover crashes or quickly turn it off so that a sighted person can use your iOS device.

Key Branches to Visit:

1. Explore the Voiceover settings thoroughly. You can add functions to the rotor, adjust the voice, download different voices, and much more. This is where you sculpt how Voiceover behaves so it best serves you.

2. The "Cellular", "Privacy" and "Password and Touch ID" branches are a good trio of stops to make. They let you secure your iOS device and determine what information to share or not share.

3. Become familiar with the "general" branch of settings. It includes many branches of interest in addition to accessibility. Examples, software update, storage and iCloud usage, language and region, restrictions.

4. Look in the music settings. There are pretty nifty EQ options which change how your music sounds tucked away under the Playback heading.

5. Look in the "Sounds" settings. One important thing to choose here is whether you want to be able to change the volume of alerts and phone call rings using the up and down volume buttons. I find that I prefer not to have this happen so that the ring of a phone call is always loud enough to attract my attention. You can choose a ringtone which suits your personality as well as sounds for events like receiving messages. This can make your device feel more like it belongs to you. For sighted people, there's wallpaper.

Remember that apps will often contain settings unique to them which won't be found in the Settings app we're discussing today. Those special settings will be found in a section of apps like Twitter. Often, they are found in the "more" tab. Examples include the Audible app.

Users of iPADS will find things laid out differently. Down the left-hand portion of the screen are the various branches of settings. Double-tapping on one will open it on the right-hand portion of the screen. The other branches which normally disappear for users of smaller devices remain easily accessed. and visibible on the left side. Personally, I find this somewhat more annoying as a blind user. For sighted people, I appreciate how convenient this must be. Given time, blind people will learn roughly where to touch in order to get close to a branch of setting they want to focus on. When this happens, they will be better able to take advantage of the larger screen space tablets like iPADS make available.

I hope this helps you get a good start taming your iOS device. In general, it's pretty safe to explore and try out different settings. Apple has designed iOS to be pretty good at warning you before you do anything you can't easily undo. The more familiar you become with the settings choices available to you, the better your overall experience with iOS will be. Too many people don't take the time to learn what options they have and then get all frustrated to the point of giving up altogether. Given the tremendous economic and other advantages these devices can offer blind people, this is a real shame. If I had my way, any blind person who came into possession of an iOS device would be directed to a tutorial where they would learn about how to use Voiceover, key areas in Settings, and the wide range of accessible applications available. I hope the guide I'll eventualy complete plus these show segments and blog entries will go some way to helping newcomers to iOS enjoy what I have come to treasure. There's such a drive to do away with the need for instruction manuals. In this instance, blind people are hit hard by this trend. For most of us, using a touchscreen was a notion not even worthy of a pipe dream a mere half decade ago. Now, these devices are everywhere and also very affordable even without government assistance. They can take the place of a whole lot of expensive accessibility devices provided you can comfortably use the touchscreen through Voiceover. I've advocated for Apple to include a Voiceover tutorial at a bare minimum. Blind people would then at least know how to navigate their devices and find options like Settings. They are apparently considering it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Kelly and Company Segment 3 Entertainmment Nov 17

This week, I thought I'd change geers and crack open my audio drama collection. It has been growing for over twenty years. To enjoy some of it will require you to have a good handle on skills like browsing the Internet, extracting files, etc. In some sad cases, what I have isn't currently for sale anywhere. You can count on me not to torture you with anything you simply can't get. I'm starting out with one of the easiest and best-run places on the Internet to find excellent audio drama. You can enjoy and use this site with your computer as well as your iOS device.

Before we get started, let's make one thing very clear. Please note that I don't condone piracy and won't share freely what I myself have paid for over the years. Obtain your copies legally and help these companies keep afloat. The more we do this, the more ambitious creations we are likely to enjoy as they are able to make livings through their labours. Big Finish estimates that it loses around 75% of potential revinue from their work because of people illegally sharing files. Frankly, I appreciate them being considerate enough of their legitimate customers not to employ file protection. As someone who has been unable to find work but who has insisted on contributing things anyhow, I feel for these artists who often have to abandon their art just to make ends meet. Things are changing. Prices for digital copies of books and audio dramas are more flexible than they used to be. Often, these sites will put selections of their offerrings on sale. Watch for these. Follow them on social media and sign up for newsletters.

Big Finish has existed for 15 years and is most famous for the Dr. Who dramas they have created. They sell their material as digital files and as physical CDs. Operating from the UK, their stories aren't necessarily confined to there. They sell unabridged audio books which can be hard to find elsewhere in addition to their staggerring catalog of audio dramas. After finishing this blog post, check them out for yourself at:

There are literally hundreds of titles in their catalog and new ones are released monthly. To keep everyone entertained and up to speed, they are quite active on Twitter, Facebook, with posts to their blog and podcast, and through Vortex, a regularly published ezine. I discovered them quite late since I never have been a Doctor Who fan. Even after I had heard of them, I never stopped by to check them out because I thought that Dr. Who dramas were all they did. I was so very wrong. They do so much more! Their catalog includes audio books narrated by famous actors.

Many audio drama ranges are based on licensed TV shows like Blake's 7, Torchwood, and Dark Shadows. They also dramatise classic books like The Wizard of Oz, Dracula, Treasure Island, etc. In a partnership with Paizo, makers of the Pathfinder roleplaying game, they have dramatised adventure campaigns in the Pathfinder Legends series.

Currently, the range of stories based on The Prisoner is getting lots of attention. So are the Torchwood and Dark Shadows ranges of stories.

Over the years, Big Finish has done a whole lot of Christmas specials. My particular favorite is called Ghosts of Christmas Past where Dorian Gray and Sherlock Holmes join forces to thrwart an evil plot involving Dorian's past. Big Finish respects the characters they use but isn't above having fun bringing various worlds together. Dark Shadows and many other series feature special Christmas material. Look around for it.

Part of the costs of the audio dramas is to pay for licensing fees needed to produce dramas about commercial intelectual properties like Dr. Who, Torchwood, Dark Shadows, and more recently, The Prisoner. They are also able to pull in top talent in terms of voice acting usually including actual cast members from TV shows being made into audio dramas. Sound and music is typically top notch.

To obtain these fine dramas and audio books, you need to go to the site and register an acount with them. Once that's done and you've got a payment method sorted out, you then add items of interest to your basket and then place your order. They will show prices in your local currency so there aren't any exchange rate surprises. They accept Paypal which may be useful to people without credit cards. Paypal can draw directly from your bank acount. It doesn't reveal bank or credit card information to online merchants you choose to deal with. I've used Paypal for well over a decade without any issues.

Once you've ordered titles, they are made available to you in your personal library on the site. You can then download them to your computer. To get the dramas onto your iOS device, get the Big Finish app from the appstore and run the app. Log into your acount with the email and password you used to register on the Big Finish site. Once that's done, you won't have to do it every time you use the app. You can simply open the app and retrieve any dramas your device has room for. To recover space, delete the dramas you're finished listening to. You can download dramas as often as you need to.

The Big Finish App:

I very much like the app for iOS Big Finish has available. It's free from the appstore and works wonderfully with Voiceover. This was intentional as Big Finish is very aware of having blind listeners. They have clearly taken steps to make their app and web site fully accessible. You can sort and search for dramas. It is also easy, using the "device" and "cloud" buttons, to look at what you have stored on your device and what is available to you in the cloud. You can delete and download dramas as often as you need to. If you suddenly need to close your app, don't worry. Your position will be saved. There are buttons to easily navigate, play and pause, set a sleep timer, etc. It behaves like a music app and you can therefore do the usual pause, play, and track skipping with the control on your headset.

These dramas are large files. Most need to be downloaded as complete series which are often well over half a gb. To make certain you don't accidentally use cellular data to download dramas, double-tap the "info" button at the top left of the screen in the app. Next, flick right until you come across two buttons called "allow cellular data". Switch both buttons to off. You can then only download dramas when connected to WIFI.

There are "cloud" and "device" buttons which let you view what you have on your device separately from what is in the cloud.

What you have in "the cloud" is what you have purchased but is not on your device. You can download anything in the cloud to your device as long as you have cellular or WIFI connection. This counts against your cellular or WIFI data so be aware if you have limited data. It need not be your WIFI. For instance, a friend or Internet cafe or library could supply a WIFI connection.

The app has filter and search functions to help you browse your collection and find what you're interested in.

This is a good example of convenience versus cost. Apple gets no profit from Big Finish sales but Big Finish isn't allowed to make an app like iBOOKS which includes a store. Audible works the same way. You can either use a PC to do your purchasing and browsing or you can learn to use Safari or another browser on your iOS device. Firefox works well and is fully accessible.


All cast and synopses below are taken directly from the Big Finish web site. They have tons more stuff. Check them out at:

Please engage with them via social media, email, etc. Let them know you're out there and appreciate them. They're very eager to engage with their audience.

The Confessions of Dorian Gray:

Dorian is a character created by Oscar Wild. This series posits that he is in fact real and so is the deal with dark powers he made to have all the marks and physical consequences of age and sin appear on his painted portrait rather than on himself. The whole Dorian Gray range is now completed consisting of five series. These range from creepy to moral issues to comedic. Many look at interesting historical events which Dorian has lived through. Each series is hours of drama. Also, Big Finish likes to provide extras like music from the dramas and cast interviews.

Often, early stories are sold separately. This is true for series 1 and 2 of Dorian Gray stories. The final 3 series are sold as complete collections and each are well over 600 Gb. 

This World Our Hell

link to drama main page:



Paris, 1900. One of Dorian Gray's oldest friends is on his deathbed, locked away in a room at the notorious Hotel D'Alsace, where he is fighting a duel to the death. And when Dorian comes to visit him one last time, both men realise they may never be allowed to check out…

Note: The Confessions of Dorian Gray contains adult material and is not suitable for younger listeners.

Written By: David Llewellyn

Directed By: Scott Handcock


Alexander Vlahos (Dorian Gray), Steffan Rhodri (Oscar Wilde), Marilyn Le Conte (Genevieve Moreau), David Blackwell (Robert Ross), Sophie Melville (Isabelle)

Sherlock Holmes:

Big Finish has done amazing Sherlock but it took a while for them to find their stride. Earlier dramas just didn't have the same level of atmosphere and polish.

The best Sherlock begins with the Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner. By this point, Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl have really found their acting stride as Holmes and Watson. Also, the sound atmosphere has been honed to a wonderful degree. This story followed by the Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes, The Judgement of Sherlock Holmes and The Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes comprise a large story arc. Gaps in Sherlock's biography left by Doyle are filled in and unanswered questions are given satisfying answers. The trailer for The Perfidious Mariner just lacked any real punch so I went with the trailer for my favorite of the boxed sets: The Ordeals of Herlock Holmes. It had the largest scope reaching back before the beginning of Holmes and Watson's first meeting and forward past where Doyle leaves off after His Last Bow. A real epic journey done in splendid style.

The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes:

link to drama main page:

Link to trailer:


'Briggs and Earl now a definitive audio Holmes and Watson' Scifi Bulletin

'Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl are, as ever, sublime in the roles that they have made their own' Tim, Mass Movement

'Messrs Briggs, Earl and Barnes, director Ken Bentley and the rest of the fine cast are to be congratulated' Roger Johnson, Sherlock Holmes Gazette

'Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl, now a firmly established team...' Sherlock Holmes Journal.

Four decades. Four cases. One solution.

From the plains of Afghanistan to the alleyways of Victorian London, from the dark heart of the English countryside to the ruin of Europe after the Great War, join Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson in a quartet of astonishing new investigations which span their lifelong friendship, and beyond…

Written By: Jonathan Barnes

Directed By: Ken Bentley


Nicholas Briggs (Sherlock Holmes), Richard Earl (Dr Watson), John Banks (Inspector Lestrade), Derek Carlyle (Wherry), Blake Ritson (Christopher Thrale), Michael Cochrane (Winchester Bartley-Gower), Eve Karpf (The Gracious Adelina/Mrs Chaunt Maclise/Mrs Hope), Amy Ewbank (Eliza Hinderclay/Judy), Ken Bones (Jim Hinderclay), Caroline Keiff (Tess Dorno), Tracey Childs (Mrs Edgar Curbishley), Marek Oravec (Griesser), Andrew Fettes (Tlitzlmann Blench)

Classics dramatized:

Big Finish does wonderful dramas of classic books. They recently released their version of Dracula and have also done Frankenstein. In general these are pretty faithful to original stories but always with their own focus. Dramas are hours long and come with extras like music and behind the scenes recordings. The next classic will be Jekyll and Hyde. I can hardly wait for that one. Choosing which trailer to feature was a hard one but I settled on Treasure Island.

Treasure Island:

Very good work. Long John Silver was brilliant as was all the cast. Good sound and music. Cast often had multiple roles but it was far from obvious who they were. Very good voice acting. Generous extras. An all around excellent package I'll always treasure.

Link to drama main page:

Link to trailer:


Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!

When young Jim Hawkins unexpectedly inherits a treasure map, he little knows what adventures await him. Pursued by pirates, betrayed by friends and beset by skulduggery, Jim must brave high seas and low cunning before he reaches the shores of Treasure Island.

His fellow treasure-hunters include the inflexible Captain Smollett, the indefatigable Doctor Livesey and the irrepressible Squire Trelawney. And then there's the ship's cook: a seafaring man with one leg who goes by the name of Long John Silver...

Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure is brought thrillingly to life in this brand new full-cast audiobook adaptation.

Written By: Barnaby Edwards

Directed By: Barnaby Edwards


Tom Baker (Long John Silver/Captain Flint), Nicholas Farrell (Narrator), Edward Holtom (Jim Hawkins/Young James), Tony Millan (Dr Livesey/Blind Pew/First Mate), Tony Haygarth (Billy Bones/Morgan), Nicholas Pegg (Captain Smollett/Black Dog/Redruth/Dick), Gareth Armstrong (Ben Gunn/Israel Hands), Nicholas Briggs (George Merry/Arrow/Lookout/The Real Flint), Barnaby Edwards (Squire Trelawney)

Producer and Script Editor Barnaby Edwards

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Kelly and Company Nov 6 Segment 2: The iOS Ecosystem

Hello everyone. I covered quite a bit of ground in my second segment on AMI Audio's show Kelly and Company. Due to design constraints, AMI Audio cannot acomodate blog postings long enough to do these important topics justice. Of course, all of this will eventually be covered in Personal Power: The iOS Edition. That project is going to take quite a while to complete though. It doesn't seem right leaving newcomers to iOS devices hanging out to dry that long. I've decided to make a blog posting after each segment where I can give you my thoughts and important information in a less constrained manner. Some of this writing may end up in my guide eventually. Some parts of the guide might well end up in this blog before it is published in its complete form. I welcome feedback about anything I publish here. Most entries will be much shorter than this one. Most of my writing efforts will still go into the guide. In this case, I feel that there's simply a lot that people should think about even before they decide to obtain an iOS device. There's also a lot you need to know in order to get a good start with using an iOS device. Finally, I'm also taking this opportunity to cover this ground in a manner similar to what you'll find in my guide when it's finally released.

It's important to understand that by investing in an iOS device, you are investing in a marketing ecosystem. A lot of blind people rightly rejoyce that they don't have to pay extra for accessibility features like Voiceover. Apple has decided to include accessibility tools into their iOS operating system as well as the operating systems for their computers, watches and TVs. This is a far more progressive approach than any other company I'm aware of. They have invested seriously in making certain that the accessibility features work very well. They extend those efforts to doing a lot to help developers of apps which run on their products make their offerings accessible. This has scored Apple major points in the blind community who are long used to having to pay small fortunes just to have their brand new computers talk. The development costs of these features are born by Apple and by those who pay for Apple products. When you combine this with the low cost of most apps and the ability to buy iPHONEs from carriers paying the cost over a two-year contract, you can appreciate what a massive boon this is for often cash-strapped blind people needing some way of connecting to the Internet and leveraging technology to do other things.

Apple's iOS devices, especially iPHONEs, combine a whole lot of technologies like a camera, GPS, and other sensors that are also very useful to sighted people. This technology can then be leveraged by app developers for blind and sighted people alike. For instance, the Tap Tap See app, available free on the appstore, can help a blind person take a picture with the rear-facing camera on the phone which is then sent to artificial intelligence and human agents who can provide descriptions through the app for the blind person using it. All the technology necessary was already in every iPHoNE. Blind people who are able to master using these iOS devices no longer have to pay for a specialised device such as GPS systems or product identifyers when their iPHONES can do it all. I no longer have an OCR scanner on my desk. An app called KNFB Reader does a frankly better job in mere seconds rather than minutes. I have an old Trekor Breeze which I haven't touched in at least four years now. Apps like Blindsquare and Navigon do a better job, are easy to keep up to date and cost magnitudes less than standalone specialised devices. To obtain all of the best iOS apps helpful to blind people has cost no more than $300 even including the more expensive ones like KNFB Reader. Bought at full price, that was around $100 US. You'd pay far more than that for any well-known accessible reading software for Windows. Specialty GPS and product identification devices can set you back by hundreds or thousands. The iPHONE you bought on contract can perform all of these functions. In most cases, an iOS device can do just as well provided people take the time to practice and learn the ins and outs.

All of this is truly marvelous, but keep in mind that Apple wants to make as much long-term profit as possible. The hardware you purchase lets you come into a carefully balanced array of services where Apple always gets a piece of the action. This has very strong benefits particularly for the disabled. However, there are some disadvantages to this radical inclusive approach. I think it best that people are made aware of these before deciding to get on the bandwagon.

Customer safety and enjoyable experience are top priorities. Apple puts a lot of effort into making as certain as possible that anything new they introduce will work well. They began with a very closed system which resisted third-party innovation. Slowly, when they have felt safe in doing so, they have slowly opened aspects of iOS to developers. Hardware and software are tightly integrated giving Apple complete control of performance and experience. This makes things work more seemlessly and makes it easier to build accessible apps.

Apple must approve any apps or app updates before they reach the appstore. This makes it an overall safer platform than others like Android. This security isn't fool-proof but is far better than other platforms. This careful scruteny makes it harder to attack or cheet consumers. However, it can cause delays in how quickly and often updates appear to various apps you might use. Developers try to fix as much as possible before submitting an update for their app since there is a delay while Apple ooks any changes over and approves the update. This applies to updates to iOS also. Before they are released to the public, Apple tests and refines things extensively. There have been some exceptions, but typically, a lot of improvements must be made before iOS and the apps which Apple itself develops receive updates. In short, you may wait a while for your particular problems to be addressed. Part of that wait will be while Apple evaluates and figures out what can be done. A lot of that wait will be for enough other peoples' problems are tackled so that more gets fixed with each iOS update released which all users are expected to download eventually. There will be times when something which strikes you as being absurdly simple to fix will remain unresolved for many iOS updates while other more complex stuff gets added or fixed. Being part of the larger picture is a new experience for blind tech users. We're not dealing with a company specialising in accessibility. We're dealinng with a company wanting to maximise the positive experience of all users of their products who has decided to develop accessibility tools in house rather than have customers pay third parties to do it.

We're all learning as we go. This is true for blind users of Apple products and for the engineers and programmers working on accessibility solutions at Apple. They have staff who are blind but that doesn't mean that everyone at Apple understands the needs of blind people. Same for other disabilities. These devices can be used by people with all sorts of disabilities requiring different interface methods. There have been several big "ahah!" moments which have drastically improved things for blind users. Here are two examples of long-delayed but ultimately brilliant solutions to long-standing problems. My first example was the ability to select and move around blocks of text. You might want to move a paragraph above another one in an email you're writing or select text from a web site and paste it into the email somewhere. Ever since I got my first iPHONE in 2011, I never seriously contemplated writing anything longer than an email on it. I'd insist on carrying my laptop with me. Editing text longer than a few paragraphs was simply not practical. Even doing something simple like selecting text from an email to copy into another was next to impossible using Voiceover. Sighted people could do it quite easily by pinching and opening their fingers but this didn't prove very practical for blind people. This basically made all the word processing apps the next thing to useless for any serious projects.

At long last in iOS8 or 9 if memory serves, Apple finally came up with a wonderfully intuitive solution. They added a "text selection" option to the Voiceover rotor. Anyone who could master this gesture could now at last easily move to the start of the area to select, turn the rotor to "text selection", flick up or down to choose between character, word, line, page etc, and then flick left or right to expand or contract the amount by that much. You could select a whole line of text, flick to the "word" setting and de-select the one word at the end of the line you wanted to keep before deleting the accurately and painlessly selected text. Alternatively, you could select a paragraph by expanding line by line until it was all included and then turn the rotor to "edit" where you'd find options to cut, copy, paste, etc. Suddenly, all those word processing apps became quite useful. I no longer take my laptop with me when I travel. I do all my writing on my iPHONE these days using an app called Ulysses and a Bluetooth connected keyboard made by, of all people, Microsoft. Go figure. By the way, I've changed the order of these examples via the process above at least three times before settling on this one being first. That likely took all of thirty seconds not including hemming and hawing.

Now here's my second example. It used to be extremely hard to arrange apps on your homescreens the way you wanted them. You had to double-tap and hold your finger down on an app slowly dragging it over other apps to where you wanted it. Simple in theory but capable of inducing insanity in practice. Getting an app to the right homescreen was manageable but that was about as far as it went for me. For brief periods between iOS updates, there were times when it was simply impossible to move apps from the bottom of homescreens without first moving other apps into place which lifted the app you originally wanted to move. Of course, this left the apps used for this lifting stranded themselves. It turned the homescreens of my iPHONE into a very unwelcome and abtuse sliding puzzle of epic proportions. Finally, in iOS10 which is the current version, Apple came up with a wonderful solution. You could flick up or down on an app to get an "arrange apps" option. Double-tapping on this put you in an editing mode where you could easily delete or move apps around by selecting and double-tapping a "move" option and then going to where you wanted the app. Touching the app or folder nearest where you wanted the app moved to, you could then flick up or down to choose among options placing the app immediately before or after the app or folder you indicated as a destination. You could also create folders and add apps to them. A double-tap on the option selected completed the move and this was indicated by a small tick sound. It was further possible to move apps in the same manner within folders. All of a sudden, I could organise everything precisely the way I wanted quite easily. No more holding and draging apps around like a pack of unruly sheep. The solution was the kind of stunning brilliance you couldn't help but admire even while wishing to high Heaven they had thought of it when they first created Voiceover.

Like other users, you will eventually reach a point where you can't get the latest iOS version on your device. It will simply be too old. Your device will continue to function potentially for a long time but you won't be able to take advantage of accessibility and other improvements until you obtain more current hardware. My father still uses my iPHONE4 as his basic cellphone. He doesn't even have a data plan for it. He's starting to see some performance degradation but this thing has been heavily used for six years now. I believe he's still running iOS6 being unable to go any further. Over time, the hardware will ware down. There aren't any moving parts other than the few physical buttons. The built-in rechargeable battery and the Home button are prime candidates for being the first victims of ware and tare. After three or four years, they've been through a lot presuming average to heavy use. Long before your device becomes utterly useless and obsolete, Apple hopes you'll want to upgrade because of new capabilities in iOS or in newer hardware. My iPHONE6 serves me quite well but new capabilities like 3d touch intrigue me. More battery life, better water and damage resistance, a built-in useable FM radio, and other hoped for improvements would be nice temptations. Money is tight so I need more to entyce me than many people. I also get comfortable and attached to my devices. As painless as Apple has made the upgrading process, it's still a process and I tend to procrastinate unless they hit on really big league temptations. Sooner or later, circumstances like damage not covered by warranty or too many useful new capabilities to ignore will appear and I'll decide to upgrade to a new iPHONE. Nothing lasts forever, but these devices will last quite a while if their owners protect and care for them. Be aware of what you're getting into and go in with the right expectations. You'll be happier overall.

The other part of the iOS ecosystem is the wide array of digital products and services you can acquire through using your iOS device. These include books, music, movies, cloud storage for all those things, and any apps you purchase from the appstore. Most of these services are self-explanatory. You can buy and read books, play songs, watch movies often with descriptive audio included, etc without any accessibility barriers you might encounter elsewhere. This itself is absolutely liberating as a blind person. If you've lived under a rock or totally out of the loop, you may wonder what on earth an app is. An app is a piece of software which will allow you to do something with your device. It might be a music player, a game, a productivity tool etc. Besides the Ulysses app I'm now using and mentionned earlier, another app called Nature Space is filling my Earpods with the sounds of an equatorial island at midnight. Meanwhile, operating in the background, another app monitors my Twitter account for new tweets and alerts me when necessary. It recently informed me that a CBC reporter named Connie Walker liked a tweet where I mentionned that I was listenning to her new podcast Missing and Murdered. I sent this tweet directly from an app I use to find and listen to such podcasts called Downcast. I prefer it to Apple's free podcast app.

Cost Versus Convenience:

This brings us to another important aspect of the iOS ecosystem. Namely, the constant choices you'll make between cost and convenience. Apple allows competition in its ecosystem but stacks the deck in its favour largely by the element of convenience or customisation. You can do it Apple's way which is made very easy and convenient, or you can by all means do it someone else's way. The catch is that Apple puts some restrictions on how they can deliver their services if they compete directly with Apple's own. For an example truly near and dear to my heart, let's look at books. For most of my life, I have been restricted like most blind people as to what I can read and how long after people have stopped talking about a book it will be before it is made in an accessible format. You could purchase expensive narrated copies on CD or wait and hope for some library for the blind to decide more patrons than just you actually want to read it. You know that drill. Well provided you have a little spare money to your name, those days are at last gone. You can buy books which will be easily readable and completely accessible at the same time and cost as everyone else can. I can't begin to describe how liberating that single development has been. My bank acount can certainly attest to this. My father can tell me about a book he's reading and I can have it read in order to discuss it at our next brunch. Lets just say I'm profoundly glad I stayed away from smoking and more costly vices. iBOOKS versus Kindle.

Apple provides a way to purchase and read books quite nicely on iOS devices. They call it iBOOKS. The iBOOKS app is included right on your device when you get it. It combines both a bookstore and bookshelf plus reading facilities all in the same place. Five tabs across the bottom of the screen give access to "my books", "featured", "top Charts", "Search" and "Purchased". Just double-tap the tab to go to the respective section of the app. Explore the "featured" section to find out what's hot. For books not found here or in "top charts", use the "search" tab and enter the author, subject or title into the search field. Chances are you'll find the book you want. Double-tap on its title to go into its entry where you'll find all kinds of information about the book. Double-tap on he button that has either a price if there is one or "get" if the book is free. Prove you're serious and the rightful owner by double-tapping on the "buy" button which then appears and the book is yours. It immediately becomes available in the "my books" tab. You can then simply double-tap on the title to open the book. There are buttons to help you move around the book and you can of course read it very easily. This is all completely accessible with Voiceover. Whatever voices you have downloaded for Voiceover to use can be your narrator. Alternatively, you can use a Braille display if you have one around. Through a partnership with a company called Audible, you can purchase audio books read by human beings right in iBOOKs.

All of this is very simple and extremely convenient especially for beginners who haven't ventured out onto the Web with Safari. The catch is that you will pay more overall for books purchased through iBOOKS than you would for books purchased through Amazon's Kindle store. Amazon tends to have far more frequent and extensive sales on their Kindle books. overall but Kindle books very often much cheeper. However, to use Kindle, you must learn to browse the web and register with Amazon. You purchase Kindle books from Amazon site and they are delivered to your Kindle app the next time you open it on your device.

This principle is found everywhere throughout iOS. It's always easier to use Apple's apps or services in some way but that convenience comes at a cost. There are times when paying for a different approach is worth doing. IE, the app I use for all my writing is Ulysses. Pages is free from Apple and quite accessible. However, Ulysses was designed specifically for authors of longer documents and I prefer its approach for many reasons.

Like natural ecosystems, it is a carefully orchestrated balancing act on a grand scale. I'll be talking about the benefits and drawbacks more in future segments and blog entries. Unlike other companies, Apple has decided that it is worth their while to invest heavily in accessibility and has gained a loyal following of users whose lives they have changed in so doing. I count myself among these largely satisfied people.

Your Apple ID


Think of your Apple ID and password as the key to your safe. It's better to create something you'll actually remember and be able to type in reliably than to go for something ultrahard to crack. Your device will be of no use to you if you can't remember your Apple ID and password. All the information like contacts, emails, photos, etc, is stored behind that identification. Everything you purchase through Apple's shopping portals is registered under that information. This includes apps, books, music, movies, etc. It also includes in-app purchases. If the worst should happen and you need to get a new iOS device, you will be able to use the same Apple ID and password to gain instant access to what you purchased on the last device.

You will also likely use your fingerprint and a pin number to secure your device. Again, make this number something you will remember rather than something hard to guess. Don't make it absurdly simple for anybody who knows you but make it easy for you to think of clues to help you remember it easily. You don't want to lock yourself out of your own device. It's happened to lots of people and they must then contact Apple to fix the situation. Apple takes security very seriously.

Voiceover Basics:

Voiceover is designed to let you literally feel the screen with your finger and hear what is underneath it as you move it around. Alternatively, you can explore things in left to right top to bottom order via simple finger flicking left or right. Unlike for sighted people, touching the screen won't make things happen. This lets blind people explore the screen safely. To have things happen, special gestures or taps must be used. A single tap is regarded as a touch and won't cause action. A double-tap lets Voiceover know you mean business. Once you understand the basic gestures and concepts, it will all seem very intuitive.

Tapping twice quickly with four fingers spaced slightly apart will activate Voiceover help mode. This mode lets you practice gestures and announces what they will do when performed outside of help mode. When you're finished with help mode, a four-fingered double-tap will exit. Pressing the home button also exits help mode but exits whatever app you might be working in bringing you to your current home screen. Voiceover should speak short instructions such as "double-tap to open" as you move around the screen. If you don't hear such advice, go to the "verbocity" section in the settings for Voiceover and enable hints.

Touching anywhere on the screen will speak what is displayed. To activate an item or choice, tap twice quickly on it with one finger. This is called a double-tap since you are performing two quick taps with one finger. Alternatively, you can examine the screen with one finger and select or activate things by holding your exploration finger on the desired object and then tapping anywhere on the screen with another finger. This is called a split tap. Tapping twice quickly using two fingers at the same time is called a two-finger double-tap. This answers and ends phone calls or causes audio such as music to pause or resume.

You can explore the screen by flicking your finger left or right. Voiceover will move to each element starting at the top left and moving across and downward. Flicking downward with two fingers causes Voiceover to read continuously from the currently selected position. This allows continuous reading of books whose pages will automatically turn. During such reading, a single tap using two fingers will pause and resume progress. Flicking with three fingers left or right will scroll one page in the opposite direction of your motion. Flicking left or right with four fingers will switch between apps you currently have open.

The Rotor:

This gesture is essential for efficient use of Voiceover. Take two fingers and imagine there is a small knob on the screen. Place the tips of your fingers on the screen as if you were grasping a knob. Rotate your fingers clockwise or counterclockwise as if you turned a knob. This will bring different settings and options into focus. An alternative method for turning the rotor is as follows:

1. Place a finger from your left hand anywhere along the left side of the screen and a finger from your right hand across from it on the right edge. Your two fingertips should be pointing at each other.

2. Move one finger upwards while moving the other downwards. For example, move your left finger upwards towards the top of the screen while your right finger moves downwards towards the bottom. Both fingers should move at the same time. This will turn the rotor one selection to the right. Moving your right finger upwards while the left moves downwards will turn the rotor to the left.

3. To interact with the option selected by the rotor, flic up or downward with one finger. This will change the value of the option. For example, if speech rate is selected, flicking upwards will increase the speed while flicking downwards will slow speech.

4. While learning how to use your device, remember to leave the rotor on a safe option such as characters or words. This will prevent accidentally disabling hints, changing volume or speech rate.

Kelly and Company Nov 3 Introduction

Hello everyone. I'm Michael Feir. I'm 42 years old, happily in my second marriage, and living in Mississauga Ontario. It's been an interesting life. While I haven't found employment, I have a work ethic, a whole lot to be thankful for, time and talent to explore and share my discoveries. Instead of continuing to beat my way into a labour force which dismisses around 70% or more of us, I've chosen a different path. While unapologetically enjoying my life's many blessings, I look for ways I can help others enjoy their lives more. Over the years, I've volunteered at an organisation called The Dam which seeks to help troubled youth. I've also worked to address diversity and disability issues in the church I attended prior to my second marriage. I know what it's like not to have enough money to do what I want to and I've long tasted the frustrations of not being able to get around as easily as others.

Despite the efforts of governments and a whole lot of good people, attitudes take time to change. Our marginalisation and the prejudice of those who just can't imagine how they'd live without their sight won't just disappear any time soon. Some of us will have both the talents, gifts and connections to overcome this and find ways into the work force. Despite our best efforts, many of us will simply not have that experience. Just because we can't find ways to earn our livelihoods in the traditional sense doesn't mean we can't find ways to contribute meaningfully and live enjoyable lives. This is the information age. The Internet can give us a sphere in which many of us can make our presence felt at little or no financial cost beyond equipment such as iOS devices like an iPHONE. iPHONEs are particularly valueable since they combine so many things we as blind people can use to improve the quality of life. Just because you can't find work doesn't mean you have no value and doesn't mean your efforts to be a good person and contribute to society aren't deserving of respect. I've been able to find some truly extraordinary friends over the years and help people who others don't have the time for. We can despair at how fragmented our communities and society has become or we can be part of the glue which repairs it making the kind of communities we want to live in. Regarding the despair trip, I've been there and done that. Being angry all the time, even if it's justified anger, will push people away and leave you profoundly drained and utterly alone. I want as many of us to avoid that bitter fate as humanly possible.

The better path is one of engagement. Look for places where your particular interests or knowledge can help other people. Learn about what technology can help you do on your own and with others. That path lead me from the one around a man-made lake near my apartment which my iPHOnE guided me along via GPS to an encounter with a curious lady. That discussion lead me to a six-month volunteer opportunity at at multicultural centre helping older immigrants to Canada understand technology like Skype, smartphones, and Twitter. It has also lead me to contributing weekly to Kelly and Company. Kelly and Company provides a an excellent opportunity for people to contribute their expertise and talents. I hope to do a lot of good with my segments on air and through the blog entries I write to accompany them.

While I haven't given up finding ways to help in my local community, my major successes have been in helping people in the expansive online community learn to use and enjoy their technology. Around 8 years ago, I published a guide called Personal Power. Rather than approaching accessible computers from the employment angle as blindness agencies typically do, I took a different path. All that effort aimed at employment wasn't working for enough of us. Also, it left people with very little motivation or knowledge they could use to pursue fun and personal interests with their computers. I've encountered many people who have gotten and then totally forgotten very costly training because it simply didn't interest them. Their technology sat hardly used at all. Meanwhile, sighted people use their technology in all aspects of life. They have grown up playing games and having fun and don't regard their computers as mere engines of drudgery which might possibly give you more than a ghost of a chance at a job. Sadly, many blind people do. That can lead to a very bad relationship with technology. Skills and comfort with technology learned having fun pay off big time at work and throughout other spheres of life. Technology may not enable all of us to find jobs. It hasn't for me. However, through technology, I've been able to have a real impact on countless lives. The Internet has given me a place where I can share my time, knowledge, interests and talents in a far more unhindered way than in the less accessible so-called real world.

In a nutshell, the philosophy behind the Personal Power concept is as follows: People need to be personally motivated and engaged in order to truly absorb and make optimum use of technology. It's just as important to give people a clear sense of the possibilities a new technology offers in their everyday lives as it is to explain how to use that technology. Manuals are good at explaining the how but don't usually do justice to the why. This also holds true for the often rushed and narrowly focussed training cash-starved agencies give you attempting to meet narrowly defined goals which are not your own. The end result is that you simply don't know enough to care about what you're missing out on. The approach I take with Personal Power is to be certain to give you a sense of the possibilities and how they have impacted my own life and people I've known or heard about. This is included throughout the guide along with the explanations of how to do things. Stories help us learn better so I try to give personal examples wherever it makes sense to do so. The guide is written to incorporate aspects of what you'd have if you were fortunate enough to have an enthusiastic friend wanting to share what he or she has discovered with you. I was blessed to have such friends as I began my journey with my first iPHONE. Their excitement and patience took me places I might never have gone otherwise. I like to share blessings which I myself enjoy. Sadly, I can't physically be there in person to help all blind newcomers understand what they have in their hands by being that enthusiastic good friend. The Internet does allow me to write and publish a guide which is at least a big step in that direction. Combined with the ability to communicate at no cost, it's the next best thing to being there.

Personal Power was utterly ignored by the CNIB and other blindness agencies. However, people spread it around the Internet to those who needed it. The emails poured in after I published the guide making it freely available and sharable on the Internet. Emails from countries I had never heard of. I was written about in a South African newspaper. A lot of completely unexpected consequences happened. I was recently told that the original Personal Power guide was responsible for one disenchanted lady learning how to use her computer. She subsequently met and married her husband and now raise a daughter. Emails like that one are absolutely priceless. When you know your work has had results like that, the insults from people who equate unemployment with having no value to society hurt a whole lot less. Closer to home, I was interviewed on Contact, a show which you can hear on AMI all these years later.

My latest big project is to write a guide which takes the same Personal Power approach to iOS. My iPHONE has become one of my most useful and valued possessions. It lets me carry a thousand fully accessible books in my pocket. I can use it to shop, play games, navigate, listen to all sorts of stuff, write, communicate, and so much more. Had you told me that I'd be in this situation back in 2008 or so, I would have laughed long and hard at you. I still marvel at how a device with so few buttons and so much featureless flatness has become so indispensible. Apple has done a marvelous job making it possible for blind people to use their flat touch-screen devices. However, it has done badly at making it easy for blind people to learn to use them. Apple computers come with a tutorial that activates when the built-in Voiceover screen-reader is first run. It explains enough to get people started well. No such facility yet exists for iOS devices. This often leaves blind people at a profound disadvantage. Before you can obtain the user guide for your device, you need to be able to either browse the web or know how to use iBOOKS in order to read it on your device. The iOS experience for blind people is different enough from that of sighted users that it can be hard for them to offer assistance. Not all apps are accessible even when their description would seem to make it likely that they would be. These things can be large impediments for blind people wanting to learn.

All sorts of help is out there but you have to know where it is and how to reach it. Unfortunately, many blind people simply aren't connected enough to learn where to go and what they can do. By creating Personal Power: the iOS Edition, I hope to change that. Many people were very helpful to me as I made the leap to a flat touchscreen. As my way of paying that forward, I will create an ebook which serves as the friend and teacher people need to make the conceptual leap necessary to derive the maximum possible benefit from their iOS devices. The original Personal Power was over 50000 words. I fully expect this second guide to be far larger. There's a whole lot of ground to cover.

If you do nothing else, check out:

It is by far the best resource for blind users of iOS devices. Have a look through the app directories, podcasts and tutorials. Take advantage of an entire community of kind souls who have shared their time, enthusiasm, enjoyment and expertise.

While I'm working on the guide, I hope to use my time on Kelly and Company to share my knowledge and experiences using iOS. Areas of focus in my guide will inform the things I talk about in my segments. However, I'm very much hoping that feedback I receive from you, the audience, will serve to inform my work on the guide making it even better for everyone when it is at last ready for release. Creating the original Personal Power was a two-year journey. I'm hoping this one will go much faster but will take as long as necessary to make it as comprehensive as I can. Given the tremendous untapped potential of these devices and of blind people in need of affordable accessible connective technology, I feel that working on this project and contributing to this show are the best uses of my time and talents. Too many people are getting these devices and aren't able to make optimum use of them in their lives. With your help, I hope to change that in a big way.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and doesn't exactly do wonders for my frame of mind either. Intersperced with iOS talk, I'll be sharing information about things I enjoy in life beyond very supportive wonderful friends and family. For decades, I've been an avid collector of modern audio dramas. Folks, I'll happily let you know where the good stuff is. The same goes for good Internet radio, podcasts, and of course, accessible games. I'm perhaps still best known for creating and editing the Audyssey Magazine which covered computer games accessible to blind people. A community which grew out of the magazine readership still thrives online to this day. From 1996 through 2004, I was editor and community leader. I learned a whole lot about life in many countries, about responsibility, how to settle disputes and most importantly, make certain that those who contributed knew their efforts were appreciated. I take a more low-key approach to the accessible games community these days but step in where I think I can do some good. Games are a big part of my life and always will be. They're journeys of the mind which teach us about the world, ourselves, and those with whoom we choose to play. I learned to type around 80 words per minute by playing text games on my very first computer, an Apple II E. I did so because I wanted to find out what happened next in the stories the games put you in. We learn well when we're personally motivated and in pursuit of our own interests. However, we learn best when we're having so much fun we don't realize it's happening at all.

To keep things simple, I'll focus on games and other entertainments which can be enjoyed through using iOS devices. If you hear about it on my segment of Kelly and Company, you can get it for your iOS device of choice. Due to the widespread adoption of iPHONES, iPADS and iPODS, developers can and often will go out of their way to making their games and other apps accessible. There have been some spectacular audio experiences. Also, many games popular among sighted people have been made accessible to blind iOS users. For starters, look up "Delight Games", "Blindfold Pinball", "King of Dragon Pass", "Papa Sangre II" and "Diceworld" in the appstore. Have a blast. When you come up for air, please feel free to give me feedback. I welcome your input. You can reach me on Twitter by following @mfeir. Email is a good way to get me. I'm at:

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Turning 42

Hello everyone. Another very early rise for me. I had a sort of nightmare. I don't get a lot of those these days although the one which has haunted me most of my life still recurrs from time to time. This seemed more like the beginning of something. I was a passenger in a plane from the 1940's. The pilot and I were flying over an area of ocean where something dreadful was under the surface. I was supposed to investigate this somehow. The plane was attacked by two fighters. The pilot shot one of them down. I could hear everything happening as the planes roared in and attacked. The pilot shot one down but the other got in behind us and got us. I heard the plane break up around me and then I was falling through a storm. This was all very vivid. I fell until I hit the rough ocean. As that happened, I woke up but there was a lingering sense of dread about what was under the water. It was something man-made and frightenning. I couldn't go back to sleep after that so I got up. My last impression was that my character somehow survived the fall and would continue. I'm torn between being curious about what might be under the water and the desire for a good sleep. It's been a long time since I've had a series of continuing story dreams. That sense of world-changing aweful dread has faded thank goodness. Not the most pleasant way to begin my last day of being 41.

Tomorrow, I'll be turning 42 years old. I'm in such a different place than I was two years ago. Work on Personal Power: The iOS Edition is going very well. Ulysses is proving to be a marvelous app. I can't wait to find out what the first update to it will contain. They're a sponsor of the National Novel Writing Month. Sara has decided to obtain Ulysses on her iPHONE and try to write a novel. One of these years, I may very well take a crack at it. For now though, I'll try and do an equivalent amount of work on the guide. It's a massive project and will keep me busy for ages.

Meanwhile, thanks to a connection Sara had, it looks like I'll be a consultant on a show called Kelly and Company. It'll be on the audio stream of

and I'll be speaking about iOS and apps useful to blind people. Also, they want me to talk about audio entertainment like accessible games, podcasts and audio dramas. I deeply appreciate the opportunity. It goes nicely with my own large project and gives me a sense of contributing to the world while I hammer away at it. I haven't found any way to volunteer in the local community. I haven't totally given up on that score but the opportunity will have to come my way. I now have plenty to do that I know will have a real impact. Socially, I'm feeling pretty good these days. I'm not seeing tons of people but seem to be getting enough interaction to feel balanced.

This weekend will be a great one socially. My friend Steve is coming over to spend my birthday weekend with us. We'll be having dinner with my family at my parents' house this evening. Tomorrow, at least a couple more friends will come over for a visit. Beyond that, there are no special plans that I know of. There don't need to be. I'd certainly enjoy some sort of special birthday outing one of these years but when you get down to it, people are far more important than place. Good friends and family are where it's at.

My first presentation on AMI will be on November 3 at around 4:30 PM. I very much look forward to begining this new adventure. It'll earn me a bit of extra money which is within the limits of what ODSP rules let me keep. That'll certainly be helpful. More importantly, it'll inject some routine and structure into my life. That'll also be very helpful. It's too damned easy to just drift along. I'm glad I've had the preceding drift period though. It has let Sara and I start our marriage off well and learn about each other at our own pace. Not many couples have time to do that in this frantic world. We've been blessed in that way.

As I work on the guide and try to help people with iOS and apps, I keenly feel the frustration of not being able to physically be there with them and show them correct gestures and where to touch the screen. The lady I'm helping who was the tipping point to starting work on this guide is way up north. I can't just pop over and help her get past these beginning stages where nothing feels natural and everything seems like a struggle. It would be so helpful if there were a network of local people who could be competent with Voiceover and iOS who could help blind users reach a basic level of mastery. At best, my guide will put a healthy dent in the ignorance out there of what's possible. In an ideal world, there would be a centre somewhere that I could work in where people would come for a couple of weeks guided exploration and instruction in the use of their devices and more importantly, the apps and opportunities these devices offer to pursue one's own interests outside of employment. That mentality of job being the only way of earning society's respect has just got to go! They can't have it both ways making it super hard even for really honest and skillful blind people to find secure employment. Sooner or later, society really has to recognise the heavy price we're all paying for that kind of attitude. As much as I like our current prime minister, I was glad that young people are objecting to this new work world where nobody should expect secure employment. People are starting families and settling down in communities later in life and that means more stressed families living in fragmented ill-formed communities. Sooner or later, those who are driving this ajenda out of a sense of greed and profit will frankly get what's coming to them. Way too many people are being left out and that is already leading to trouble. I'm known for my optimistic view of things and consciously look for good news. However, even I can't escape the conclusion that things really need fixing.

I'm still optimistic enough to think that they can be repaired. This really doesn't have to be a one-way trip to doomsday as some people would have us believe. Frankly, it seems like some of us need things to go that way in order to derive meaning. All the bad news gives them lots of amo for unrelenting dismal judgemental apathy. Thankfully, there are more discussions happening about this. People are waking up to the dangers and I think we'll ultimately manage to find a healthy way forward. For one thing, more good news needs to be dug up and shoved in everyone's faces. People going that extra mile to help each other, agencies succeeding in actually improving things, etc.

From this place of relative safety, I plan to do all I can to help other people enjoy aspects of their lives and see the good that's out there. Western society isn't a lost cause. It just needs a healthy moral and spiritual boost. Opportunities to help in small ways seem to keep appearing in my life. I plan to keep taking them while enjoying the blessings in my own life as much as possible.

It's tuesday morning. My birthday was great this year. A couple of friends ended up not making it over but a long-time friend Steve Murgaski was there. Sara and I had a great weekend with him. He also joined us for our family gathering at my parents' house. That was a lot of fun. My four nieces were very energetic as usual. Dan gave me some Scotish beer which was gleefully consumed by Steve, Sara and I. So was a bottle of champaign Steve brought to the gathering. It was splendid to have so much great conversation over the weekend. I always make certain there's plenty to listen to if we run out of things to talk about but we almost never do.

I received quite a bit of iTUNES and Amazon gift money as I hoped I would. This let me round out my book and music collection. On the music side, I got a couple Passenger albums as well as Nora Jones. I also added some new age instrumental music from Tim Janus, John Adorney and a couple others. As to books, the Dark Tower and First Law series are all now on my Kindle app as well as some other books I've wanted for a while. I've gotten through the first Dark Tower book and have nearly finished the second. There's so much I completely forgot about from my first reading of the books.

I've rearanged my desk surface again. I think I'll be using my Braille display to read bullet notes while I've also looked at the Ferrite recording app a little more closely. I've discovered that I can record with it while that app is in the background and it doesn't cause Voiceover to go quiet. That's going to be very useful for recording demonstrations of how to do various things with iOS. I can then send the recordings into AMI for inclusion in my contributions for the show. It won't work while wearing a headset though. Voiceover gets real quiet in that circumstance.

Sara has started another attempt at NANOWRIMO. It's where you try and write a novel in a month. They deem 50000 words to be a complete novel whether the thing actually has an ending or not. Sara wants to actually bring this story to an end though. Guess we'll see how that goes. I'm going to be inspired by her efforts and try to do as much work on my guide as she does on her novel.

I'm a bit worried about the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre. They're either in the midst of a big web site change or else having larger financial trouble. I fervently hope it's just the former. There's a rather splendid sounding big drama which was supposedly coming out soon based on an rpg campaign. I'm keen to get a digital copy of this. I have no use for the props or CDs. They're really going to town in that department this time apparently. Sara and I heard The Thing at the Doorstep last night for Halloween and it was quite well done as these dramas usually are. Great fun. We also heard the first Massey Lecture. Those will be broadcast on the show called Ideas which is at 9:05 PM on CBC Radio1. They are then made available on iTUNES. I prefer to try and catch the lectures live and then get the book based on them which is usually available on iBOOKS. On the bright side, Big Finish just released the final series of Dorion Gray stories. That'll make for absolutely splendid listening when Sara and I find the time. We've enjoyed all of Dorion's supernatural adventures so far and these last four stories will each be an hour long. That'll be splendid. There's also an extra Behind the Scenes disk worth of materials. I get the mp3 downloads but things are still divided up by disk.

I heard the first episode of Kelly and Company, the show I'll be contributing to. It was quite a good start they managed. It shouldn't be much of a problem providing enough notes to help them keep conversation going in my segments. I'll catch their second show this afternoon at 3:00 PM. I use the OOTunes app to listen to AMI Audio on my iPHONE. It seems to work well but I got a warning that the app needs to be updated for iOS10. Hope the developer will do that. It's a fantastic app and I'd hate to see it go under. Over the past while, I've gotten a few of those warnings. I've had some apps for ages which haven't been updated for a long time. There's talk that Apple might remove apps which are no longer compatible or being updated. Hopefully, nothing still useful will be lost in such a purge.