Windows 10 review: A first look at the 1709 Autumn feature update.

Introduction.
Earlier this year I was a guest at Microsoft in Sydney, where I delivered a keynote address on how I use Windows, and related MS products such as Office 365 at the company’s quarterly exchange conference.
I came away from that experience super impressed at how everyone at Microsoft from the CEO onwards is committed to accessibility, and empowering everyone on the planet to achieve great things, which is Microsoft’s mission statement.
Hello Autumn update.
Back when Windows 10 as a service was launched, Microsoft did away with this idea of shipping whole numbers such as Windows 11, instead Windows 10 is the final Windows, but will continue to get major updates, as well as smaller patches known as cumulative.
So, what does this mean for accessibility? Major adaptive tech vendors have worked with Microsoft and continue to work with Microsoft to make sure we blind are taken care of, one such example is NV Access and how well NVDA plays with the new browser Edge, JAWS 2018 (recommended to take full advantage of the Autumn update also works very well).
A brief note on Edge as it relates to JAWS and Edge, whilst it now does work, the experience is in my opinion not up to scratch.
If you value productivity stick with Internet explorer or Google’s chrome.
As a recent blog post on the Freedom Scientific points out, Edge is still a work in process, and I have full confidence that the bright minds at VFO and Microsoft will get it right, so that Edge can be brought to the level of productivity that we blind are used to in IE.
What’s changed?
A whole lot, from being able to control Narrator from a braille display, to Cortana being able to shut down your PC, there’s a bunch of good stuff in the Autumn update.
My favourite thing about the 1709 feature update, is how smoothly the upgrade went.
I updated both my Del desktop and laptop, and the installation took less than 9 minutes.
You can get the update in 2 ways, via Windows update when your PC in forms you that it’s been downloaded, or by using Microsoft’s Media creation Tool, both methods allow you to do a clean install, or an in-place upgrade, if you choose the clean install, all your data will be lost thus, I highly recommend backing-up beforehand.
If you’re in enterprise or Government, consult your system admin.
Conclusion.
It’s very clear that the future of Windows is very bright indeed, the accessibility message has been gotten loud and clear by the company, and it was evident to me when I met reps from the firm in Sydney, Microsoft is 100% committed to accessibility, just look at their Twitter @MSFT enable, and the wonderful work being done with the Seeing AI app (Currently not available in Australia but coming soon, and it’s easy to see that Microsoft is on the right track).
What does this mean for blind people and how can I help?
Feedback, feedback, feedback, feedback, I cannot stress that enough, because the blind community is small when compared to our sighted cohort, we need to speak up when we inn counter issues relating to a product or service, next time something brakes, or you feel Microsoft have broken something within Windows, write a respectful email explaining that you’re blind, and use adaptive technology, and you’ll be surprised at how willing Microsoft is to assist and correct problems and concerns.
With people like Jeff Bishop, Microsoft Program Manager for Narrator, the outlook for people that are blind, and Windows 10 overall looks very good.
Rating:
5 stars outstanding.
Pros:
Narrator is better than ever, quick smooth installation, fast boot time, being able to use my braille display with narrator, system wide dictation, Cortana is even better than before, very responsive, even though Edge is a work in progress, Microsoft is moving in the right direction, the Microsoft disability answer desk is fantastic.
Cons:
I’d love to be able to move by first letter navigation when uninstalling programs, as well as being able to copy chunks of text between my PCS and my mobile devices, I believe Microsoft is working on this already, and Windows insiders will test first before it goes live, most likely with the next version of Windows 10, known internally as Red Stone 4, due out in the first half of 2018.

Cutting the wire, a review of Apple’s AirPods.

Summary:
Launching with the iPhone 7, Apple’s Airpods, (RRP AUD 229 are a great investment for anyone who loves music and wants to cut the wire.
Intro:
It seems these days, more and more phones are dispensing with the 3.5 MM headphone Jack, enter the AirPods Apple’s answer to wireless headphones.
What’s in the box:
The AirPods ship in a very nice case, which also acts as the charging base.
If you so desire, you can use one AirPod whilst the other gets a quick charge.
Speaking of charging, the cable that comes with your iPhone, or iPad will give the case power.

Set up and configuration:
As taken from Apple’s website which reads thus:
Just take them out and they’re ready to use with all your devices. Put them in your ears and they connect instantly. Speak into them and your voice sounds clear.
When you open the case for the first time, a prompt comes up, flick to the OK button, double tap, and there paired.
It’s one of the most seamless pairings I’ve done for a while.
AirPods work with all Bluetooth enabled devices.
The AirPods have Appel’s W1 ship, the page from Apple’s website explains the technology as:
All the ground-breaking things AirPods can do are driven by the custom-designed Apple W1 chip. It produces extremely efficient wireless for a better connection and improved sound. And the W1 chip manages battery life so well, you can listen for five hours on a single charge.3 It’s performance that’s unheard of in a device this small.
On average, I’m getting between 4-5 hours, which just about meets Apple’s claim of up to 5 hours.
Airpods do also work with PCS, but I’m yet to try the experience.
Final thoughts.
With the W1 ship, ease of use, and wonderful packaging the AirPods are worth it specially, if one does a lot of walking.
Rating:
4 Stars excellent.
Pros:
Wonderful sound, great case.
Cons:
From time to time, the Bluetooth drops out, this issue will be addressed with the upcoming 11.1.

Apple Music review: Feel the rhythm.

Intro:
The music streaming scene is red hot now, With Pandora having left the market Which only affects (Australian customers). The stakes have never been higher.
I’ll talk about the different streaming options available, from Google Music, to heart radio.
I hope at the end of this review you’ll get a decent sense of which streaming service to go with.
Background
Way back now, many years ago, Apple released a subscription service branded as “iTunes match “.
The notion was, that one could download from the iTunes Store, but more importantly if songs weren’t purchased from said Store, Apple would upload the user’s play-list to the cloud.
I, and several users, were greatly inconvenienced by this approach, reason being that peoples purchased content as well as downloaded content was all mixed together, not to mention how buggy the initial role out was.
Apple however, is very good at correcting their blunders, hence the re-branded Apple Music service.
Without a doubt, at over 47 million songs to choose from Apple Music has the biggest range of tracks that customers can listen to.
Add to that Beats 1 radio, and you’ve got a winner.
If you don’t want to be tied in to Apple’s garden, Google Music is also worth a look.
Both streaming services mentioned, are very accessible with Voiceover.
A slight annoyance with Apple Music is that during the earlier days it tended to mix your library of purchased content and Apple Music, this is no longer the case.
These music solution’s do require an Internet connection so, if you’re on a small data allowance do take care.
Having said that, many of the Aussie mobile providers do offer unlimited streaming on post-paid plans, but make sure you read the fine print of your respective contract to avoid bill shock.
Conclusion.
With the largest collection of songs, unmatched customer service via iTunes support, and great hardware when it comes to recently released iOS devices, Apple Music is worth it 100%.
Pros:
Excellent UI, works well with AirPods, never get a repeat with over 47 million songs, great support after the fact via iTunes customer care.
Cons:
None.
Rating:
5 stars outstanding.

iPad Pro review.

iPad Pro 10.5-inch review.

Summary.

With great battery life, slim chassis, iOS 11 and up to 512GB of storage Apple’s tablet is as close to perfect as possible.

Design.

Back in 2010, when I got my first iPad I was blown away by how nice it felt, fast forward 7 years and when I hold this tablet, I’m reminded of that magical day when I unboxed the iPad 2.
Much of the border has been removed giving the allusion that you’re holding nothing but a slab of glass.
The front of the tablet, is nothing but screen.
For sighted people they’ll appreciate the larger screen.
Us blind folk will make use of larger touch points for iPad specific apps.
In conclusion the design is fantastic, and as the old saying goes “don’t brake it if it isn’t broke.”

Power, oh my!

Ever since Apple started making their own CPU’s, the power of the iPad has been amazing.
In my stress test where I ping the modem and play video at full brightness the Pad lasted 11 hours.
That’s super impressive and with less use you should be able to make it through a day at the office with some time to play games) (all work and no play is no fun).
Most apps don’t come close to taxing the processor, but it’s good that Apple is future proofing the tablet.
A note on Touch ID, if you want to use the ID, probs best to get an iPad Pro now, as with the next refreshed Apple is probs going to switch to Face ID.

Final thoughts.
The iPad Pro is an awesome piece of equipment, can’t wait to take it on my travels as I’d like to get my work done when I’m on vacation.
It’s a great addition to a PC.

iPhone 8 review.

iPhone 8 review. Looking at Apple’s 10th anniversary smartphone.
Intro:
I remember getting my first iOS device,) An iPod touch). Since then, I’ve had my share of Apple products, and even worked for the firm for 2 years as an AppleCare specialist.
I’ll try to be subjective with my review, as everyone uses their smartphone in different ways. I hope by reading this post it’ll give you a decent notion as to whether you should get the 8 or 8+. OK, let’s get started!
Design:

Since the 6 series, Apple has stuck to the same basic design, if you’ve held the 6/6s you’ll be at home. I personally love how they’ve made the design very close to the 4/4s. It’s a bit heavy, but nowhere near as large as the 8+.
What’s new?
It’s getting harder and harder to recommend these phones as there’s no real value if you have the 5/5s, go for the upgrade, and I’m sure you’ll find it refreshing, otherwise upgrade if you can payout right, or go on a plan.
What’s changed?
Not a lot, if I wasn’t reviewing the iPhone 8 I would return it and get the money back. Admittedly, it’s very fast, scoring 89% using Geekbench. To put it into perspective this device is faster than my iPad pro 10.5-inch, and a basic mid-range Mac/PC.
But my point, is you don’t need to get a new phone every year.
Most people sighted or blind, don’t use half the computing power these devices afford.
If you’re iOS device supports iOS 11, might be worth skipping this one.
Get the X I hear you say? I personally wouldn’t, as I love the convenience of Touch ID, but there are those who will buy it for business reasons, such as Jonathan mosen from the Blind side, and David Woodbridge of Vision Australia, who will be getting one from the company for testing purposes, I believe his personal device will be an 8.
I’m of the opinion that it’s to early to jump on the bus yet.
Every first gen Apple product is known to have problems.
Back in 2010, users started complaining about dropped calls, The iPad third gen had display issues, and so on and so forth. I’d highly advise you wait for the second version of Face ID, hopefully this time next year Apple would’ve had time to address the problems that are sure to plague early adopters. Of course, if you’re an Apple fan through and through, Nothing I say will persuade you otherwise.
Conclusion:
With many subtle upgrades the iPhone 8 and 8+ are worthy, But I’d think long and hard before hitting that buy button, as it’s a nice upgrade as a pose to a required purchase.
If you have anything older than a 7, go for it, but other than that there’s nothing amazingly cool to be had here.
As for the iPhone X, Apple’s just playing catch up with Google’s Android, if money permits perhaps look at what the other side has to offer.

Rating:
3.5 stars good.
Pros:
Old but decent design, fantastic camera, fast.
Cons:
After 4+ years the design is getting boring, very expensive for what you get, almost all the features except for those that are hardware specific can be gotten with iOS 11.