The screen reader wars – My take

The screen reader wars my take.

With the  announcement  of GwMicro   making Window-eyes   free to users of Microsoft 2010/2013 as well as anyone with an office 365 account the blind community  has never had so much choice when it comes to screen reader access.  

As far as I’m concerned this is the end of JAWS once and for all. Paying $1500 to access ones computer is simply absurd.

I personally think the Mac is the way to go. But if you need to use Windows for business/education NVDA is the screen reader to go with. Here’s just some of the reasons:

  1. It’s free.  none of the other solutions are free. For  Window-eyes  you need a copy of Microsoft  2010/2013 or the aforementioned 365 account.
  2. It’s updated constantly.
  3. It’s portable. Something that can’t be said of both JAWS or Window-eyes.

I’d like to point you to the following article:linkedin – My Thoughts on GW Micro

In the article the author    says that  NVDA is only fit for basic use. This is far from the truth NVDA has excellent support for the open office standard, works brilliantly with firefox and is specially important to those who are in education.

He does have a point when it comes to the business market however. N V Access needs to address this  short coming for their corporate users.

The summary is that NVDA is still the best and only truly free screen reader making a difference at the moment.

It will be interesting to see what Freedom Scienttific do with JAWS.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Get  in contact.

iPad Air review

Back when the first iPad was unveiled at a special press event in January of 2010  Apple marketed the device as ” A magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price.”

In the 3 and a  half years that have passed since the products inception the iPad has turned out to be just as magical as Apple intended it to be. People certainly agree with a staggering amount of iPads being sold by the company. so does the latest full sized iPad still stand at the top of the tablet pack?

Design

When the iPad mini came out it was fantastic all the iPad’s features in a small pint sized package.

Well the same  design philosophy carries over from the mini to the big iPad. Shaving off 28% of the foot print and     24% volume sounds okay in marketing material but  when you hold this device for the first  time your reminded very strongly of the first iPad mini. That they’ve shaved off this much volume off the product without sacrificing battery life is extraordinary it really does feel like an air in your hands. This should make it a bit less cumbersome to hold when using the iPad during long bouts for reading etc.

Processor power

The processor is very similar to that found in the iPhone 5s released early this year. Very fast it’s nothing  short of amazing when it comes to computing tasks.

Geek bench results

iPhone 4s. 1234. iPhone 5 1278. iPad 3 early 2012 800. iPad 4 late 2012 1220. iPad Air 700. Shorter numbers are better. As you can see from geek bench

this iPad screams although apps designed to take advantage of the hardware are not plentiful yet.

Software

The iPad runs iOS 7 which lets you control the device with your fingers and has some new features including the new control centre, smarter multi-tasking, the notification shade and a host of other improvements.

While iOS   feels and looks great on the iPhone it doesn’t look so good on the iPad. Maybe because of the icons being on a larger display things look a little jagged.  But the smoothness of the retina display is still retained.

No touch ID

A feature I’ve come to love on my iPhone 5s maybe next year?

Internet, battery life, and conclusions

The same impressive 10 Hour battery life is still on board if you do less intensive things like browse the web and check email you should be able to get a lot of juce out of this iPad.

Internet is improved with nimo tech built-in this should give you theoretical speeds of 300MBPS I certainly noticed getting a good signal towards the back of my house which has a notoriously bad signal most of the time.

I wasn’t able to check the iPad with 3G/4G but will update my review if and when Apple sends me one with cellular connectivity.

The iPad Air is the best full sized tablet on the market today. A bit pricey but if you have the cash don’t even think about going with Another brand. Apple has really hit this one out of the park and it shows.

If you want something with a smaller foot print but still a great tablet consider the iPad mini with retina display.

Rating

5 stars excellent.

Pros

less volume,  brilliant display, good software, great support.

Cons

a bit pricey.

Where to buy

Direct from Apple

iPhone 5c review

Just after Apple launched the iPhone 5 last year there were calls for the company to start thinking about offering a low cost version of the iPhone. It was said that Apple needed a cheaper iPhone if it was to continue to gain market share at a time when smartphone ownership was starting to reach saturation. Apple responded by saying that a cheaper iPhone would “never be the future of Apple products.”

And yet the idea that Apple would launch a cheaper iPhone took hold, so when Apple unveiled the iPhone 5c alongside the iPhone 5s many assumed that the C stood for cheap. Perhaps because expectations were set so high (or should I say low) the inevitable disappointment when it emerged that the upfront price of the iPhone 5c was just $130 less than the equivalent iPhone 5s. Starting at $739 AUD the iPhone 5c is not a cheap iPhone.

Is this a big mistake on Apple’s part? I don’t think so. Indeed, I think that producing a cheap iPhone would have cheapened the brand. Now anyone purchasing an iPhone 5c doesn’t need to feel like they are settling for something inferior. Both of Apple’s new iPhones are premium products and anyone should be proud to own one. Indeed, the negative press about the higher-than-expected price for the iPhone 5c means that the value of your new phone will be recognised.

Design:

The other reason why it was assumed that this is a cheap iPhone is the plastic coating. Since the iPhone 4 all Apple iPhones have been crafted from aluminium and glass. Even the stil-on-sale iPhone 4S has an aluminium case. Does the plastic case make the new iPhone 5c look like it belongs in a bargain basement?

On the contrary, I think Apple has proven that plastic doesn’t have to look cheap. The iPhone 5c bears all the trademarks of Apple’s meticulous attention to detail. It is crafted from a single piece of plastic. You won’t find a single seam or joint in the unibody-style design. One benefit for the plastic construction is that the edges are smooth and curved, unlike those of the iPhone 5s and 4S, which by comparison feel a little less comfortable in the hand.

On the inside of the plastic case is a steal-enforced frame. Thanks to this metal skeleton the plastic coated iPhone 5c feels solid. Along with adding rigidity the steal frame and metal plate at the back can double up as an antenna, so it’s unlikely that there will be a repeat of antenna gate, the reception issue that plagued the iPhone 4.

Pick your colour:

It’s pretty clear that when Apple settled on the name iPhone 5c the c stood for colour. This is the first time that Apple has produced an iPhone that isn’t black or white. The 5c comes in your choice of 5 different vibrant colours including: pink, yellow, blue and green, as well as white. The pink one will be a hit with younger females.

There is no black version of the iPhone 5c however, they did release a model for the iPhone 5s called “space grey.” Which replaces the black model.

The Next Generation assessing the processor of the iPhone 5c how does it go against the iPhone 5?

As much as I like the plastic casing of the iPhone 5c there is one fact that I can’t ignore. The plastic case is the only difference between the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5c. The two phones are identical, sharing the same iSight camera, A6 processor, and the Lightning connector. This has lead many to assume that the iPhone 5c is a repackaged iPhone 5.

Actually it’s not completely true that the two phones are identical. There are a few differences. The iPhone 5c shares it’s internal WiFi and cellular hardware with the iPhone 5s rather than iPhone 5 probably because by sharing common components Apple can save money. This coupled with the steal back providing extra antenna capacity seems, in my tests, to result in a better 3G signal. I haven’t been able to test the 4G signal on the device as my sisters unit which I was reviewing only came with a 3G sim.

FaceTime camera:

The iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s also share the new FaceTime camera that is capable of clearer FaceTime video calls according to Apple. I tested this and indeed, the iPhone 5c meant that I could be seen in more detail than when I tried with an iPhone 5.

4G support:

The other major difference is that the fact that the iPhone 5c will support all the Australian 4G carriers, where the iPhone 5 cannot support the 4G network of Vodafone all though it’s slowly rolling out it’s 4G coverage. When it’s complete the iPhone 5c will be supported on all major 4G networks.

Despite these internal differences and the new cases – it’s difficult to argue that it is a completely different phone. The big question is whether it really matters.

I don’t think that it does matter if the 5c doesn’t sell as much. It’s Apple’s colourful new offering design to be on shelves for customers to look at. It will appeal to those wanting a new and fun device or mothers buying their kids a phone. For everyone else there is the iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 5c camera:

Whether it’s an iPhone 5 or not, the iPhone 5c is still a feature packed phone. As I mentioned above the FaceTime camera on the front of the device is improved. The camera on the back of the iPhone 5c features the same 8 megapixel sensor, 3264×2448, backside illuminated, hybrid IR filter, five-element lens, and f/2,4 aperture as the iPhone 5 did. It is by no means a bad camera. If your current camera is an iPhone 4S or older you will notice a marked difference.

The iPhone 5 camera offers faster photo capture, better low-light performance and improved noise reduction compared to those previous models HDR captures are faster when compared to older iPhones.

The camera itself is identical to that in the iPhone 5. the video quality is also identical.

If photography is your thing you may prefer the camera in the iPhone 5s which is greatly improved with a new five-element Apple designed lens that features a larger f-2.2 aperture. The sensor in the iPhone 5s camera is also larger as are the pixels on this sensor.

The iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5 comparison:

Another reason to opt for the iPhone 5s would be if you know that your usage is likely to benefit from the modern platform offered by the iPhone 5s. With an A7 chip and 64-bit processing the iPhone 5s will, no doubt be loved by gamers and will also give you a few more years of use before it becomes obsolete.

On-the-other-hand the A6 chip is still pretty fast and runs iOS 7 very well. So you might not need the added speed of the iPhone 5s.

The display and battery life:

When the iPhone 5 launched the most obvious difference to the iPhone 4S was the size of the display, and like the iPhone 5 the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s feature a 4in Retina display as opposed to the 3.5in display of the older models. Being 176 pixels taller means the display offers a 16:9 aspect ratio — which is the same as an HDTV.

Some people complain that Apple hasn’t bought out an iPhone with a bigger screen. Apple’s own response to that complaint is two fold, when it launched the 4in display last year Apple said that it was designed so that you can hold the iPhone in your hand and reach all parts of the screen comfortably. You couldn’t do this with a bigger display unless you have giant hands. The other reason Apple says is that it doesn’t believe that the quality of the bigger screen is good enough. So if you really want a bigger iPhone then you will have to wait a while longer.

Apple’s says that the battery in the iPhone 5c is larger than the iPhone 5. Apple claims that it offers 10 hours of web browsing on Wi-Fi and LTE networks, up to 8 ours on 3G networks, and up to 10 hours of video playback and up to 40 hours of audio playback. This is almost identical to apples claims regarding the iPhone 5 last year, with the exception that Apple now claims 10 hours over LTE where last year that claim was 8 hours. In my everyday use the iPhone 5c gave good battery life on par with my iPhone 4S. It typically would need a charge by the end of the day. This means you should have no problems with getting through A work or school day.

In my battery torture test where I play a looping video with brightness turned up and Wi-Fi connected the iPhone 5c lasted an impressive 10 hours, 19 minutes (compared to the iPhone 5s at 11 hours).

Verdict:

If you’re trying to decide between the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c it is a question of whether you need all the extras offered by the iPhone 5s. Perhaps you are enticed by the new camera in the 5s, for example. If you need the latest Technology it is only $130 AUD more so it’s kind of a no brainer.

But not everyone needs the bells and whistles for some it’s not the processor and the high tech features that matter but the way a device looks and feels and whether it helps them express their individuality. If you fit in that camp then the iPhone 5c is well worth a look.

Similarly if you have an iPhone that predated the iPhone 5 it really is about time you upgraded You really don’t know what you’ve been missing.

For those of you with an iPhone 5, upgrading to an iPhone 5c is probably not worth it. Unless you’ve broken your iPhone 5 recently and need a new device otherwise stick with your current phone. It’s a perfectly good iPhone and runs iOS 7 very well. If you must upgrade get the 5s instead or better yet wait until next year to see what Apple has to offer with the iPhone 6.

Manufacturer:

Apple.

Pros:

colourful designs that may appeal to some, more LTE bands supported.

Cons:

Expensive, same design as the iPhone 5, you can get the iPhone 5s for only an extra $130 AUD.

Rating:

4 stars. Excellent.

Reviewed on Friday 25 October.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

Following up from the wildly successful S3 comes the S4. Here is my brief thoughts on the device.

Although I hale from the great land of Apple, I have known to flirt with Android devices on occasion I recently got the Nexus 7 tablet.

So when Samsung gave me the S4 to review I was quite excited. Would this latest incarnation in the smartphone wars give the iPhone a run for it’s money?

Let’s find out.

Design:

The Galaxy S4 doesn’t mess with the Galaxy S3 design a lot. Dominating the front of the device is the 4.99 inch display. Around back you have the 13MP camera.

All this is wrapped in a Polycarbonate body. While not luxurious like the iPhone 5 or HTC one it did hold up to drop tests rather well.

Performance:

Power comes from Exynox octo-core processor running at 1.6GHz. It comes with the latest version of the Android OS Jelly Bean.

Swiping through apps was buttery smooth as well as using Androids excellent keyboard to compose emails there was no lag even with 12 apps open in the background.

Running the Sunspider test this phone got a blistering score of 933 definitely making it one of the faster Android devices.

The battery on the S4 is an impressive 2,600mAh. That’s around 500mAh bigger than the majority of smartphones meaning that you’ll have no problems making it through a working day with this device.

Conclusion:

The Android army marchs on and with the S4 Samsung has certainly thrown a huge punch at Apple and whatever it calls the next iPhone it better be good.

Pros:

Huge display, very speedy, , excellent software.

Cons:

Flimsy material, expensive.

A quick note – Reviewing the AccessNote Application for iOS from AFB

As more and more blind people converge towards mainstream technology there have been a flurry of notetaking solutions aimed at boosting productivity for busy professionals and students alike.

Today we look at such an App designed in conjunction with FloCo Apps, LLc.

The App boasts special access for the blind and full integration with Appl’s screen reader VoiceOver is seamless.

Design:

The App has a clean an uncluttered UI it is clear the the AFB has thought a great deal about universal access for all.

Blind people will specially appreciate how well this mobile App works with VoiceOver alleviating the frustration that sometimes comes with buying an inaccessible App.

All buttons are given descriptions making it a snap to start a new note.

Dropbox integration is available so that one can export notes created inside the App this is useful for students wanting to access there notes on the go.

Performance and wrap up:

Silky smooth performance I experienced no issues whilst using the App.

In closing AFB has put together a great solution that harnesses Apple’s revolutionary accessibility features. Offering an alternative to more expensive options using a bluetooth keyboard or braille display one can certainly get a lot of work done.

Improvements can certainly be made mainly supporting more file formats like Microsoft .doc and .docx documents. These enhancements are no doubt coming to a future update of the App so stay tuned.

Having said all that for a first release it’s pretty impressive.

Seller:

AFB.

Compatibility:

Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

Direct URL:

https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/accessnote/id591287188?mt=8.

Price as reviewed:

$20.99