Archive for February, 2009

Kindle 2 – Accessibility Features Reviewed

My new Amazon Kindle 2 arrived at work on Friday afternoon, and as promised – I am going to review the accessibility features from my perspective (I am legally blind). But first, a few first impressions about the device.

1. The device was provisioned to my Amazon account and ready for me out of the box. The only thing I had to do was plug it in to let the battery fully charge. No need to sync with a computer, no setup wizard, nothing. Simple as simple can be.

2. It is very thin – about 3/8 of an inch.

3. It doesn’t have a cheap or plastic feel to it (like I was afraid it might). It gives you the impression that it is well built and will hold up for many years. It would be nice if Amazon provided a case (I have already ordered one).

The two main accessibility features I wanted to look at on the Kindle 2 were the font size adjustment and the text-to-speech functions. The text-to-speech has attracted quite a bit of press in the last week. Seems rights holders are complaining they will lose out on proceeds of audio book sales. So I’m going to take these issues out of order and jump right into the speech reader function.

I have purchased many audio books in my life. I have also used various text to speech engines. While speech engines have improved over the years, there is still a major difference between the two. The speech functions of the Kindle 2 offer one male and one female voice, and it does allow for playback speed adjustment. But that’s about it. Here is a sample of the female voice. As you can tell, this is nothing like the polished “human” voice you get in a true audio book.

Amazon has decided to let individual publishers decide whether or not to enable the speech function for individual book titles. I think this is a chicken shit approach. Grow a pair Amazon – stand up for what is right here. I for one plan to keep my Audible account in addition to using my Kindle (yes, I know Amazon owns Audible). The world as we know it isn’t going to fall apart because of this one new feature.

Moving on to the adjustable font size. It is extremely easy to adjust the font size. Just press the text key – it’s the one labeled “Aa” to the right of the space bar. One important note – this only works when reading content. If you try this from the home screen you will get a message that says, “Sorry, you can only change the size of text while reading content.” How strange. Why did Amazon give us the ability to increase font size everywhere on the device except the home screens and menus? Did they not consider that to be important? Well, I suppose if your eyesight is good enough to navigate the menus (like mine), then you will probably appreciate the larger fonts when you are actually reading a book. I’ve included a picture below that demonstrates the largest font size the device supports. It is quite adequate for my needs.

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Guns for Groceries – Dallas, TX

This Saturday, the City of Dallas is hosting a gun “buy back” program at Reunion arena. The event is sponsored by several local businesses and is not using any city funds. Between 9AM and Noon, you can bring an unloaded (working) firearm and trade it for a $50 Kroger grocery card. Seriously? Is anyone stupid enough to trade their gun for just $50? Come on people – there are events every month for selling your guns. Ever heard of a gun show? Anyone who shows up for this is just plain stupid.

On second thought, if you are stupid, maybe you shouldn’t have a gun anyway. Hmmm – okay, this is actually a really great deal and everyone should go (covering my mouth so you can’t see me snickering).

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SAFETY Act of 2009

This is a draft of a letter I am working on that will go to Senator John Cornyn and Representative Lamar Smith. I feel that the proposed legislation would be impractical for individuals and businesses. See my reasons below:

I am writing to express my concerns with several provisions of the proposed “SAFETY” Act of 2009 (S.436, H.R.1076). Specifically, I am opposed to the content of Section 5 and Section 10.

Section 5, retention of records by electronic communication service providers, places an enormous burden on individuals and businesses. The next paragraph will attempt to illustrate the complexity involved with the logging requirements:

I am employed as an IT manager for a law firm. We have about 1000 employees – all of whom have access to email and the web. We use an industry standard firewall that performs network address translation. This means we use one public IP address, and internally we use thousands of dynamic private addresses. Logging DHCP data would give us the machine name, private IP issued, and the duration of the lease (the date and time). But what good would that do? If one of our employees visits a website containing child pornography, you will see our public IP hitting that server. The data about the internal DHCP leases is not enough to tell you who visited the site. I would have to keep detailed logs of all internet traffic to know which machine visited the site, and then I would have to know which user was assigned to that machine at that point in time. That assumes that the person involved was our employee. What if they were a client or visiting guest? Do we need a copy of their drivers license before we give them internet access?

In short, there are a variety of segments of information that would need to be tracked and cross-referenced to provide any meaningful data to law enforcement personnel. Most businesses and individuals lack the technological capability to put in place the kind of logging that would be required. Wouldn’t our time be better spent cooperating with law enforcement to track active suspects instead of capturing historical records of the entire nation “just in case” they are needed?

My objection to Section 10 is purely economic. You propose to provide 150 million dollars over 5 years to the FBI’s Innocent Images National Initiative. The FBI website shows only 6,863 convictions by this program in the twelve years between 1996 and 2007. That works out to about 572 convictions a year. If we just take into account the proposed new funding (and not existing budget appropriations), each of those convictions will cost taxpayers an additional $52,448. That figure doesn’t begin to include the costs of incarceration.

I appreciate your desire to keep children safe from sexual predators, but I can’t support a bill that places sweeping records retention requirements on the citizens of the United States. I am also uncomfortable with additional funding for an FBI program that has had “limited” results. Given the current economic climate, the government should be looking for ways to save money instead of spending it.

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HK P30L – First trip to the range

I took my HK P30L for its first range visit today. I ran 100 rounds of PMC Bronze FMJ (115 grain) through the pistol without any issues. I had seen reports that brass has a tendency to eject back toward the shooter, but I did not experience that issue. So it was time to move on to testing two types of JHP.

The first up was 10 rounds of Winchester Ranger SXT (115 grain). The Winchester ammo shot just as well as the PMC – no issues. The second up was 10 rounds of Corbon DPX (80 grain). The first round of Corbon fired, but the brass did not extract fully and had to be manually cleared. The second round of Corbon behaved exactly like the first – failed to extract. So the Corbon will not be going back into this pistol.

So many people purchase JHP ammo and never fire it through their pistols. They shoot regular rounds at the range all the time, but then trust some unproven ammo in their weapon for defense. This is why you should ALWAYS test fire your defensive rounds. While I would have preferred the lower powered Corbon, I will be sticking with the Winchester Ranger in my P30L.

Update – I have posted a video on YouTube that shows how to field strip the HK P30L. It is a little different than other HK models.

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Quarter Million bounty on virus writer

Microsoft is offering up $250,000 toward the arrest and conviction of whoever wrote that POS virus I had to fight last month. Go Microsoft! If I knew who did it, I would turn them in for free. See the ZDNET story on the topic.

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Kindle 2 – Accessibility Features

So I have placed my pre-order for the Amazon Kindle 2. I was intrigued by the first generation unit, but it lacked accessibility features for the visually impaired. The new version includes text to speech as well as adjustable font sizes. Amazon claims, “Now every book in your library can be large print.” So we will see. I’m going to put it through a real world test with someone who is legally blind (me). Check back to the blog for updates. No ETA on delivery at this point.

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Where did my “Reply to All” go?

Seems the folks over at Nielsen thought “reply to all” was such a bad idea – they just pulled the function from their email system. See the Techcrunch article on the topic called, “Nielsen Deletes Reply-To-All Button.”

I agree that this basic email function can become a problem in large organizations, but is removing it the right solution? Perhaps you could restrict access to your large internal mailing lists. Or maybe look at a tool like “Reply to All Monitor” by Sperry software. Just a thought.

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Go, Goes, Going, Went or Gone

Grammar mistakes happen, but do they really have to happen to the lead story on CNN’s website? Maybe the copy editors at CNN should take this grammar quiz. Yes, they did eventually correct the mistake. Here is a picture of the edited version.

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