A Time to be Alive
A few positive things for a change
In the past, I've mostly written articles about problems with operating systems, products, services, and general technology. But, in this article, I want to shed a little light on what good things are going on. This doesn't really negate all the bad, but it helps to think about the good things that are going on more than just the bad.
Lately, Google has been putting a lot more effort into Android accessibility than in previous years. A few years ago, Google added commands to TalkBack that could use more than one finger. This means that complex two-part commands, like swiping up then right, or right then down, which are more like commands you'd perform on a video game joystick than a phone, don't have to be used. Instead, one can use two, three, or four finger taps or swipes instead. These are also pretty customizable.
Then, in Android 12, Google brought those commands, which were previously only for Pixel and Samsung devices, out of (beta I guess) exclusivity, and onto every Android device. Oh and in Android 11 or so they added an onscreen braille keyboard, which I now can't live without, and previously couldn't on iOS either. That's the one thing that gave me a good enough excuse to jump to Android.
Now, they're adding Braille display support, so if a blind person owns a refreshable Braille display, they can connect it through Bluetooth to Android. This will be coming out in Android 13 later this year. And if Samsung doesn't hurry it up, I won't be very happy if I have to wait until next year to get 13. Ah well, Dolby Atmos is pretty worth it.
I hope they keep improving their AI stuff. Right now, they can detect text in images, but I'd love to be able to go through my photo library and hear descriptions of images, like I can on iOS. No, having to send the image to another app isn't the same thing. But they're getting closer!
Apple still leads the way on adding new features to their accessibility settings, at least on mobile. Okay, text checking on Mac is pretty cool. Anyway, this year was really interesting, as they've added lots of new voices (basically fonts for blind people), except they're all monochrome and sometimes look awful depending on who's listening.) Other than that, they added support for door detection and ... I can't really think of much else. The really big thing is voices, since they've added one that the blind community has been using for about 25 years, Eloquence, which I'm sure they had to do a lot of engineering, compatibility with 32-bit libraries, and spaghetti code to get working with Apple silicon. Still, there's nothing that makes basically the whole blind community want to beta test like some new voices!
So, modernizing a whole OS is probably really hard. They still want to be backward compatible, but they also want to move things forward. So, they're still trying to push towards using UI Automation Even though File Explorer can be really sluggish, even on this new PC, and screen readers don't really have anything like the VoiceOver rotor which is invisible and instantly available. Windows is still the OS of choice for blind people. Microsoft has outlived the Mac hype, and still chugs along even with phones taking over the computing world.
Lately, they kind of seem to repeat themselves a lot. They continually talk about their new voices, only available to Narrator and no other screen reader cause Narrator has to be the premier screen reader experience. But, from a positive point of view, it could just mean they're planning something really nice for the next Windows release. I'd love to see offline image recognition that all screen readers could tap into, like the already-included text recognition.
Crostini is really great. It lets me use Linux command line apps, through TDSR, or even GUI apps, through Orca, but with a nice window manager, notification system, and ChromeOS provides the web support and Android apps. And Emacspeak isn't sluggish as crap like it is in WSL2.
At least a lot of blind Linux users like either Mint or Arch. And there's Emacspeak. And GPodder, and Thunderbird is kinda nice when it wants to be, and LSHW gives loads of info on hardware, and Bash is far, far better than PowerShell. Like, “stop computer”? Who wants to type all that?
I've recently started reading, thanks to my Humanware NLS EReader, and I'm really starting to enjoy it. Thanks to, I think, my vitamins, and practice, I'm finding that I'm able to think ahead of the current reading point, to predict the rest of the sentence, and if the prediction is right, skim passed that. It's kinda cool. I'm not sure if I was able to do that before, but I'm definitely noticing it now.
In this blog post, I talked about how stuff still mainly works, Google's starting to give a crap, Apple still blazes ahead in some areas, and Microsoft still talks a lot. Oh and ChromeBook is still a nice Linux system lol, and Braille is good.
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