Which Black Sock Goes With Which Black Sock .com

Would anybody care to enlighten me as to who the target market for this $190 batch of internet-connected socks is? Because I’ve got nothin’.

That video is in what sounds like German, so if like me you can’t see what’s happening you’re not going to get a whole lot out of it. But there’s this, which tells you everything you need to know assuming the words $190 internet-connected socks wasn’t more than enough.

Calf socks classic with Plus+: Probably the smartest socks in the world

Probably the smartest men’s dress socks in the world: Our classic calf socks can now communicate with your iPhone as all Plus+ socks have a communication button.
Start out by ordering a Starter kit of 10 pairs of black calf socks Plus+ and your own personal Sock Sorter to translate between your socks and your iPhone.

Imagine your phone could communicate with your socks. Your phone would know:

  • which socks belong together,and could help sort them out,
  • how often you have washed your socks,
  • when your socks were produced,
  • when you ordered your socks
  • and

  • when your socks were dispatched.

Your iPhone can also tell you if your black socks are no longer properly black and help you buy new socks.
This is something we dreamed about and we have made the dream come true.

That’s so sad. Though not quite as sad as knowing that somebody someplace is buying them, I suppose.

Only two of these features would be remotely useful to me, and most folks wouldn’t even need the second one.

Quickly and easily knowing it’s time to order new socks before I run out? Cool. Everybody could use that. And as a blind guy, it is handy to know which socks go together. That’s a real pain in the ass sometimes. But fortunately it’s a problem I can already solve for free, not to mention that this batch of socks are all supposed to be the same colour anyway, are they not?

Nobody’s going to listen, but I’m going to say this one more time. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I *can* reach over and stick my finger in this outlet, but I *shouldn’t*, because it would be painfully stupid. Kind of like a wiFi cookie jar, or an app that tells you when to drink water or yes, electronically sorted socks.

Bye Bye Window-Eyes, And Screw You, People Getting It For Free

In 2014, I wrote all about how big of a deal the Window-Eyes and Microsoft Office partnership was going to be. It would change the game, I said. Freedom Scientific would need to re-evaluate the way it does business. It was time to celebrate or at least be very optimistic about a huge increase in the availability of affordable access software for the blind.

Well, today I stand before you a humble man. A humble man who can admit when he’s wrong. Because boy oh boy, did I ever miss the fuckin’ mark on that one.

In the years since the big announcement, a few things have happened. GW Micro, the makers of Window-Eyes, was purchased by ZoomText maker AI Squared, which for those who don’t know is basically the JAWS of low vision screen magnification. Skip ahead to 2016 and AI Squared is bought up by VFO, a firm that I believe is determined to own every blind thing on earth. I say this because it also owns Freedom Scientific, which for those who don’t know is the JAWS of JAWS.

All of that being the case, something had to give. It always does when smaller companies become bigger companies. And what gave in this case was the free screenreader with Office offer, because how are we supposed to make great gobs of money just giving shit away, amiright? If you think that last sentence is me being too harsh, then observe the hearty fuck you given by VFO to its valued Window-Eyes and Office customers in the announcement below. Basically, everybody gets free or at least discounted JAWS…except you, ya freeloaders. You get to contact a dealer and pay full price, which in another example of my crystal ball being a piece of shit is still friggin exorbitant.

If you would still like or still need a very good and constantly improving screenreader that is free of charge, now is a good time to give NVDA a try. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough that I’ve been using it almost exclusively for better than four years and regularly donate to keep it going even though there’s no requirement to do so. It, I feel confident saying without any fear of being mistaken, really has been and continues to be a game changer.

Ai Squared – Window-Eyes – JAWS Migration
Thank you for being a valued member of the GW Micro and Window-Eyes family. We regret to announce that sales of Window-Eyes have ended in the United States and Canada. Users outside of the United States and Canada should contact their local distributor for options. We are committed to our customers and will honor existing product purchases and software maintenance agreements, and we will continue to provide technical support to end users that have purchased Window-Eyes or a support package.  All users who are currently using Window-Eyes can continue to use the software indefinitely; however, as the Windows® operating system and/or applications change over time, Window-Eyes may not function adequately for your needs.
We understand how important a screen reader is to you and are offering JAWS® for Windows 18 as a replacement.  We are committed to providing a smooth transition and will honor existing Window-Eyes product purchases and software maintenance agreements, as follows.

  • End users that paid for and are current with Window-Eyes 9.x will be converted to JAWS 18 at no charge.
  • If you are using an earlier version of Window-Eyes, you can purchase an upgrade to JAWS 18.
  • If you are using the free version of Window-Eyes you can continue to use it. While there is not an upgrade path from the free version, if you are interested in purchasing JAWS, please contact our sales team at 800-444-4443.
  • Existing Window-Eyes SMAs will be rolled into the JAWS SMA program for end users that migrate to JAWS.

Detailed upgrade and SMA pricing information is provided below.
To make this process as easy as possible, we ask you to complete a simple web form that will go directly to our sales team, who will then contact you with an authorization code for JAWS 18, or request additional information if necessary.
Requests for upgrades must be submitted at http://www.gwmicro.com/window-eyes/migrateform or by phone at 800-444-4443 by July 31, 2017. Note, the free Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office version is not part of the conversion program.

Found One!

In case you thought distracted driving was one of those problems limited strictly to the youngsters and those damn phones they’ve got glued to their hands, 80-year-old Gregory Nayvelt is here to set you straight in fine fashion.

Around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Moore was driving a marked police 2015 Ford Explorer westbound on West Farms Road when he collided with a 2011 Subaru Legacy, police said.

The Legacy, driven by 80-year-old Gregory Nayvelt of Howell, failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Casino Drive and West Farms Road, crossed West Farms Road into Moore’s lane and struck his patrol vehicle, police said.
Nayvelt and his passenger, Lyudmila Nayvelt, 75, of Howell, were taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, where they were treated for minor injuries, police said.

An investigation into the crash found that Gregory Nayvelt was using a cellphone as a GPS navigation unit and did not see the stop sign, police said.

But it wasn’t just any police car that Nayvelt ran into. Its purpose at the time of the crash was to be part of the team working on the state’s U Drive, U Text, U Pay’ campaign, which is exactly what you think it is.

Police said that Nayvelt was in line to receive several citations, but how much this episode ultimately cost him was not immediately known. All we know is that it didn’t cost anyone a life or a serious injury, which is nice.

I Never Did Get That Mac

So I’m sitting here watching my iPhone update when suddenly it occurs to me that about three years ago I wrote a whole thing about needing a new computer but not being sure what I should get. It then dawns on me that I never did finish that story and let everyone know what I decided to do, so why not take care of that now?

One of the major reasons it took me this long to finish the story is because well, the story just finished. Yes, here in 2017 I finally got the new computer I was after in 2014. Thanks, life. Some of what happened has been covered elsewhere in pretty good detail, but the TLDR version is a whole bunch of stuff happened (about 98% of it to poor Carin) that sent get new computer system tumbling way down the priority list for more than a year. In the meantime I’d also gotten the old shitbox working again, and it was able to get me bye.

At the time I didn’t mind all of its slowness and stupidity because it was just nice to have something functional. And hey, it meant I didn’t waste the several hundred dollars I’d sunk into fixing it. But I absolutely let it go for way too long, to the point where it was becoming far more of a hindrance than it was a help. If you were wondering why I hadn’t been as talkative here or on Twitter as I used to be and have become again, mystery solved. Doing the simplest of things took sometimes 3 or more times longer than they should have because garbage ass computer.

But as of this January, that’s not a problem anymore, thank Christ.

So what’d I get?

The answer is not a Mac. Yes, I stuck with Windows, for quite a few reasons.

PCs are easier to take apart and repair, for one. I can have anyone I trust to know shit from putty in here to fix anything that goes wrong and is beyond my capabilities as opposed to lugging the damn thing all the way to the Apple Store.

I also did a lot of reading and talking to people, and I really started noticing that folks (particularly the blind ones) aren’t nearly as on board the Apple train as they used to be. Accessibility bugs not getting fixed, new ones popping up regularly, the Mac equivalents of things not working at all or not being able to do what a person needed, the lack of accessibility options (browser and screenreader combinations in particular) that I was worried about all along, the Mac Mini I thought about buying not being able to function properly with Voiceover unless it had a monitor plugged into it which kind of defeated the purpose…there were a lot of things.

But what about the virtual machine? Best of both worlds, right?

Uh…no.

I’m sure for some people it works just great, and I’m happy for those people. But I’ve seen that setup in action and let me tell you something, it ain’t fucking happening. Not in this house, not on my watch. Carin, the poor sap, runs a Mac laptop with a Windows VM as her work computer, and it’s the absolute drizzling shits. Watching her struggle mightily just to get the damn thing out of sleep mode and talking so she can do something as basic as send an email causes me physical and mental anguish. Maybe that wouldn’t have happened to me, but no way in hell was I spending that much money to take that chance.

So I’m now running a lovely new desktop complete with Windows 10, and a couple months in I’m quite confident that I made the right decision. It’s fast, it does everything I want and need a computer to do and so far at least, it’s come with none of the hassle and inconvenience it looked like the Mac would have.

I can’t tell you how awesome it’s been to be able to work up to my own speed again. I’m looking forward to using this thing for years to come, although hopefully not quite as many years as the last one.

If You’re In Hamilton And Have Some time, These Tactile Navigational Belt People Might Be Able To Use Your Help

I got this sent to me the other day. It’s kind of fascinating, and reminded me of the old Peepo of years gone by. I definitely have questions, but it looks kind of neat. I certainly won’t be able to go to the lab and try it out, but I can at least spread the word.

Project Serenity 2017: Tactile Navigational Belt:

My name is Elaine Harrison and I am the research assistant to a group of investigators working on conducting a study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. This study is interested in evaluating the efficacy of a tactile navigational system as compared to an auditory navigational system. We are also interested in the feedback on the tactile navigational system from our participants, as this is an innovative technology that has had little testing on its intended demographic.

I will briefly describe what the tactile navigational system is, however, there will be an abundance of supplementary material that will give you far more detail on the study we are conducting, as well as the creation of the belt itself.

Basically, the tactile navigational system receives its name because of how it works. The belt’s three actuators are spread across the torso so that one actuator is on the left side, one actuator is in the middle behind the person’s back and the other actuator ends up on the right side.
Using a selected GPS destination, the user will begin moving straight until the belt indicates for him or her to turn left or right.
The turn is indicated with a vibration left or a vibration right instead of a traditional verbal command. The user will be silently moved along his or her intended path until the destination is reached. The idea is that the user’s auditory system, now devoid of having to listen for verbal directional commands, can now focus on their regular external environment.
This is often helpful for those with vision loss, as the ability to listen for hybrid cars, pedestrian traffic and many other daily distractions can be frustrating when one is also trying to maintain route orientation to an unfamiliar destination. The person can now take their navigational information from the belt on his or her torso, making the left and right turns as smoothly as they occur. The belt is not meant to be used alone. The traveler must still use a long cane, dog guide, human guide, etc in combination with the belt to arrive at a destination. The belt only tells the user which way to turn.

We are eager to get feedback on this technology, as we are curious if it is or would be more effective than some of the audio GPS tools that already exist. The study also gives the user the chance to try out the belt to see if it might augment their independent travel experience. Our study has been approved by MREB, the McMaster Research Ethics Board, as well as by CNIB, Canadian National Institute for The Blind. We are in much need of participants and would be grateful if you would not mind browsing over our recruiting page and seeing if you qualify. We do appreciate any help you would be able to give us. We also would be grateful if you pass our information on to anyone who may find it of interest. We are able to compensate some travel expenses up to about $50, and the participant will be compensated $50 for their visit to the lab.
Our study recruiting page can be found at http://psych.mcmaster.ca/goldreich-lab/Navigation_Study.html
Or you can find our CNIB page at
http://www.cnib.ca/en/news/Pages/Participants-Required-for-Tactile-Perception-Lab-Study.aspx

I can be reached directly at harrisoe (at) mcmaster (dot) ca, and you can also reach the lab by phone at 905-525-9140 Ext.20840.

To learn a little more about the tactile belt’s conception and design, the following site is an interview with the lead engineer, Saurabh Shaw:

If you have any other questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to email me. Thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully we will see you in the lab!

Best,
Elaine Harrison

A Computer Wrote A Science Fiction Movie And It Makes No Damn Sense

Artificial intelligence is at the point where it’s often amazingly, well, intelligent. There are things it can do as good as or better than humans, but judging from whatever the hell this is, there’s still at least one group of meat-based organisms that won’t have to worry about having its jobs taken anytime soon. Screenwriters.

But what if we turned a neural network into a science fiction writer? The answer is that you’d get a complete mess in return.
That is the premise behind Sunspring, a film starring Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch and directed by Oscar Sharp and written by… well, an LSTM recurrent neural network. Sharp and technologist Ross Goodwin fed the network a bevy of sci-fi scripts, from Ghostbusters 2 to Star Wars, and then gave it a selection of prompts to include in the screenplay it churned out.
Forty-eight hours of shooting and editing later, Sunspring is the result.

When I Say “Grandpa”, You Say “Bot”

I love technology, but I don’t like the idea of using it as a cure for loneliness. But a lot of people are getting this idea, and designing gadgets for people who spend too much time alone, like seniors and young single people, but especially seniors.

First up is Hasbro’s companion robot golden retriever. They have also made a robot cat, which…damn it all, makes me think of this song.

Anyway, back to the dog. It makes cute puppy sounds, has a life-like fur coat and mimics the soft breathing and heartbeat of a dog when you pet it. That does sound kind of adorable, and I can see the appeal of all the fun of a dog without the feeding and picking up of poop, but there’s another problem. This robot dog can’t move on its own, so you have to go get it.

So, if you’re a senior whose mobility is so poor that you can’t get out much, hence the whole loneliness problem, wouldn’t it be terrible to have a cuddly puppy-like thing that you’d just love to hold, but you can’t reach it? Couldn’t you at least make it so the thing comes when you say its name? I mean, it costs over $100. That’s an expensive stuffed animal.

Next up is Kirobo, made by Toyota. It is supposed to be a 10-inch doll-like robot thing that responds to speech and chatters mindlessly at you. But again, you have to carry it around, and it can’t do anything useful. I mean, at least the robot dog mimics the heartbeat and breathing of an animal, which might produce the health effects of petting a dog. Sure, you could say that talking to a lonely person is useful, but it won’t be if the conversation is meaningless. I imagine it will do one of two things: frustrate the heck out of the person trying to talk to this thing, and diminish the person’s social skills so that when they actually talk to another human, they won’t be able to do it. And you can have all of this for the low low price of $500. Hey! Wasn’t Jibo about that much? Oh, he was a little more. As much as he was creepy, at least he could be useful.

I guess I’m not the only person who doesnt like this trend. The Society of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul commissioned an ad predicting what the future would be if we went all robot caregivers. Sure, their main job is supplying folks in need of support with volunteers, but I can see their point.

I included the link and embedded the video because some of the stuff in the video is described in the article.

A robot doesn’t understand the finer points of human interaction. Everything the robot does makes perfect logical sense, but it doesn’t work at all because humans aren’t always logical.

After talking about lonely seniors, I have this overwhelming need to call Grandma. Maybe I’ll do that now.

GM Just Launched A Car Sharing Service In Kitchener Waterloo

I won’t be using this on a regular basis myself since the world still hasn’t come around to the idea of giving driver’s licenses to blind people, but I can absolutely imagine giving it a go when we have far away visitors who can drive but don’t have a car or can’t bring it with them. Car-sharing service Maven makes its Canadian debut in Waterloo Region

Maven is a keyless system. Users reserve a car using their Apple or Android phone and the app both unlocks and starts the vehicle via Bluetooth connection. A gas card is kept inside each vehicle. Prices start at $7 per hour for a Chevrolet Spark and range up to $15 per hour for a GMC Yukon.
“The beauty of Maven is it’s a completely keyless operation,” said Hassani. “We’ve got brand new vehicles. We’ve got the best vehicles you can imagine.
“All our cars have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is a free Wi-Fi hotspot in each vehicle with unlimited data. [There are] OnStar safety features that nobody else can touch. So, it’s a premium product, a premium offering, nobody else comes close to it, and with really strong price points.”

The company currently has five vehicles — a Chevy Spark, Malibu and Cruze, a GMC Yukon and a Buick Encore — stationed at its Waterloo Region outpost, located in downtown Kitchener off Charles Street West, just across the street from Communitech.

I Wanna Get a Gita!

As I sit here, and my arm slightly protests from carrying home a few bags of groceries yesterday, I am reminded again of this Gita helper robot thing I read about the other day, and how I kinda sorta want one.

The team’s first product is Gita, a round rolling robot that can carry up to 40 pounds of cargo for miles at a time. Rather than get you from A to B as fast as possible, it’s meant to get you there more easily.

Can have? Mine?

I can’t count the number of times I have gone out to get dog food for example, dog food that comes in a 30-pound bag, and because it’s too heavy for little ol’ me to carry home, and because I’m a disaster trying to pull a cart and use a cane or dog, I’ve had to cab an otherwise walkable distance to bring the heavy stuff home. If this little robo dude could just toddle along behind me and carry the dog food, I could walk both ways! Yes!

I also like the idea that I don’t have to drive it by using some kind of controller, I just walk, wear a little doo dad and it just does what I do. Admittedly, I would like it to have a slight bit of navigation so it wouldn’t accidentally run over a squirrel I’m not aware of, or mow down a pack of children running this way and that when I’m not sure where I myself should go, or topple head over wheels down a curb into the street if I don’t direct it exactly to the ramp since it seems to not be able to do stairs, but damn is that ever a good idea!

Now, for the questions. How big is this thing? Does it store easily? How long of a charge does it have? How big is its little cargo hold thingamadoodle where you put stuff? How expensive will it be when it’s available for regular consumers? How heavy is it in case, god forbid, you have to help it over uneven terrain or its charge runs out when you’re not quite home?

Duuuude. I so want to at least play with one of these.

Stupid Smart Products Nobody Needs But Somebody Will Buy Anyway

Since this is a favourite infuriating topic of ours, some of you might enjoy this round-up of smart gadgets that really don’t need to be smart and probably have no legitimate reason for existing. Highlights (if you want to call them that) include a $209 frying pan that can keep track of what you’ve put in it, a $10 egg carton that can send you notifications if you’re running out of eggs or if the ones you still have are getting old and a bluetooth connected tampon and dongle that can let you know when you’re full and in need of a change.