Welcome to my home page. I became blind at birth. I started programming computers at a young age. I also earned my general class amateur radio license, KA3TTT, a hobby to which I have returned with great joy. I practice Qigong and consider myself a Taoist. I use Linux as my desktop and Android as my mobile OS. I eat gluten-free vegan meals. For the rest you'll have to read my blog. To comment on what you read here, visit Disboardia, my bulletin board system.

My New Old Braille Labeler!

February 09, 2009

Today, Mom came over with a surprise. While cleaning out a drawer, she found an old labeler. For sighted people who don’t know, they have handheld devices which punch braille cells into plastic tape. You can then peel the back off and stick it on something. They used to make these awesome metalic ones, hard heavy and solid. Now they just make cheap plastic pieces of crap. The blind community has long bemoaned the lack of availability of quality labelers, or anything else for that matter. I feel so glad she found it. I may have one of the last ones in existence! Thanks, Mom!

Everything that happens will Happen Today

November 28, 2008

David Byrne of the Talking Heads has collaborated with Brian Eno on a new album! They worked together on some of Byrne’s solo projects, as well as several legendary Talking Heads albums. Imagine my excitement!

As soon as I heard of it, I set to work downloading a torrent. As it started, I read that they made it available as a pay digital download. I felt like doing the right thing, so canceled the torrent, and went to the site to buy the CD+FLAC version. Sadly, it uses Flash intensely, and I could not make my purchase. I would “click” on the button, and it would just sit there lamely. My girlfriend tried it on her machine, with a totally different setup, a more recent version of Flash, and using a different screenreader, with identical results.

I felt so happy to cancel the torrent and do the right thing, supporting the artists who deserve it. Now I feel disillusioned, with vivid flashbacks to my dealings with toribootlegs.com. Here we go again! I can always buy it off amazon, and download it in the meantime I suppose. I do feel bad for not doing it through the official website, but I tried.

These accessibility issues really annoy me. Why do people have to use fancy things where standard html will suffice? How often must I repeat myself in an echo chamber of my thoughts on a little-known blog? I can only sigh, and pen a constructively angry letter.

At least the Flash player worked well enough to play the album for us in its entirety. I enjoyed it, and would recommend it. It doesn’t sound exactly like old Talking Heads, but it has Byrne’s and Eno’s influences for certain! I would recommend it if you like either or especially both of their works. The album sounded familiar and welcome to me, even when listening for the first time. David Byrne has also gone on tour, so catch it if you can.

Electrical Freakout!

November 25, 2008

I just had one of those experiences that makes you feel very thankful. The other night, the humidifier leaked water into a power strip. The strip did its job, and shut down, tripping the circuit in the process. Today, I got someone sighted over here to diddle with the circuit breakers. We got the power going again, and I plugged a salt lamp into the strip. As soon as I turned the power strip on, it shorted out, and a huge spark leaped from its depths. You could hear it, like a freaky electrical lighter. The smell of burning plastic filled the room.

My years of meditation and amateur electrical training came in handy, as I yanked my hand away immediately, already feeling on edge. By the grace of Goddess, I had the strip switched off initially! If it would have remained on while plugging it back in, the spark would have happened with my hand much further over, by the socket. I feel so grateful I did not get more hurt. Goddess definitely watched over me there! I still feel freaked out, and probably can’t plug something in for a few days. Wow.

The FiOS Chronicles

October 29, 2008

I will chronicle my experience with FiOS. I just got it installed yesterday. Verizon FiOS provides a fiber optic line right to the house. The technology has moved a rung down the social ladder. As a kid, I remember long distance telephone companies advertising that they now use whisper-quiet fiber optic lines, and now the end user has this technology.

I can’t believe I’ve gone to Verizon for my Internet, but there you go. A guy called and told me I could get 20mbps down, and 5 mbps up, upgradable to 20 mpbs up. That sounded great, plus telephone and television would all come on one bill. I love Speakeasy, but they have a nightmare accounting department, and I just can’t battle with them every month. Mom got FiOS and loves it, though of course we have very different computer usage patterns. I held my nose and entered the labyrinth of Verizon FiOS!

I wanted a static IP of course, since I actually do things. I also didn’t want any port restrictions, which a tech support person confirmed exist – port 80 outgoing and port 25 incoming. Nice. So beware: if you actually use your Internet connection for servers, you’ll want the business FiOS Internet, as opposed to the residential FiOS Internet. You will still want residential television and telephone services, however. This makes things nice and confusing. Originally, the guy pitching the promotion told me I could get all three for $145 or so. I asked about getting a static IP and he said I just had to call ahead of time. Wrong’o! I called over the weekend before the installation date, and they told me that I needed the business Internet. They had to cancel my original order, then make separate business and residential orders, then join them together on the same day, moving it back to the morning. So now with the services as described I pay around $200 for all three.

I feel amazed at the Internet speeds. The business connection gives a guaranteed speed, and it appears to deliver on that. The telephone sounds great. I worried that they’d just use some crappy Vo/IP, but they assured me that they use real fiber optics, suitable for data use even. I do feel worried that it has a battery backup, giving me eight hours of talk time. If the world comes to an end I won’t have telephone. It sounds great, noticeably better than copper. The same applies to the television, going from old-style Comcast crappy cable to fiber offers a vast improvement in audio. I don’t care about picture. I don’t care about HD! I feel absolutely overwhelmed with the television channels and can actually use the DVR to at least pause and rewind shows in real-time. This takes the stress away of missing your favorite show. Too bad as a blind user I can’t access the nifty neato functions which require using a menu. Come on, guys!

I do have to bring up another issue for tech savvy folk: the moronic router they tell you that you have to use. Don’t you believe it, though I still do as I write this, that may soon change. Sure it works, but I have already started getting errors going to one of my machines. I also had some trouble changing the initial admin password, which annoyed me, so we had to reset it, then reenter in everything, which necessitated a call to tech support. We had to enter in the info in the Ethernet as opposed to the Coax network, if that saves someone out there some trouble. I also felt confused by the port forwarding setup. Protocols have rules, and you have to configure it from the point of view of the router, i.e. you want to configure the incoming ports for most services. You then have to go and apply the rules, the protocol, then go back and select your protocol in the forwarding rule, then apply that and then apply your changes to the application which you have just applied. It always bothers me when designers

try to make something for advanced users so simple that a fool can use it, but obfuscate it so those of us who know what we want to do and how we want it done can’t. Give me some textfiles and a simple console interface any day!

Despite all this router monkey business, I definitely love the speeds I have started getting. I started downloading a 10GB torrent at around 1500KBPS at its peak! wow! amazing! I remember getting DSL for the first time, and a friend downloading music with Napster, and us feeling amazed that we’d get speeds around 100K. Now it has moved to the next level. Just watch that router, and to quote Hunter THompson: “Don’t take any gup from those swine!”

My Continuing Battle with the Elago 2.5mm to 3.5mm Adapter

August 20, 2008

Previously, I wrote about this adapter, and how it almost broke

my phone. I may have to amend that by removing the word almost.

My cordless phone still works intermittently. The tip broke off,

and now makes contact with the jack. This really bothers me.

This two dollar adapter (supposedly on sale for $14) may have broken my

phone. Now I will have to spend money on a new cordless phone with

talking caller ID, and a $150 or so phone patch to do this properly. At

least it will cause me to use it less and reduce my exposure to

radiation. Remember to stress-test your adapters. If it breaks, throw it

out. Cheap solutions rarely work as planned. They piss me off!

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