Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tomato Plant Care

By Michael Russell

The tomato is one of the most popular plants kept in home gardens. They are easy to grow and provide food for your family. Tomatoes do need to be cared for to grow.

The tomato is actually a fruit even though most people think of it as a vegetable. At one time, people thought it was poisonous to eat and they were only grown for decoration. They were originally referred to as "love apples". There are literally hundreds of varieties to choose from for your home garden and all of them have different size, color, shape, season of maturity, disease resistance and taste.

Tomatoes can be either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate means that they develop a flower cluster at the terminal growing point. The plant will stop growing at this height. Indeterminate plants do not form this flower cluster and will continue to grow taller indefinitely. Indeterminate tomatoes also produce very flavorful fruit, but are usually late to mature. Most of the older varieties of tomatoes are indeterminate. Determinate vines are easier to control but they also have ripe fruit for a shorter time period than indeterminate plants.

Tomatoes do not tolerate freezing temperatures, so it is best to plant them once the weather is warm. For adequate harvest room, you will need to space your plants apart. The spacing for each variety is different, however. For dwarf plants, they will need to be twelve inches apart in the row. Staked plants will need to be 15 to 24 inches apart. Some indeterminate varieties even need four feet of space between them in the rows and five to six feet in between rows.

When you plant your tomato plants, you should fertilize them right away. You can also cultivate shallowly or hoe to keep the weeds down without doing damage to the roots. Mulching is highly recommended, especially if you want to have your plant for the full season harvest. Organic materials or black plastic is okay to use for mulching. However, don't put down organic materials until the soil has warmed up all the way. If you put it down too early, the plant will not grow very well.

You will need to water your tomato plants regularly and thoroughly. If you are keeping your plants in containers they may need to be watered every day or even more. You will also need to feed your plants with a liquid tomato fertilizer once every two to three weeks until the end of August. The fertilizer should be high in potash. Once September arrives, just feed it with a regular fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. Weed around the plants as much as you can to prevent bugs and diseases from getting to your tomatoes. As the plant grows, you will also need to use stakes to support it. Tie the main stem to the stakes.

If you give this plant the care it needs, you will be rewarded with delicious tomatoes. Tomatoes are the best after they have just ripened so for the best taste eat them as soon as they are ripe. This is a great plant to keep at your home!

Visit for more great gardening tips.

Blind Girl Cake

I don't know how this cake got its name, the recipe is rather simple, so I wonder if it was a negative slap at blind people? Never the less, it does sound good and is simple to make so here's the recipe.

Things You'll Need

  • 12 ice cream sandwiches
  • 12 ounces Cool Whip
  • 1 cup toffee pieces
  • 1/4 cup caramels (to taste)
  • 5 minutes prep

  1. Cover bottom of 9x13pan (or as big as you want) with ice cream sandwiches. (Yes, you unwrap them!).
  2. Ice with cool whip.
  3. Break toffee pieces over top.
  4. Drizzle caramel topping over the top (make sure you don't use the ketchup squeeze bottle - make sure it is caramel!).
  5. Serve and make a lot because every one loves this one!

Makes 12 servings.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The National Braille Factory

The National Braille Factory is dedicated to producing high-quality braille documents and products in a timely and professional manner.

The National Braille Factory has been proudly serving the Lower Mainland's Blind and Low Vision community for over four years.

The National Braille Factory also offers a wide range and variety of large print, brailled, and audio books for the visually impaired.

If you need anything brailled, contact the NATIONAL BRAILLE FACTORY at 877-8-BRAILL or locally (in Vancouver) at 604-522-7187 or email them at

Click this link to visit the National Braille Factory website:

The Large Print Bookshop: Reading is for Everyone

Owned and operated by Marian Haugh, The Large Print Bookshop is a great resource to find those easier-on-the-eyes books.

The Large Print Bookshop offers over 2,000 titles from all imaginable categories, including Classic Literature, Novels, Humor, Mysteries, Inspirational Books, Westerns, and Non-Fiction. They also offer a separate catalog for Children and Young Adults. In addition to its location in the Denver Book Mall, they also offer their books for sale through mail order. Feel free to look over a sample of the titles available or have a catalog mailed to you.

Books printed in large type can be helpful to many people. People may have difficulty reading normal size print for any of a number of reasons (such as age or vision impairment) or may simply like to read large print.

For more information, please contact:

The Large Print Bookshop
P.O. Box 5375
Englewood, CO 80155
Phone: 303-721-7511
or 1-800-305-2743 Fax: 303-721-7512

Adaptive Physical Education Equipment at Flaghouse

FlagHouse is a global supplier of physical education equipment and products, equipment and programs to both physical education and recreation professionals, as well as professionals who deal with children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities.

The mission of Flaghouse is to enhance the quality of life for all people, with resources for physical activity, recreation, therapy, and the development and support of life skills.

For more information on their products and services, contact: Flaghouse
601 FlagHouse Drive
Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604-3116
Toll Free: 800-793-7900
Phone: 201-288-7600
Fax: 800-793-7922 or 201-288-7887

Enabling Devices

Enabling Devices is a company that develops affordable learning and assistive devices to help people of all ages with disabling conditions. Founded by Steven E. Kanor, Ph.D. and originally known as Toys for Special Children, the company has been creating innovative toys and switches for the physically challenged for more than 25 years. Enabling Devices still manufactures and sells those same products, but now the company also carries a complete line of products for the physically challenged adult under their "Products for Independent Living" sections.

Through their electro-mechanical assistive and adaptive devices, they enable people with physical challenges to communicate, learn, work, play, and function more easily, effectively, and enjoyably in the world. They work to improve the quality of life for those with disabling conditions.

To order a catalog or learn more, contact:

Enabling Devices
385 Warburton Avenue
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
Toll Free: 800-832-8697
Phone: 914-478-0960
Fax: 914-479-1369

The William A. Thomas Braille Bookstore

Opened in January, 1992, The William A. Thomas Braille Bookstore was established as an integral part of Braille International, Inc. Currently, there are about 2,000 titles available for purchase. Go to their online catalog to find your next book! You may call, write or e-mail using the phone number or address listed below.

Located in Stuart, Florida, Braille International, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the independence and quality of life for blind persons everywhere. They believe the key to this is education and knowledge-which require available, affordable reading materials. Access to information allows the visually impaired to compete and perform with dignity in a highly competitive world. They accomplish this by printing a broad range of braille and large print material for all ages, from the very young to the older citizen. They strive to utilize cost effective and innovative methods to increase the volume of materials available.

Braille International
3290 S.E. Slater Street
Stuart, FL 34997
Toll Free: 888-336-3142
Phone: 772-286-8366
Fax: 772-286-8909

Undo Typing Mistakes

Ever make a mistake while typing? Yeah, I know, we never do that! Would you like to be able to go back and undo it so your mistake is long gone? If this sounds good, all you have to do is hit Ctrl + Z on your keyboard.

Using Ctrl and Z at the same time will undo any changes you've made (good or bad). Maybe you've done something and it's not necessarily a mistake, but you would like to redo it. Well, just use Ctrl + Z and it will be taken away! This undo shortcut works in just about any program.

You can also undo by going to Edit, Undo, but the keyboard shortcut is much faster and easier!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Premier Test Builder

Premier Test Builder takes the frustration out of creating tests in Microsoft Word. Test Builder has everything done for you. All you add is your questions. Test Builder combines the power and flexibility of Microsoft Word with pre-built templates of question styles. All you do is select the question style you want by clicking on a button from the Test Builder tool bar and just add your text, audio or pictures. This tool is a must for busy educators. The best part about Premier Test Builder is that when you save the finished test, it is also fully accessible to a wide variety of assistive technologies. Now educators do not need to take a class in accessible design to build an accessible test. Your resulting test can be printed and handed out like a regular test, PLUS they can be provided to the resource teachers in electronic format for use with screen readers and other adaptive technologies.

The exciting part for educators is that you make one test that can be used with ALL students, regardless of their needs. Premier Test Builder will enable you to make a single test that is accessible to all students, including students with learning disabilities, blind users, low vision users, even general education students.

Features of Premier Test Builder

  • Build a single test for all students.
  • 10 different question styles. Just add your own text, pictures and audio.
  • Uses Microsoft Word - you don't have to learn another program. By using Microsoft word, you get all the power of MS Office, but you can also capitalize on a technology that many educators are already familiar with -Reduce the learning curve.
  • Finished test are locked automatically to prevent change.
  • It takes less time to create a test with test builder than without - Being a time saver encourages educators to use it - many other test building programs are complicated and very time consuming.
  • Test created with Test Builder Are Compatible with Windows or Mac.
  • Save lots of time and still make good looking accessible test, without being an expert in Universal Design or learning. Single file distribution - it is easy to distribute test created with Test Builder because everything is saved in a single file. Unlike some html test builders that create a lot of supporting files, Test Builder creates one file.
  • Test Builder test can be viewed on any computer without downloading or installing any software or plug-ins - If you have access to internet explorer you can view the test.
  • Premier Test Builder is designed to be compatible with our Universal Reader and Talking Pointer. Students who have visual decoding challenges can use the Talking Pointer - just point at the question or answer and it reads just that item to them. No highlighting or copying necessary.. just point and listen. Virtual no training is required for students needing the test to be read to them..

For more information about Premier Test Builder, contact: Premier Literacy
1309 N. Williams St.
Joliet, IL 60435
Phone: 815-927-7390
Fax: 815-722-8805

Computer Help Online: Live Computer Support 24/7

The Fred's Head database features several articles that attempt to assist you with computer problems, but sometimes a computer tech is needed. You can't have someone standing behind you offering suggestions of how to keep your computer safe from viruses and spyware, but this website is the next best thing. uses cutting edge technology to fix computer problems online. Their highly trained technicians use the power of the Internet and specialized software to securely access your computer. This connection allows them to diagnose computer problems and fix them right before your eyes. Sit back, relax and learn as they immediately repair your system.

If you don't have Internet access, or if your computer crashes, call us and a technician will walk you through the solution to your computer problem. Day or night, 24 hours a day, their knowledgeable technicians are always there for you. Call them toll free at 888-869-3915 or Click this link to visit

Tech Support Alert: is another site to check out if you're having computer trouble. It has thousands of subscribers, and programs are being reviewed constantly. The guy running the site is a true computer geek, he reviews hundreds of programs each month and the best finds go in his newsletter. The site also offers hundreds of tutorials on just about any computer topic.

Click this link to visit the Tech Support Alert website at

Tech Support Via Email

Wouldn't it be nice if there was some place you could email to get free tech support? Well, now there is! Just go to this site. It's so easy to get started.

Just submit your question, along with the name and model of the component you have a question about, to the email address on the site. I would try to be as descriptive as possible about the problem, but be concise too. If it is a computer problem, it is always helpful to include the operating system you are using. Example questions might be:

"I have a problem with my computer randomly rebooting itself. It is a Dell Dimension 8400, running Windows XP. What is causing this? Or "I have an HP Scanjet 4370 Photo Scanner and it is only scanning in black and white. How do I get it to scan in color?"

Many technical problems can be solved through troubleshooting, so it doesn't hurt to ask a question. Check out the site and see what kind of help you can get!

Click this link to visit the Free Tech Support website:

Mosquito Repeller Necklace

Are you allergic to mosquito bites? Even if you're not, how are blind people supposed to swat these things? It's difficult for sighted folks to hit those little flying targets! Talk about annoying!

With the Mosquito Repeller Necklace you don't have to worry about improving your target practice. No need to wear harmful chemicals and toxic sprays either. The mosquito beater is a battery-operated necklace that transmits a sonic repelling frequency that drives bugs crazy! The plastic case is compact enough (1" x 2") to wear around your neck (cord included) or clip to your collar. Effective up to 10 ft. The unit has an on-off switch, and the batteries are included.

Click this link to purchase the Mosquito Repeller Necklace from the Miles Kimball website.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Portable Players Portal

The Portable Players Portal is a list of resources where you can read and listen to material relating to using portable media players if you are visually impaired. The site is maintained by Brian Hartgen and includes links to sources of downloadable music, a link to download the Juice podcatching program, and a Juice tutorial by Dean Martineau. The site also gives links to The iTunes JAWS scripts and The iTunes Window-Eyes set files. You'll also find detailed discussions of iRiver players and players made specifically for blind people.

Click this link to visit the Portable Media Player Portal:

Brian Hartgen has also started a new email list called Blind iPod. The purpose of this list is for the helpful discussion of all aspects of using iPods or similar products by visually impaired people, including the software installed onto a computer in order to transfer music or spoken word material onto the device. Although the original intention (and indeed the emphasis) is to discuss the use of iPod products, it is quite acceptable to write about other (what most of us call) portable media devices, inaccurately dubbed as MP3 players by the mass market. Finally, he will allow the discussion of accessing stores for the legal download of music and spoken word material within the context of hopefully transferring the purchased audio content to a portable media device. The transfer of Podcasts to a portable media device can also fall into the scope of the list, but not material contained therein.

To subscribe to this list, please send a blank message to with the word subscribe in the subject line. I hope everyone benefits from this list.

A blog has been started to supplement the Portable Players Portal. It will include information about changes to the portal, new versions of the iTunes scripts, and more. It sounds like a valuable resource.

Click this link to visit the Portable Players Portal Blog:

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Radio Remote Controls

By Peter Emerson

Radio remote controls use radio waves to send commands to different devices. These are electromagnetic waves of varying frequencies, emitted through antennas and picked up by radio receivers.

Therefore, when you press a button on your radio remote, it sends radio waves to your music system, which decodes the signal and obeys your command. An amazing aspect of radio remotes is that they can send signals from greater distances, since radio waves travel as long as 100 feet to reach the receiver. They can even penetrate walls, and therefore an increasing number of modern appliances are now being designed with radio remotes.

Bluetooth technology also uses the principle of radio frequencies. For example, Bluetooth technology can interconnect your home theater system, mobile phone, music system, computer and television by using radio frequencies to send signals between them. It creates a wireless community of your gadgets that literally speak to each other. Every appliance works on different bands of frequency.

For example, alarm and security systems work at 40 megahertz, mobile phones between 824 to 849 megahertz and an air traffic radar at anywhere between 960 to 1,215 megahertz. Now the question arises that, if there are so many frequencies traveling in the air at the same time, how do gadgets know which ones to receive and which to ignore? When advanced radio remotes send radio waves, their unique digital address is also sent embedded in the waves, which the target receiver recognizes and accepts. This smart technology is already being used in cellular phones, Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) environments and cordless phones.

In the future, as our need to remotely control multiple appliances increases, radio remotes will be seen playing greater roles. Tasks in risky environments, such as space and military scenarios, can be performed through remote control. Devices and remotes will become more intelligent as radio remote control technology develops. provides detailed information on Remote Controls, Radio Remote Controls, TV Remote Controls, Universal Remote Controls and more. Remote Controls is affiliated with

Article Source:

How to Decorate the Apartment on a Budget

By Bill McRea

Deciding to rent an apartment may be a bit challenging especially if the person is on a tight budget. This isn't only about the rent and the other bills that have to be paid monthly but also the maintenance costs should the individual decide to make a few decorative changes.

When anyone rents an apartment, the apartment owner will usually ask for a deposit and a few months rent in advance. The deposit will only be returned when the contract ends and if there is no (or little) repair needed before it can be occupied by another tenant.

Here are some cost-saving tips for decorating an apartment;

  1. Should the person have any posters, a good idea is to use straight pins to prevent them from falling from the walls. If they are framed, use the smallest nail possible so that when the contract ends the holes will be easy to patch using a spackling compound.

  2. If the apartment is fully furnished, the furniture should be covered to prevent it from getting dirty or stained. The apartment owner will check before allowing a renter to leave.

  3. Buying a disposable rug or carpet would be better than an expensive one to protect the floor. If the carpet is soiled or stained it can be disposed of because of the small investment.

  4. If the chairs in the house are covered with fabric, consider buying some machine washable cushions to prevent any damage.

  5. When looking at the apartment, there is the possibility that there are cracks or holes in the walls from the previous occupant. A person can repaint or apply wallpaper only with permission from the owner. In most cases it will not be allowed and if this occurs the tenant can disguise the flaws by using posters or paintings.

  6. Most owners who will allow repainting will specify the color which is generally an off white. The person should make sure there is sufficient paint saved for any touch up that needs to be done later.

  7. People who want privacy should use curtains that can be hung using spring tension rods. These are both easier to assemble and disassemble than standard curtain rods.

When starting out on a small budget, cover all the bases and you will save money decorating the apartment. It will also help make the apartment a comfortable place to live until you decide to move elsewhere.

Bill McRea is the publisher of "Interior Design on A Budget - How to Tips and Tricks" 15 separate lessons to help the novice know just how to start their new interior designing efforts. Take a look at what is included.

Article Source:

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Basics of Home Security

By Jack Nelson

Every homeowner needs to be active and aware of their home security concerns. With home invasions and break-ins on the rise, it is time to take some steps towards protecting your family and your valuable belongings. It would surprise most people to realize how simple it is for a burglar to break into their home. By following these simple steps, you can reduce the odds of coming home to discover your home has been broken into and your cherished valuables have been taken.

For a burglar, the three greatest enemies are noise, time, and light. If a burglar must make a lot of noise, take a lot of time, and work in a well-lit area to get into your home, chances are that he will not bother. In most cases, he will move onto an easier "mark". These are things that work in the favor of homeowners. I always tell my clients that, in order to defeat the burglar, one must think like the burglar.

Take some time and "case" the exterior of your home for points of entry. Imagine yourself as a burglar. Where would you try to get in? Where are the security weaknesses? You could even conduct a little experiment, by locking your home and trying to break in. If you, honest citizen, can break into your home with relative ease you can be sure it will be no problem for an experienced thief to gain entry.

Doors and windows are the first places to check when assessing the security of a home or business. Make sure that your home is equipped with a hard wood or metal exterior door, that is at minimum 1 ¾" thick. The doorframe should be equally as strong. A peephole is much better than a simple door chain, as it will allow you to identify the person at your door without having to open it. And if there is one thing you spend a bit of money on, be sure it is a good quality deadbolt!

Windows are also extremely vulnerable, from a security standpoint. If you have an older home with double-hung windows, you can secure them by nailing the upper and lower panes together from the inside. As well, simple key locks can be added to windows for a reasonable price. If you have windows that are located at street level, consider adding an iron grate or grille for added protection. Balconies and fire escapes can also be security weaknesses, so consider purchasing one of those metal "accordion" gates.

There are a few other simple precautions you can take to secure your home. Try to establish a routine to ensure that your doors and windows are locked when you leave the house and when you go to bed each night. If you can afford it, you should also invest in a home security system. There are some incredibly advanced systems available on the market today, and these systems are very difficult to bypass. These simple steps could make the difference between being a victim of crime and being safe from harm. Think about it!

Jack Nelson is a security consultant, and a member of the editorial team at, an informative guide to home security with information about motion sensors, security cameras, emergency monitoring and more.

Article Source:

Monday, May 22, 2006

Text to Speech App for Palm OS

SayIt is a Text To Speech (TTS) application for Palm OS 5.1 and higher devices from Toysoft. SayIt is the first global TTS application for the Palm OS that works with most applications with text editing capabilities.

SayIt will speak selected text in plain English using a synthesized computer voice. The user interface allows you to follow the text as SayIt speaks the words, you can Stop and Start the speech and adjust the volume control. It also has customized features to work with the following applications: MemoPad, TreoMail, VersaMail, SnapperMail, ChatterMail, Messaging and SMS (on the Treo), Docs To Go and the Blazer web browser.

Click this link to learn more about SayIt.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Accessible Health Care Guide to all Diseases and Conditions

Welcome to the! Your complete online health guide has compiled and consolidated the latest information on all diseases and conditions basics, their symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and their treatment. Diseasesatoz also provides health advice on different diseases and conditions with various health articles which will make it easier for you to ask your doctor important questions and to take a more active role in keeping you and your family healthy. provides you with required health information. Here you can learn about the symptoms, causes, diagnoses and treatments of a broad range of illnesses. Look here for complete information on common diseases and conditions and health resources for yourself or someone you care about. Learn how to manage your health.

Click this link to learn about diseases, from A to Z:

Disclaimer: All information on is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, please consult your doctor.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

QuietCare for Your Loved Ones

Home monitoring has come a long way since Life Alert:, an emergency pendant worn around a senior's neck that was best known for its "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!" TV commercials. A senior presses a button on the device to contact emergency services. But what if you're too weak to press the button, or you lose consciousness?

QuietCare, from Living Independently, is a service that monitors wireless sensors placed in the most frequently used areas of the home, including the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and medicine cabinet. QuietCare spends several days creating an "electronic map" of a person's behavior; when they wake up, how frequently they use the bathroom, when they eat, their general activities of daily living. Once the software determines a person's daily routine, it checks for anomalies in behavior, such as if someone fails to get out of bed in the morning. It also detects nonemergencies that may require medical attention. For example, if a client ordinarily uses the bathroom once a night, but suddenly starts using the bathroom five times a night, that could be a sign of a urinary tract infection or an adverse reaction to medication.

The QuietCare station can collect information from the sensors and post its findings daily to a Web site for relatives and the client's doctor to review. The hardware and installation cost around $199, and the monitoring service is $83 to $93 a month.

Click this link to visit the company's Website at: or call 866-216-4600 for more information.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Well Adjusted Campaign

What on earth is the Well Adjusted Campaign?

Well, it's all about web accessibility for people with communication disabilities; dyslexia, poor or partial vision, and visual stress. Launched in a partnership between the British Dyslexia Association and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators that aims to raise awareness of the fact that businesses are currently missing out because nearly 20% of their customers can't use their inaccessible websites. They've also published their Top 10 Reasonable Adjustments to make sites and marking communications accessible.

The Well Adjusted Campaign site has information on how you can join the campaign, plus a special toolbar you can download to make reading on the web much, much easier. Worth checking out.

Article Source:

Play RealAudio Files with Winamp

Those who know me know that I love to stream audio from the net. I have all types of internet radio stations saved in my Winamp media player.

Winamp is software that turns your computer into an internet radio and television receiver. It plays a variety of filetypes and is the most accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired.

There are other players, each one having its own audio format. The RealPlayer is a popular choice, but screen readers often have difficulty with its menus and setup screens. Microsoft includes a media player with all versions of Windows, but it too is difficult to navigate with a screen reader and some magnification programs.

Recently, I came across some information that solves the problem of accessibility when playing RealAudio files. The solution, which sounds rather strange at first, is to remove the RealPlayer and use Winamp instead.

Click this link to download 8 megs of real media kodeks: Kodeks tell your computer how to decode audio and video filetypes so you can enjoy their content. The kodeks in this download give your computer the power to decode RealPlayer and RealAlternative files, without the need to install either of those products.

After installing the kodeks, you will need a Winamp plugin that tells Winamp that it has the ability to play these files. There are two plugins that work, you'll have to experiment a little to see which one works best for your system, either ireal16 or tara. Click this link to get either of these plugins:, they are found in the RealMedia directory.

Once you've downloaded the plugins, install one of them. Visit a site that contains RealAudio files and see if your Winamp can play them. If not, uninstall the plugin and try the other one.

I'll admit this sounds complicated, but once it works, you'll be happy you went to all the trouble.

Skype! The Whole World Can Talk for Free

Skype is a program for making free calls over the internet to anyone else who also has Skype. It's free and easy to download and use, and works with most computers.

With SkypeOut, you can use Skype to call ordinary phone numbers all over the world.

SkypeIn is a real phone number your friends can call. You pick up the call in Skype.

Skype Voicemail lets you direct calls when you're busy or offline to your voicemail.

Download, register, install, plug in your headset, speakers or USB phone and start calling your friends. The calls have excellent sound quality and are highly secure with end-to-end encryption. You don't even need to configure your firewall or router or any other networking gear. It just works.

It doesn't just work with Windows. Skype is also for Mac OS X, Linux and PDAs using Pocket PC, with a native look and feel for each platform. Talking, sending instant messages or even file transfers work between different platforms like a charm.

If there weren't enough ways for you to contact your friends, they have a little thing called SkypeOut, which lets you make calls to old-fashioned phone numbers all around the world. Landlines, mobile phones... it works with almost all of them. SkypeOut is now free for users in North America and Canada. You can call any phone number in North America or Canada for free. You can also forward your Skype calls to a traditional phone or mobile number.

Since most things you want your friends to see tend to be rather large, their file transfer function works with all the file sizes your operating system can handle. For most people, that's between 2 or 4 gigabytes. And remember, it works from Windows to Mac to Linux and the other way around. No platform problems here.

When it comes to talking, instant messaging or transferring files, Skype goes to great lengths to make it secure. Skype automatically encrypts everything before sending it through the internet. Likewise, on arrival everything is decrypted on-the-spot and presented as crystal clear speech, text or a file transfer nobody can intercept.

With normal telephones you can only hear sounds from 300 Hz to 3 kHz. Not so with Skype; it's all over the spectrum, from the lowest hum to the highest screetch. In other words: 'F' and 'S' will sound like the two different letters they were meant to, and in the end you will be able to have a much more natural conversation.

That also goes for conferences. It's completely secure for you and up to four others to get together to coordinate tactics in a game, make one of those important business decisions or simply have a chat, even if you're all on different continents.

Searching for those long-lost relatives or just somebody to have a quick chat with is also part of what Skype is all about. They have a Global User Directory. It's a giant phonebook of all the people who use Skype. You can use it to search for people you'd like to talk to, people who have the same birthday or people who just happen to live in the same street as you.

When you find somebody you know or even someone you would like to know, you add them to your list of contacts. You can also write a little note to let them know who you are and why you want to add them to your list. Handy, if your separated-at-birth-twin finds you on Skype. When people are on your list, you can see if they are online, offline, busy... or perhaps out to lunch.

Did I mention that you can also send instant messages with Skype? Well, you can. That's nice for when you're talking about a website and you want to send that really long address or if you're writing a song maybe. Either way, you can send one of those little smiley faces along with your message.

The best part of all this is that it is screen reader friendly and you can start using it immediately. Chris Nestrud has written some scripts for JAWS, and there are also set files for Window Eyes.

Click this link to visit Chris Nestrud's page to download the JAWS script files:

Click this link to visit the Skype web site:

Free Audio Skype Tutorial

Click this link for an audio tutorial on using Skype: Donations are accepted.

"Speaking of Skype" Audio tutorial

Jonathan Mosen has created Speaking of Skype, a four hour audio tutorial that's got blind people talking. It unlocks the secrets of Skype for blind users in an informative and entertaining way.

With over 75 million downloads and more then 5 million users logged into the service at any one time, Skype has become an essential communications tool.

Whether you're a seasoned Skype power user seeking to get every last bit of functionality by manually editing the configuration file to make improvements you can't make through the Skype user interface, right through to those who have given up on Skype because it seemed too complicated, or you've never downloaded Skype before, Speaking of Skype ensures you'll get the most out of the software that has turned telecommunications on its head.

Topics covered include:

  • installing the latest beta JAWS scripts for Skype
  • downloading and installing Skype
  • obtaining a Skype account
  • a comprehensive explanation of Skype's many configuration options
  • manually editing Skype's configuration file to get even better performance
  • calling regular contacts with a single key press from anywhere in Windows
  • integrating Skype into your web site and email
  • audio conferencing
  • text chat
  • making regular phone calls
  • giving your PC a telephone number
  • voicemail
  • Skype Groups
  • much more!

Speaking of Skype refers specifically to Skype for Windows. It is suitable for users of all Windows screen readers, although frequent mention is made of the JAWS scripts for Skype due to their many benefits in making Skype easier to use.

You can purchase and then instantly download your copy of Speaking of Skype for only $14.95. For an additional $5, you can also subscribe to free updates to the tutorial until 30 April 2007.

With Skype rapidly evolving, this means that you'll receive audio demonstrations and tutorials on any major feature Skype adds within the next year for just $5.

For more information, please visit

Skype Prompts without A Screen Reader

Sean randall has a free Skype add-on called SKRead. It reads out various events such as call status, contact status information or skype chats, and is screen-reader-independent.

Click this link to get SKRead:

Monday, May 15, 2006

Refrigerator Air Purifier

Hide the smell of those rotting leftovers in your refrigerator with this air purifier.

This compact purifier uses advanced ionic technology to generate billions of negative ions that neutralize odors. Two levels of ozone help eliminate bacteria and leave the air smelling rain-fresh. Your refrigerator remains odor-free and food stays fresher longer. No cords or filters needed.

Click this link to purchase the Refrigerator Air Purifier from Clever Gear.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Accoona Talking Search Bar

Accoona Corp., the artificial intelligence-based on-line search engine and Acapela group, the leading European speech group, launch today the first information-seeking technology using speech. The Accoona Search Bar is the first application of it's kind directly liked to an Internet search engine.

This application allows internet users to:

  • Unwind: Let the eyes have a rest for a while
  • Save time: Be able to do something else while an article is read outloud
  • Speak another language: Improve language abilities by listening to foreign news, at all ages
  • Learn: A fun interface that gives children the urge to listen and learn
  • Have easier access to information: For those who are visually impaired

Accoona Talking Search Bar is installed in no time. In a few clicks, the vocal function appears in Accoona's search engine toolbar. All you need to do then is highlight the text you want to hear and click on the TTS (Text To Speech) icon: a piece of cake!

Available in English, Accoona plans to extend the vocalisation to multiple languages during the year, in compliance with their development plans. A free 60-day trial of the Accoona Talking Search Bar can be installed by visiting

Search with Ctrl+F

Here's the scenario. You're on a Web site looking for a particular word or phrase and you can't, for the life of you, find it. Well, a quick keyboard shortcut can save you from all of that searching.

Just hold down Ctrl+F at the same time. Ctrl+F will bring up a Find box on your screen. You can just type in any word or phrase in the search box and hit Enter. It will then proceed to highlight the word (or words) that you are looking for. Once you find the first one, it might appear again, so just click, or tab to the "Find Next" button and it will find the same thing again. It will do that until the whole Web page or document is scanned.

You can search in either a Up or Down direction and you can even choose the way your matches are found. You can select "Match whole word only" or "Match case." It's all up to you! It's just a fast and easy way to scan through a page and find exactly what you're looking for! The same command also works in MS-Word and most other editors.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cordless Lighted Toilet Seat

I hope you get the "aim" of this product. Fun novelty or helpful bathroom nightlight for people who are visually impaired? You decide.

just lift the lid and ten blue LED lights send a soft glow around the seat. Powered by 3 AA batteries, not included. Bubble design in the lucite. Click this link to purchase the Cordless Lighted Toilet Seat from the Taylor Gifts website.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

How to Purchase A Spice Rack

When purchasing a spice rack, make sure to think of accessability. Can you label the rack with braille? What about the bottles? Do you have a system that will assist you in finding the spices you need? This article by Anne Clarke may help you decide what spice rack works best in your kitchen.

Spice Racks: Add a Little Spice to Kitchen Organization

Spices are the spice of life, so to speak. So, if your spices are disorganized, what does that say about your life? There is not yet a feng shui of spices that I know of, but there certainly ought to be. Do not worry, though, there is hope for those of us who cannot find our cinnamon amongst our fennel and nutmeg!

What is this hope that we can cling to? Spice racks. Yes, it sounds like too simple of a solution, but spice racks really make a big difference for anyone who owns more than three or four spices. There are multiple types of spice racks for you to choose from. Need help deciding which is best for you? Follow this simple guide on spice racks:

Carousel Spice Racks (Revolving Spice Racks)

A carousel spice rack is perfect for holding your favorite and most often used spices. You can just leave your carousel spice rack out by your stove or on your table, or take it down from your cabinet whenever you are cooking.

This type of spice rack can come with space for only a few spices, or you can even find ones that hold up to 16 or even 48 bottles, depending on the style and size. Of course, if you have one of the larger revolving spice racks, you are likely going to want to leave it up in your cabinet. Just spin it and pick out the spices that you need, when you need them. You do not have to worry about any shorter spices hiding behind larger ones!

Magnetic Spice Racks

Magnetic spice racks are a fun and easy way to store 9-12 different spices. Of course, part of the beauty of one of these racks is the beauty! You will definitely want to display such a lovely rack.

Each spice canister has a magnet on the back that attaches to a magnetic board. One possible problem (or godsend, depending on how you look at it) is that you will have to empty your spices into the ready-provided canisters. This actually works out nicely if you happen to buy your spices in bulk.

You can find a magnetic spice rack with a window so that you can see exactly which spice is in each canister. But if you are not too thoroughly acquainted with the looks of your spices, you may find it necessary to label them, as well.

Spice Drawer Organizer

Not everyone has to keep their spices in their cabinet! Indeed, a spice organizer is an excellent choice for anyone who would prefer to reach down, rather than up, for the perfect spice. When you keep your spices in your drawer, it is often much easier to see them and to be able to read the labels than when you keep them in an upper cabinet. A spice drawer rack will generally have different levels that will tilt your spices so that you can read the labels more easily.

Basic Spice Rack

Basic wood or metal spice racks are an excellent way to help you organize your spices as well as to save space. It is best to get a spice rack in which all of your spices must remain single file - so that no spices can get lost behind other ones.

To Alphabetize or Not to Alphabetize Your Spice Rack

You will be amazed how much easier it will be to find the right spice when you need it once you have a spice rack. Of course, even when you have a rack to organize your spices, they can still be hard to find. Sometimes you can be staring directly at the spice that you want, and yet still somehow not see it. The simple solution is to alphabetize your spices.

Of course, such a system is often more of a pain than it is worth. It is hard to keep your spices in alphabetical order, especially when you add new spices into the mix. Instead, I say that the best method is to keep the spices that you use the most within easy reach (at the front of the spice rack, etc.), and just take that extra time to search for those "other" spices when you need them!

Anne Clarke writes numerous articles for websites on gardening, parenting, fashion, and home decor. Her background includes teaching and gardening. For more of her articles on spice racks, please visit Designer Spice Racks at

Article Source:

Monday, May 08, 2006

How To Use A USB Thumb Drive

A USB thumb drive is, believe it or not, very easy to use. It's not hard for any computer user to figure it out and if you're really interested in purchasing one, you shouldn't put it off any longer, because the setup really isn't that bad. I know it may sound confusing if you're not used to some of this new technology, but if you buy one, you'll be up to par in no time.

If you have Windows XP or 2000, the setup couldn't be easier. All you do is plug the thumb drive that you get into one of your USB ports on your computer. XP automatically recognizes the new hardware and you can start moving files to your new external file saver (the thumb drive). You don't even have to worry about connecting to a drive if you have XP or 2000, because it is driverless, so you can just plug it in and play.

If you have Windows 98 or ME, the setup is a little different, but again, it's not too difficult. Just plug the thumb drive into one of your USB ports and Windows will detect that you have placed new hardware into your system. It will give you a message like "New USB storage device." Once this comes up, just click on the Next button.

Now, Windows will ask you were the driver is for the new hardware, so you just have to click on the Browse button and locate the drive that your computer selected. External drives like these usually choose the E: drive, because it is a removable disk drive. Once you find the driver, click the Next button again. Now you can go back and double click on your My Computer icon and find the E: drive. Double click on that and you can then start to move files onto the thumb drive.

For those who have some vision, the thumb drive will have what is called a LED indication light. When it is lit, it means that your computer is still recognizing the thumb drive. When it is flashing, your computer is reading data or is copying the data you have sent. When it is done, it will stop flashing, so you know when the job has completed.

A thumb drive is a reliable and handy external storage device. Some of you may still use floppy disks or maybe even an external hard drive to save your files, but thumb drives are a lot smaller and they're much easier to transport. If you're still a little weary about buying one, just know that they are perfect for saving everything from documents to music files to photographs and anything else you want to save. Try one out today, you never know, it might be your new best friend!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Skypecasts and the Blind Community, a Revolution!

By Jonathan Mosen

I will never forget the day when Shoutcast was released. On that day, I realised that this was going to be huge for the blind community. Broadcasting over the Internet had been democratised. using Winamp and a few free tools, you could netcast like the big boys.

Skypecasts give me the same feeling. Released in beta, Skypecasts allow up to 100 Skype users to congregate for any imaginable purpose. perhaps there is a common interest that brings together friends and strangers alike. perhaps it's a family planning what's going to happen at Christmas. perhaps a company wants to run a focus group, or perhaps someone wants to provide a lecture or tutorial, where listeners are muted initially, but where questions can be answered at the conclusion of the formal part of the presentation. If you combine Skypecasts with a plug-in that records the event, such as Skylook, you can upload the archive to your web site as a permanent record.

In a blindness context, this has phenomenal implications. Blind people have always keenly used the Internet for voice communication. Sites like Audio-Tips: and For-The-People: have provided a meeting place through which blind people can get together. Particularly where the I-Vocalize chat client is concerned, there are still services Skypecasts can't provide, such as the ability for moderators to take over the browser.

However, Skypecasts lower the barrier to entry for those who want to host large events of any kind. From an accessibility point of view, my initial findings are encouraging. it's not perfect, but it is useable.

When you join or create a Skypecast, a new browser window pops up. The window contains buttons and links pertaining to each participant. The Skypecast host can mute and unute participants one at a time, or mute and unmute everyone. You can send chats to your participants as well, and if necessary, the host can eject people from the Skypecast.

This is all very accessible, however the page does not appear to refresh in a screen reader's virtual buffer when a new participant joins, such as Window-eyes's Browse Mode or JAWS's Virtual Cursor. This means that it's necessary to turn your virtual buffer on and off again to ensure you have the latest view of who is in your Skypecast.

This is the only issue I have discovered so far. other than that, Skypecast works beautifully with screen readers. This, I predict, will be a huge hit in the blind community. Just watch it explode!

Article Source:

Accessible English & German language instruction

By Peter Korn

The good folks at Brailcom: in the Czech Republic have developed a suite of free, online English & German languages courses specifically geared to folks with visual impairments at

They are presently offering intermediate and advanced courses, including courses specifically geared to native speakers of Czech, Slovak, Spanish, Norwegian, German, and English (these last two only for going into the other language).

>From their about page:

"The general aim of the project is to reduce the unemployment rate of the blind and visually impaired. By improving the skills of the visually impaired and raising the level of awareness of the professional community regarding the skills and competences of the blind and visually impaired, it is hoped that this project will make a solid contribution to achieving this goal."

"Specifically our partnership has developed English and German language modules for the blind and visually impaired, which are available using Internet. The project seeks to increase the language and cultural skills of blind employees, whilst raising their awareness of employment possibilities and aiding further personal development."

One particularly neat thing about these on-line courses is that they've been developed and tested specifically to work in Mozilla Firefox and the KDE Konquerer web browsers on UNIX systems, and specifically with the Orca screen reader/magnifier:*checkout*/orca/docs/doc-set/orca.html (in addition to working with the Microsoft Internet Explorer, Opera, w3m, Links, and Lynx web browsers on a variety of platforms). What this means is that, other than the cost of the computer hardware, these sources are entirely free - delivered from a free website to run on free web browsers that work with free assistive technologies on free desktop environments. They've even developed a free Czech voice for the free Festival software text to speech system.

Given the incredibly high unemployment rate for people with visual impairments, it makes complete sense that these courses be offered free - as someone without employment will find it extremely difficult to get the thousands of dollars (or the thousands of Euros, or the tens of thousands of Czech Koruna) one would need to purchase an operating system and screen reader in order to take these courses otherwise.

It's also another example of what we've been saying at Sun for a little while now - that we're moving into the Participation Age, where one of the key values is sharing for the greater economic and social good it brings to all of us.

Click this link to visit Peter Korn's Weblog:

Lisa Hall's World: Information About Braille

Lisa Hall has created a website called Lisa Hall's Worldand provides links to a variety of blindness-related services in Texas. She has a wonderful page on braille with tons of links to schools and rehabilitation offices for the blind and other resources. If you are interested in braille, check out this site!

Click this link to visit Lisa Hall's Information About Braille page.

Pantry Makeover: Three Easy Steps to Organizing Success

By Nancy Peham

Are there items in your pantry that are no longer recognizable as food? Do the expiration dates on your canned goods take you back to the 20th Century? What surprises lie dormant in the deep dark recesses of the back shelves?

Consider the last time your pantry had a makeover. Makeover you say? Perhaps the term is a bit strong, but if you haven't cleaned your pantry recently and gotten rid of stale, partially used, or unpopular purchases, now is a great time.

Step 1

Start by removing everything. As you do, throw away items that have reached or exceeded their expiration dates. If you're concerned about the environment, your city's recycling program accepts them. Don't forget to recycle plastic, glass, and certain metals.

Next, get rid of anything you'll never eat. It's good to experiment with new foods, but some just fail the taste test.

If you've left cracker boxes, chip bags, or sacks of flour open, the contents are probably stale. Throw them out.

Dieting? Here's your opportunity to start fresh by getting rid of high-calorie, over-processed, and unhealthy foods. Who needs the temptation?

Step 2

Before you start putting things back, clean the shelves or line them with one of the great products you can find in the house wares department of your grocery, home improvement, or local superstore. That sticky-backed, hard to position product that dominated the market for a generation has seen a lot of competition in the past few years, so consider the options before you buy.

Next, begin sorting. I like to group my pantry items into the following general categories, which are similar to those in your local market or grocery store:

  • Canned goods
  • Dry goods
  • Baking Supplies
  • Boxed Foods
  • Beverages
  • Condiments
  • Snacks

Other items that may find a place in your pantry include pet food, paper plates, napkins, plastic cutlery, paper towels, lunch bags, aluminum foil, clear plastic wrap, and storage bags.

If you are fortunate enough to have a very large pantry you may even store your seldom used electrical appliances, serving pieces, cook books, or picnic supplies there.

Step 3

Now that you've sorted the contents of your pantry and eliminated the excess, it's time to consider where you'll put everything.

If you buy in bulk, take into account the amount of space you'll need when you bring home the next big load, or decide on an alternate location for the overflow. Perhaps a nearby closet or laundry room cupboard will work for you.

Consider putting grains, flour, sugar, and other items which are not individually wrapped into clear airtight containers. In addition to immediately seeing what's inside, food will stay fresher and maintain a longer shelf life. Before purchasing containers measure the depth and height of shelves to be sure they'll fit.

If you have movable shelves, don't be afraid to rearrange them to meet your needs. If you lack sufficient shelving there are many options to choose from. Consider wire mesh drawer units which are available at specialty retail and home improvement stores. These units can be rearranged as often as necessary using drawers of varying depths to store almost anything.

To maximize space add door mounted racks. If you have deep shelves and can't see what's in the back, purchase expandable tiered plastic shelves which sit on top of your permanent shelves. They're especially popular for holding spice jars and canned goods.

Because of their considerable combined weight, store canned goods on sturdy shelves. The same holds true for glass jars. I recently dropped a bottle of olive oil on my tile floor and spent the next several minutes cleaning the mess. If you want to add a touch of hominess and minimize the risk of breakage you may even decide to place a small rug or mat on the floor near a particularly vulnerable area.

As you refill your pantry, remember these tips:

If you have young children in the house, you can influence smart snacking choices and promote independence by keeping foods they're allowed to eat on lower shelves in containers they can easily navigate.

Allocate "prime real estate" to those items you use regularly. These are the areas that are at or near eye level, and easy to reach.

If you decide to use mesh drawer units, consider putting them on wheels so that you can clean easily behind and underneath them. You may also keep similar items together like breakfast foods, snacks, or baking ingredients so when you need several items at once they can be wheeled to another area together, allowing you to make less frequent trips to retrieve what you need.

To keep packets and individually wrapped items from slipping, sliding and falling off shelves, use small wicker baskets, clear plastic drawers, or even decorative canisters, boxes or bins to keep them organized and in place.

When you're all done, stand back, look around and take pride in your beautiful and functional pantry!

Copyright 2006. Nancy E. Peham All rights reserved.

Nancy Peham, professional organizer and owner of Helping Hands Personal Services, a Dallas based company, works with her clients to create order, relieve stress and improve their lives. In addition to residential organizing Nancy stages homes for sale, is a speaker, writer, and frequent contributor to the media. Visit her website and sign up for her free monthly newsletter.

Article Source:

Marking Keys For Easy Identification

How many times have you went to unlock your home and found that you grabbed the wrong key on the ring? You stand there trying to figure out why the key won't fit in the lock and suddenly, you realize that you're holding the wrong key. Wouldn't it be great to have something that could help you distinguish one key from another? You're ready for some Key-Shirts my friend!

Don't read it again, I didn't miss spelt T-shirts as Key-shirts, it's actually a shirt for your keys.

All you have to do is to place these different colored "T-Shirts" over each key and you'll never get confused again. These shirts fit almost any key, which means that size doesn't matter. You can't see colors? How about scratching different marks into each cover to differentiate one key from another?

Click this link to purchase some fashion for your keys with Key-Shirts from ShopIntuition.

There are a number of ways to mark keys for identification. You can use a rubber band or a piece of tape for marking your keys--or you can use a ring that fits over the head of the key that is sold by some key companies.

Another approach is to ask a key maker to use his/her key duplication machine to put notches on the key head for identification purposes. Notches can be cut in the top or bottom of the key head so you are able to quickly identify which way to hold the key to place it correctly into the lock. More than one notch can be made to fit the system you decide to use.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The JAWS for Windows and PAC Mate Blog

Brian Hartgen has started the JAWS and Pac Mate blog to provide news items and web links regarding these two products.

"Hello and welcome to my Blog containing information about the JAWS for Windows screen-reader from Freedom Scientific. This Blog also includes information relating to the PAC Mate, also manufactured by Freedom Scientific, as this contains Pocket JAWS. I hope you are going to find the Blog informative and useful."

"I hope to be able to point people in the direction of useful resources they can find on the web or elsewhere for improving the accessibility of applications through JAWS, or audio presentations such as those contained on Main Menu where JAWS is the primary subject."

Click this link to visit The JAWS for Windows and PAC Mate Blog:

How do you pick a good contractor?

By Jan Smith

This has been the too-often asked question for decades. What are 10 tell-tale signs to look for when you need a maintenance contractor to come into your home?

This is not easy to answer as personalities vary so much. So, you have to rely on 'gut instinct' and certain outward indicators.

Here is a list of 10 tell-tale signs to look for:

  1. The Contractor or staff member who answers the phone / Email is courteous, friendly and helpful.

  2. The contractor arrives on time for the appointment or phones if s/he is unavoidably delayed.

  3. The person is neatly attired and preferably has the logo of the Business on their shirt.

  4. They stand back from the door so as not to invade your space.

  5. They immediately offer a business card that is professionally printed.

  6. They don't enter your home until invited to do so. They remove shoes before entering your home or they have shoe protectors over their shoes/boots.

  7. They do not have dirty clothes, hands, grubby diaries or smell as if they have just crawled out from under a 100 year old house. They also do not have halitosis (bad breathe) or smell of stale/fresh alcohol.

  8. The first impression you have of them is one of quiet confidence. When you explain your requirements to them, they listen carefully, and if it is not feasible (such as a load bearing wall if you want a wall knocked out) they offer a suggestion or offer to come back to you by a certain time with an option.

  9. They actually use a REAL tape measure for measuring instead of "doing-it-by-eye" if any measurements need to be taken.

  10. They do what they say they will do, in the time they have said they will do it.

Copyright © 2006 J. Smith Constructing Profits. Showing contractors how to make more money ~ working less hours!

Article Source:

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Cleaning Combs & Brushes

You're getting ready for work and notice that your combs and brushes are not clean. What in the world is all over them? It looks like lint and who knows what that is on the handle.

An easy way to clean these off is to place all of your combs and brushes in the bathroom sink and fill with water.

Now add about a cup of ammonia and let sit all day while you are at work.

When you get home, drain the sink and rinse your combs and brushes. Place them on a towel to dry.

Your combs and brushes will be sparkling clean.

Preventing Soggy Salt

You grab the salt shaker to spice up your dinner and nothing comes out.

You pop off the top and notice that once again it is all caked at the bottom of the shaker.

An easy way to help stop soggy salt is to pick up a package of oyster crackers.

Drop a couple in your shaker then add salt. The crackers will absorb extra humidity and help prevent your salt from caking.

When your shaker is empty, discard the crackers and add a couple of new ones before refilling.

AdvantEdge Reader for the Blind

The Assistive Technology Center in Sacramento has announced the release of a complete portable scan-and-read system for the blind and print challenged.

The system, named the "AdvantEdge Reader", combines several mainstream and adaptive technologies in order to achieve the goal of a pocket scan and read solution.

The AdvantEdge Reader is the essence of simplicity. The user merely inserts the material to be read into the scanner. The material is scanned, recognized, converted into readable format, and read automatically. There are no other steps.

ATC has, for several years, been adapting scanners for use by the blind. Most recently, ATC has adapted the Visioneer strobe scanner. This is a tiny, portable scanner. The problem has been finding a small enough device to host the conversion and speech programs.

This is where the SmallTalk computer comes in. SmallTalk is a hand held uPC enhanced with the screen reading software "Window Eyes", by GW Micro, an Indiana corporation of some stature in the blindness field.

Assistive Technology Center took the modified Strobe Scanner, figured out how to install it onto the SmallTalk, and then added the proper recognition program and hardware driver to create the AdvantEdge Reader.

The best part is that, in addition to being the first portable scan and read system, the AdvantEdge Reader is also a full Windows XP computer. The Reader has a docking cable that allows it to be used as a desktop computer replacement. The docking cable connects to an external monitor, printer, network, keyboard, firewire devices, and more. Additionally, the Reader features internal Bluetooth and Wireless LAN technology.

To order, or for more information, please contact the Assistive Technology Center via phone at 916-381-5011, or e-mail

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Five Simple Percautions When Using USB Flash Drives

Ontrack Data Recovery: has performed a study that shows one in four USB memory stick owners has lost data. The study involved research conducted among 400 professionals world wide. To help combat data loss, Ontrack has compiled a list of things USB memory users should do to minimize the risk of data loss.

  1. Minimise misplacement

    Try to prevent 'wandering' USB sticks. The device is easily lost when you don't exactly know where it's kept. A dedicated USB spot prevents loss of data from a portable storage device.

  2. Carry with care

    Make sure your USB is stored safely when travelling to minimise the risk of losing data. You don't keep a laptop in a plastic bag for transport, so why stick a USB stick with similarly valuable data in your trouser pocket?

  3. No backups, please

    A USB stick is too vulnerable to store precious information. These sticks should therefore never be used as a backup device.

  4. Put a lid on it

    When not in use ensure that the connector of your USB is protected. By using the protective cap, provided with any USB stick, a possible data disaster can be averted.

  5. Unplug before you leave

    Before you embark on a journey that requires a laptop and a USB stick, make sure the devices are separated. This way, both the laptop and the USB stick will run less risk of damage.

Pop-Up Hotdog Cooker

I am blessed to have children who aren't picky when it comes to lunch. My kids loved hot dogs, especially chili dogs. I can't tell you the times I made hot dogs for lunch! One problem I always had was heating the buns. They would turn out dry and tough. I wish I would have had this device to help me.

Operating much like a pop-up toaster, this unique kitchen appliance lets you easily prepare two hot dogs (complete with toasted buns) in minutes. To use, simply drop two wieners in the center basket and the buns in the two toasting baskets on either side. Its 660-watt electronic heating coil has four controllable heat settings so that you can cook the wieners and toast both buns to your taste preference. Crumb basket removes for cleaning. Measures 8-1/2" High x 10-1/2" Wide x 5-1/4" Deep.

Click this link to purchase the Pop-Up Hotdog Cooker from Hammacher Schlemmer.

How To Wash Your Eyes After LASIK Surgery

By Nicola Kennedy

LASIK is an efficient and fairly innocuous procedure. It is capable of treating several refractive errors, such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. The procedure itself entails virtually no pain and provides rapid recovery. Though the vision will be blurry immediately after surgery, visual acuity will be restored within a few days. However, it takes about 3 to 6 months for the refraction to stabilize. It is imperative that you carry out a scrupulous postoperative regime in order to boost the recovery process and avoid unnecessary complications.

Avoid rubbing your eyes for at least the first week after LASIK surgery. The corneal flap cut out during the surgery requires substantial time to heal. Unnecessary rubbing may inadvertently aggravate the wound. You should also take extreme caution to avoid soap, hair spray or shaving lotion from entering your eyes. The eye surgeon will typically provide you with a postoperative kit, which may include a set of eye shields/goggles. Wear them while you are sleeping, at least for the first three nights after surgery.

For at least a week after LASIK, prevent water from entering your eyes, since water hinders the natural clotting mechanism, and therefore might delay the healing process of the cornea. You must also cancel any swimming plans for a minimum of 10 days following LASIK. You must not wear eye makeup for at least one week after LASIK.

Contact sports are to be avoided for at least a week or so following surgery. Furthermore, it is advised that you wear some kind of protection gear for your eyes for a period of a month, even after resuming exercise and other sporting activities. Bright sunlight may lead to scarring, and therefore, sunglasses are recommended on bright days until the cornea heals.

To summarize, though you will be able to resume your usual lifestyle within a week or so after LASIK surgery, it is crucial that you protect your eyes to prevent injury or infection. And since the corneal flap does not heal instantly after surgery, you must prevent washing your eyes for at least a few days after surgery.

If you find a LASIK surgery that you are confident with, you will be able to get more information about post LASIK complications.

Nicola Kennedy publishes articles and reports, provides news and views and answers the question How Do I Wash My Eyes After LASIK? at Your Lasik Information:

This article may be reprinted in full so long as the resource box and the live links are included intact. All rights reserved. Copyright

Tips for Flying the Airlines

With a few simple tips you can avoid delays, fly non-stop, AND save money.

  1. Forget your frequent flier miles! Cash them in and never use them again. Frequent flier miles lure you back to one particular airline, and thereby narrow your options considerably. By opening yourself up to multiple airlines you can almost always fly non-stop, without delay, and arrive happy.

  2. Learn the "hub and spoke system" inside and out. This is the most valuable thing you can do to save time and trouble. Some airlines are concentrated in certain regional areas, and serve some cities more heavily. Once you know the ins-and-outs of the complicated hub system, you can cut hours off your travel time, and avoid missed connections, by far the worst part of airline travel. (Your luggage is less likely to be lost when you fly direct,too).

  3. Use more than one website to buy your tickets. Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz; are good research tools and sometimes offer the best deal, but not always. Sometimes, only connecting flights are offered on these sites when a direct flight is available. Use these sites to get an idea of the prevailing price, airport maps, flight times, etc., and if they offer the best deal, great, but 9 times out of 10 you're better off visiting these first and then going to an airline's official homepage.

  4. Get to know discount airlines. Granted, their networks aren't as extensive as the major's offer; and, they usually aren't much cheaper, the major's usually match their prices, but if you're flying to their home city, they can be a real blessing: better on-time performance, direct flight, happier employees, and newer airplanes make them something to consider.

Remember: do some research, use multiple websites to compare information, and ALWAYS fly non-stop if possible. "Direct" flights can stop in another airport before reaching your destination. Good Luck!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Winter Bedding Storage Tips

By Katie Curtis

With the winter finally behind us, it is time to put that winter bedding away for yet another year. While flannel sheets and heavy comforters are perfect for those cold winter nights, most of us look forward to sleeping under light cotton sheets and lightweight throws. With a little care and preparation, your winter bedding will be as fresh as a spring morning the next time you bring it out.

Be sure to give your winter bedding a proper cleaning before you put it away. While going to the laundromat is not the ideal way to spend an afternoon, it will save you loads of time when washing your winter bedding. Use one of the large-capacity washers to launder your blankets and comforters. If you have a good quality duvet, you may want to have it dry-cleaned to ensure that it is not damaged.

If you do decide to wash your duvet while you are at the laundromat, be sure to pay careful attention to the washing instructions. It would be an awful shame to ruin your expensive down duvet by ignoring these instructions. Contrary to popular belief , a down duvet can be washed in a washing machine. Just be sure to use a mild detergent, and throw a couple of tennis balls in the dryer with it. This will help distribute the down as it is being dried.

Be sure to use a mild detergent to preserve and extend the life of your bedding. As you are most likely aware, white sheets should be laundered separately to keep your whites as white as possible. Be sure to use oxygenated bleach. Chlorine bleach can be extremely harsh, and it tends to leave a residue that can be damaging to the material.

Flannel bedding should be washed and dried separately from your other bedding. Flannel sheets tend to leave lint in the dryer, and that can cause a real mess if you mix them with your other bedding. In our experience, we have found that the best way to dry flannel sheets is to hang them outside to air dry. This will help keep your bedding in good shape and ensure that you can enjoy them for many winters to come.

Katie Curtis writes for, a great resource with extensive information on specialty pillows, children's bedding, bed accessories and more.

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How to Remove Permanent Marker from Furniture

I purchased an old table at a yardsale that someone had discarded because a child had marked on its surface. My father restored that table by following these steps:

  1. Before you begin, test the paste on a part of the furniture that's not normally visible. You want to insure that the paste won't strip the paint or finish from the wood.

  2. Use white paste, not the gel, and put a small amount directly onto the furniture. With either a soft bristle toothbrush or a soft rag, start making circular motions and rubbing the paste into the marked area.

  3. Be patient. It may take several applications before the marker is completely removed.

  4. When the paste has taken on the color of the marker, wipe clean and repeat step two until the marks are no longer visible.

How to Easily Remove Address Labels from Packages

Are you one of those people who keep the postal service busy delivering packages to your house from eBay or QVC? Do you recycle the boxes that your purchases come in? Many people don't because they're afraid of the label on the box. You don't want your name and address to go "public" via the garbage can. Here's the fastest way to get rid of those labels.

  1. Buy some nail polish remover, preferably in one of those hand held pens for easier application. You can also pour some into one of those plastic bottles used for moistening envelopes, or pour some on a cotton swab or a napkin. The nail polish remover can be acetone or non-acetone, either will work.

  2. Vigorously rub the nail polish remover across the address label. Your name and address will simply "melt" off in seconds. No need to cut the label out or write over it with another pen.

  3. This works for almost every type of professional address label and even works to remove black marker from boxes.

  4. Recycle that box in peace!

The "nail polish pen" (sold in most drug stores) makes the application and rubbing part easy! You won't have to get any of it on your fingers.

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