Archive for February, 2006

Better Anapod Support for Format 4 Audible Files

February 27, 2006

When I wrote The iPod Experience, you could use Anapod Explorer to transfer Format 4 Audible files to an iPod Shuffle, but your place was not saved when you turned off the Shuffle or switched to a different file and then switched back. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. Format 4 files now behave just as they do if you use iTunes to transfer them. This means that when you leave the file or turn off the Shuffle, your place is almost saved. Generally, you have to rewind for about 12 seconds to get back to where you were. Occasionally, you find yourself at a previous reading position, or the bookmark disappears completely, so there is room for improvement. But the situation is definitely better than it was, and if you want to use only Format 4, you can now use Anapod Explorer instead of iTunes without losing functionality.

If you use Formats 2 or 3, however, Anapod is not a good choice. Files in these formats won’t play if you use Anapod to transfer them to the Shuffle. And any Format 2 or 3 files transferred to the Shuffle with iTunes will stop playing if you use Anapod at all. To get them to play again, you have to connect the Shuffle to your computer while iTunes is open. This will delete any content you transferred to the Shuffle using Anapod Explorer. (Before experimenting with iTunes and Anapod Explorer, open iTunes, go to the iPod page in Preferences, and make sure the “Keep this iPod in the source list” check box is checked so iTunes will keep a list of what it transferred even when the iPod is disconnected; otherwise, everything in the Shuffle will be erased when you connect the Shuffle after using Anapod.)

So the bottom line is, if you only want to play Format 4 Audible files, feel free to use Anapod, but if you want to play other formats as well, don’t use it.

New Version of iTunes Scripts Now Available

February 25, 2006

Brian Hartgen just finished version 2.6 of his JAWS scripts for iTunes. This version works with all versions of iTunes from 5.0 to the most recent one, 6.03. It is a free upgrade. A major improvement in this version is that JAWS now keeps much better track of your position in iTunes when you switch to another program and then switch back. Nicely done, Brian!

New Edition of Braille.com and Beyond Coming Soon

February 8, 2006

The second edition of Braille.com and Beyond should be out within a month. The biggest change from the first edition is that it tells you how to purchase books for download from the NBP website.

Major Changes at Audible

February 8, 2006

In the past couple of months, Audible has changed their website, their membership plans, and the way in which credits work. This means that most of what I wrote about Audible in Finding eBooks is no longer accurate. The most noteworthy changes are as follows:

The website is organized very differently. There are no longer Skip links to take you to the main content on a page. There are three headings that appear on just about every page – a level 3 heading followed by two level 4 headings – and they all concern various ways of searching for books. Sometimes the main content appears before these headings, and sometimes it appears afterward. Book description pages are pretty easy to navigate because lots of level 3 headings are used, but other pages may take some trial and error. If you need help, you can join the Blind Audible Listeners mailing list and ask for suggestions.

The link above describes the new listener plans pretty well, except that it doesn’t mention the cost of the most basic plan. I believe that plan costs $9.95 per month.

Finally with the new plans, credits are handled very differently than in the past.

  • There is no differentiation between a book credit and a subscription credit, so you can use a credit to purchase any type of programming.
  • If you don’t use a credit by the end of the month and you’re on a monthly plan, it no longer disappears. You can accumulate up to 6 credits on the gold plan, and up to 12 on the platinum plan.
  • You can use credits to buy books for other people.
  • Though most books cost 1 credit, some cost more, and some short programs cost part of a credit. So check carefully before buying anything with credits.

Despite all the changes, the Audible site is still quite usable and is a great source for audio books.

iTunes Scripts and Set Files from Brian Hartgen

February 8, 2006

Last summer, Brian Hartgen created JAWS scripts that make iTunes considerably easier to use. Some features which are usable without the scripts are much easier while using them, such as transferring tracks to an iPod. Other features cannot be used at all without the scripts, such as burning CDs, changing the order in which tracks in a playlist are played, and rewinding and fast forwarding within a track.

One of the most frustrating aspects of iTunes is that some graphics can’t be detected by a screen reader. Brian has attempted to get around this problem by having JAWS click the exact spot on the screen where such a graphic is located. This only works, however, if your screen is set up exactly like Brian’s. As a result, some features may or may not work. For example, while Brian and others can use his scripts to purchase tracks from the iTunes music store, I can’t; JAWS clicks in the wrong place on my system. If you have a willing sighted friend, you can ask them to click a particular location, like a Buy Track button, and assign a keystroke to that location. When you need to click the same button, you use the keystroke. This is a useful stopgap.

Unfortunately, the layouts for albums in the iTunes music store are so complicated and varied that it is not possible to purchase albums using Brian’s scripts. Let’s hope iTunes builds this very useful program in a more standard way in the future so that it is easier to access.

The scripts cost 30 pounds, which is currently about $52. For me, they have changed iTunes from a program I use when absolutely necessary to my primary means of listening to music on my computer, burning CDs, creating playlists, and putting content in my iPod. They’re great!

Brian has also created Window-Eyes set files for iTunes. Because Window-Eyes doesn’t have the ability to click on a particular location on screen unless it can see a graphic there, the set files have fewer features than the JAWS scripts do. But they do enable you to navigate the lists within iTunes using the application cursor, control the Autofill process for an iPod Shuffle, and rewind and fast forward through a track. They are free. For more information, you can check out the set file manual.

iTunes Set files from Steve Holmes

February 8, 2006

Last July, Steve Holmes wrote Window-Eyes set files for iTunes. With these set files, you can move through the various lists within iTunes using the aplication cursor rather than the mouse cursor. This simplifies navigation considerably.

A Nice Feature in Kurzweil 1000 Version 10

February 8, 2006

The latest version of the Kurzweil 1000 scanning and reading program includes many enhancements. One of particular note for Web-Braille users is that when you use Kurzweil 1000 to download a book from Web-Braille, it automatically renames all the volume files using the book title followed by a space, then the letter v and a two-digit volume number. How nice to be able to download a long book without renaming lots of volume files.

WB-View Update

February 8, 2006

There is a new version of WB-View, the program designed for downloading books from Web-Braille and reading them on a computer with a braille display. You can read any other braile file and any ASCII text file with the program as well. In any of these files, you can move by pages using the Page-Up and Page-Down keys and set up to 10 bookmarks, and your place is saved when you close the file or program. There is a unique auto-advance feature that makes longer lines stay on the braille display longer than short lines do when you autoscroll text.

The new version, 2.0, adds the ability to search the Web-Braille collection from within WB-View. You fill in a simple form where you can enter title, author, keywords from the Notes field, or the subject. Search results appear in a list, and if you select one, all volumes are downloaded automatically to your computer.

RealPlayer and the iPod Shuffle

February 7, 2006

When I wrote The iPod Experience, I could use RealPlayer to transfer tracks to the iPod Shuffle with no problems. That changed a few months later, however; I could still transfer trakcs using RealPlayer, but doing so completely scrambled the playing order. I have tried talking with RealPlayer tech support and updating RealPlayer several times since then, but the problem remains. Today I got official word from a RealPlayer spokesman that this problem is currently insoluble. They think some change in iTunes or the iPod Shuffle firmware caused the problem, and there is currently nothing they can do about it. So you can transfer tracks to the Shuffle using RealPlayer by following the steps in my book, but if you do, your iPod will be permanently shuffled.

iTunes and JAWS

February 7, 2006

You can access iTunes with JAWS 6.2 or 7.0 in the same way you can with JAWS 6.0. There was a bug in JAWS 6.1 which prevented iTunes access, but fortunately, that bug was fixed in JAWS 6.2.