Posted in Monday musings

Monday’s Musings 12: Is the world of accessible technology going backward, for computers anyway?


Hey guys,
Steve here.

Warning: If you aren’t in any way intrested in technology, don’t read this post. But I have some thoughts on it that I need to get out… so… I thought I might as well post this.
This particular subject has been bugging me since I was first introduced to Google, and it intensified once I got into using Windows 8. What I am here to muse about, as the title says, is the world of accessible technology.
You’ve seen a similar post from me before, however that one was me wondering why it has to cost so much. While on the subject of that, I recently found out about an accessible Twitter client, that someone is celling for $15. Crazy, huh?
Anyway, getting back on topic, let me elaborate a little bit. A while back, in 2009, google’s gMail was accessible right out of the box. However, through the recent years, it has come to a point blind users who wish to use it must first search for the “basic html” link, activate it, so they can get a basic accessible view. That is only one example. In fact, google in general has been slowly getting less screen reader friendly. Google sights, youtube, and google docs are just three things from google that have accessibility issues. Although youtube is fairly usable, some buttons and graphics are not clearly labeled, so it’s definitely not a site I would recommend to a blind person just starting out with computers. As for google sites and docs, the two products, as of the last time I tried to use them, are practically unusable if you are using a screen reader.
Google is not the only problem here. Let’s take Microsoft Windows, another product I use daily, for example. Windows XP, a version of the Windows operating system that is so old it will no longer be supported as of April 8, was the most basic, accessible verson I’ve used. Windows 7, released in 2009 or 2010, was pretty much just as accessible. However, Windows 8 introduced a whole new layout, one that I am so unhappy with, I will probably install classic shell, an application that will give windows 8 the feel of windows XP or 7. Why you ask? Well let’s just say this. The menues, and even task manager application, are laid out in a grid. The task manager, I’ll admit, is quite useful, and I like the way they did it. But the start menu… well not so much.
The reason, I think, has to do with the increasing popularity of GUI (graphical user interface). I think, that with new technology available, Microsoft, like most other software companies, google included, is trying to make their software more appealing to sighted users. And although Microsoft has worked hard on a narrator application that is better than it has been before, the overall look and feel of windows 8 is still hard to get used to. And to top it off, what is google doing? Even edmodo, a social media platform used by schools, what is that doing to make it more accessible?
Just to let you know, I’m not ticked off or anything. I believe that these companies lay out their software this way for a reason. And if I really want something accessible like that, maybe one day someware far down the road I’ll program it. And besides, to end this post on a good note, I can feel better knowing that there are people out there developing software for us. As long as there are people like that out there, I can believe that we are heading toward a future with more accessware, a future in which I will be included.

Thanks for reading,
type you later,
Steve.

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Posted in Monday musings

Monday’s musings 11: My thoughts on social networking


Hey guys,
Steve here.

Often, people ask me “do you have a facebook?” or “do you have a twitter?”, and sometimes “do you have an instagram?”, and my answer is always the same. “No, I prefer blogging.”
The reason for this has to do with my thoughts of social networking. If you ask me, I don’t believe in posting a facebook status, or a tweet, or any other social media post, because:
1. length. A face book post, from what I understand, is max 5 sentences, and twitter has a limit on how many characters can be in a tweet. When I write, I pour my heart out, because as you already know writing is my outlet, and my way of expressing myself.
2. Social media posts, at least on twitter anyway, really don’t have much thought. As i said before, I put careful thought into what I write.
3. frequency. From what I heard, and correct me if I’m wrong, you don’t just go 3 to 7 days without posting on social media. People often post every day, and I already tried that on the blog… and we all know how that worked out :).
4. junk mail. I signed up for facebook a while back, and literally had to filter the facebook emails to my spam… because there were so many of them. What really set me off was the day I checked my email, and no lie, the first 9 emails were from facebook. By using this blog, I don’t get all that junk mail.
5. The elimination of annoyance. With a blog, I don’t have to put up with people who think it’s necessary to write a post on their social media once every minute. I can just write, and know that although you can read other people’s content, you for 1 get to search up what you want to read, and for 2 don’t get a notification of every time someone writes to their blog… unless you want to. I’ve had problems with facebook sending me notifications about people posting a status, even though I didn’t want it to send me those notifications.
6. true followers. With a blog, you know that anyone and everyone who hits that follow button really cares about what you have to say, and will devote some of their time reading your words. You don’t know that with facebook friends. I have some people on my facebook, only because they think that’s the way to stay in touch with me. I can’t be certain that if I were to post a status, my facebook friends would actually read it, and like what it says. So if people want to get in touch with me, that’s what my skype, phone, and email are for. And if they want to know what I’m doing, well stevenD.net is the place to go.
7. viruses. With a blog, you are less likely to get a virus. I’ve had spammers send me friend requests, but their names were of people I knew (an example would be Colbie Smith, who is my cousin. A person on facebook named Colbie Smith sent me a friend request, but I found out it was spam and/or viruses). Also, I’ve gotten false emails such as my friends uploading photos of me, emails that I new were false because I hadn’t seen those friends in a long time. So thank god I hadn’t opened the emails, because I would’ve probably got a nice ol’ virus.

Those are just some of the reasons I refuse to use social networks. So if you ask me whether or not I have a facebook or twitter, my answer will remain the same–“I prefer to use a blog.” Because after all, why use social media anyway, if there’s a better solution out there?

Thanks for reading,
type you later,
Steve.

Posted in average, busy, journal, life, projects, updates

An exciting weekend coming up


Hey guys,
Steve here.

As the post title suggests, I will be having an exciting weekend. My friend has once again invited me to D Now, which if you remember I went to last year and the year before. D Now, for those of you who don’t know, is a weekend long event for kids… I think 6th grade and up but I’m not sure to worship god and do some other fun stuff.
I don’t know if it’s the same this year, but normally we have worship services, a scavenger hunt, a mission project, and basically just a good time. If it changed this year, I’ll let you know on my next life update.

In other news, SQuad word is almost ready to become a public beta. I haven’t done much this week, except exterminating bugs, and making sure it has everything it needs to become public. I’m not going to add any new features, even the font chooser, until I fix all the bugs (and to tell you the truth, there were only 2, but now 1 because I fixed one of them).
The bug I fixed had to do with closing the program and menu options. I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but it used to be that you had to active a menu item like say, open file, more than once before the open file screen came up. And, you would have to click the close button multiple times before it actually closed. However, I fixed that bug by majorly tweaking my code on Tuesday afternoon.
Since then, I haven’t done anything on the word processer, just taking a little break for now. However, my friend discovered a bug yesterday when I was using sQuad word to type my Spanish assignment. For some reason, the text doesn’t appear to sighted people, meaning I’m going to have to change the height and width of both the window, and the editor, so you guys can see what you’re typing, and the window won’t be super tiny when it starts up as it is now.

Besides sQuad word, I haven’t done much over the past several days. I’ve been talking to Danny, as he is one of my best friends and is helping me learn pure basic, and also I’ve been playing games. Speaking of which, I think I’m getting a relapse of my swamp addiction. At least that means I’ll be motivated to create campaigns for swamping with Steve, the series of “swamp let’s plays” I started on my podcast.

As a final note, I will try and squeeze in a couple podcasts. Now that Stranded is finished and released, and I don’t have a release date for sQuad word, I can set aside more time to do podcasts. Hopefully I can do them before Sunday, (this being D Now weekend and all), but if I can’t I’ll do them Sunday or Monday, because as I forgot to mention this will be a 3-day weekend. I hope to perhaps get a beta release of sQuad word out by Monday, but I can’t promise anything. I still have to fix that last bug, so the word processor will actually be useable for you sighted people. *wishes the world could be full of blind people*

Thanks for reading,
Type you later,
Steve.

Posted in information, Monday musings, projects

Stranded release and Monday’s Musings 10: My thoughts on how people should learn to program


Hey guys,
Steve here.

Stranded part 3 has been released! It’s called “the end game,” and has lots of exciting things in it! I hope you enjoy playing this gamebook! If you haven’t played stranded part 1 or 2, they’re available on the game books page.

Monday’s musings post:

Ever since I got into programming and computers, I always thought certain things about being a programmer:
1. you must know multiple languages.
2. To learn a programming language, you have to read the whole manual until you get all the concepts.

However I have figured out that is not true.
The main thing that got me into believing that was the manual for BGT (blastbay game toolkit), a scripting language for coding audiogames, or games for the blind. That manual basically told you to read a chapter until you completely got what it was talking about, then move on. But I have realised that’s not the case.
When I first started learning Pure Basic, even though it was just about 4 days ago and I still don’t know it completely, I figured out that language didn’t have a chapter book to read. No, it had basically a list of the commands, and how to code them in. So instead of reading all of those, I came up with a plan, that I believe people should always use when programming.
1. The reference manual is called a reference manual for a reason. It’s not there just for a good read or 2, it’s there in case you need help at any point while programming. So don’t try to read the whole book, Read what you need, and keep looking back on it as you go.
2. learn by experience. When trying to lose wait or get muscle, you don’t just watch the fitness tapes or just listen to what a fitness instructor says… do you? If so, you might know how to do all those exercises, but you wouldn’t have developed the strength needed to do them. It’s the same with programming. You can’t just look at the manual and expect to know the language, you need practice. My suggestion, program as you learn. take my word processor for example. I didn’t know a lick of pure basic before I began coding it, but look where it is now. I have gotten this far simpley because I thought of a feature I needed, and looked at the reference manual for assistance. Doing this has taught me file management, menu creation, using enumerations and procedures, and even a few other handy tools I’ll need to use when programming.
3. Experiment. Sometimes, you aren’t always going to find the answer to your questions in the reference manual. On the occasion that this should occur, use your knoledge and experiment with code you think would work. Move some lines around. Delete or add extra words or characters. Either way, you’re not gonna get far without experimenting.
4. resources. The reference manual is not the only thing you can go to for help. There’s always the good old world wide web. Think about a subject in school. Would you learn math only using the textbook? No. You need a teacher (in programming, you’re usually teaching yourself), yes you’ll need the book sometimes, and you might also need the web. But either way, remember that the reference manual is not your only answer.
5. And the final thing I’ve figured out about programming, is that you need to stay determined. Programming is not a skill you can pick up over night, it takes time. Get frustrated. Back away from your computer. It’s going to happen sometimes… but stay determined and motivated. Don’t let anything or anyone hinder you.

I hope this will help people is it did for me. And if you’re wondering how this qualifies as a Monday’s Musings post, I am sharing my thoughts on learning programming, and how I think it should be done.

So if you guys ever become a programmer, take in mind my advice–because it might just help you some time.

Thanks for reading,
Type you later,
Steve.

Posted in average, busy, happyness, information, journal, life, projects, school, updates, weather for today, winter weather

Life updates, winter weather, project news, and all that stuff.


Hey guys,
Steve here.

We had some snow on Thursday. And guess what? Another 3 day weekend! At first, none of us (me, or mesquite ISD) thought we’d have the day off, that is unless MISD was just waiting until 6 in the morning to tell us we weren’t going to school just so we couldn’t sleep in… but I highly doubt that was the case.
Originally, there was just an inch of snow on the ground from Thursday when it snowed all day long, but as people drove across the snow, it thawed out and refroze as ice. Thus, the ice prevented us from going to school.
How did I spend this unexpected but rather pleasant 3 day weekend? Well I did pretty much nothing except program, goal ball, and work on stranded. My sister and dad were gone to some goal ball tournament, so it was just me and my mom. We didn’t do much, so that’s why I had plenty of time to work on my projects.
I know I posted my last life update last Tuesday… but there isn’t much to say about the remainder of the school week before this 3 day weekend. It was just school, and stranded… that is until Thursday night.
On Thursday night, my friend Danny got me started on this programming language known as Pure Basic, or PB. Deciding I liked Pure Basic, I began programming a piece of software, learning the language as I went. That is what I’m referring to when I say I was “Programming” or working on my “projects” The name of this software is “SQuad Word,” SQuad being the title of my software company. It might be just me in that software company… but if I am actively producing software, I should give myself a name. SQuad stands for severe storm steve software by the way.
If you’re wondering, there is a reason why I am very determined to get this software completed and fully functioning. On Thursday night, when I first started programming SQuad Word, I ran into some trouble. And do you want to know what my friend Danny said to me? He said “Maybe a word processor isn’t the best thing to start out with.”
And since then, I have continued to develop this piece of software, making sure it is working, and adding new features to it, to let him know that while a word processor might not be the best thing to start out with, I will not let that fact hinder me, and no matter the cost, I will make a fully functioning word pad.
I have almost accomplished this goal: you can create, edit, open, and save files, and you can select text, undo, copy, cut, and paste. Now the only thing I need to add if I want this to be a word pad worth anyone’s time is the ability to change the font, and I am working on that. As soon as I do that, and make sure the program is bug free, I’ll upload it to the software page.
Getting on to Stranded, it will be released tomorrow. I don’t have much to do on it, and I will make sure it is released tomorrow.

Other than that, I don’t have much else to say. I believe I’ve caught you up on everything, and I’d better work on stranded a bit more before I go to bed, which will be very soon.

Thanks for reading,
type you later,
Steve.

Posted in average, busy, information, journal, life, projects, school, updates, weather for today

I’m still here


Hey guys,
Steve here.

To tell you the truth, it has been 2 Monday’s musings posts since I put up a life update. I just wanted to tell you that I’m still here, and not to get worried. Getting to the subject at hand, there have been reasons for my absence: stranded, school, allergies, and forgetfulness.
My life has been pretty normal for the past week. My days devoted to school, my afternoons and evenings devoted to games and working on Stranded. Last weekend, my allergies hit, presumably because of the ups and downs we’ve been experiencing in the weather. As a matter of fact, one day last week it got all the way up to 70 for a high, however the next day it was only 40. Anyway, because of this, I spent Saturday feeling tired and congested, and Sunday was not much better. To put Saturday’s schedule in a nutshell, it was goal ball from 9 to 11, eat lunch, get on the computer until about 1:45, take a 2 and a half hour nap, do nothing until 8:45, and then fall asleep again. Sounds boring… right? I honestly felt like I wasted that day away, because even if I have nothing to do, sleeping the day away is not something I like to do.
On other news, the progress on Stranded is going well. Unfortunately, however, I am pushing the release date back 5 days to February 10. Please don’t get frustrated with me–I’m working on it… I really am! This is not going to be another Stranded part ii scenario where I stop working on it for 2 and a half weeks and release it 12 days after the release date; I’ve already made that mistake once. In fact, I’ve worked on stranded on January 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, and 28, and on February 2, 3, and 4. The reason I didn’t work on it on January 29, 30, and 31 was because I needed a little break, and of course Saturday February 1 was the wasted day. But the game is going well, and I will continue to work on it until it is finished, and you guys can enjoy playing it. I would release it tomorrow, except I’d have to make it all crappy and short, and I don’t want to do that, this being the final book in the Stranded series and all.
On other news, it has been a while since my last pod cast. I really need to do the pod casts! For some reason, pod casting has slipped my mind for the past month, but I’m thinking about it again, and will do the podcasts soon. I know you’re looking forward to them, it being my pod cast and all. :))))

I guess that about wraps up tonight’s post. I hope you enjoyed this, and both the previous Monday’s Musings posts. By the way, speaking of Monday’s Musings, I can’t believe it’s already been 9 weeks of that! And who are we to say time can’t fly by in the blink of an eye?

Thanks for reading,
type you later,
Steve.

Posted in Monday musings

Monday’s Musings 9: Accessible technoligy: Why must it cost extra?


Hey guys,
Steve here.

When a sited person gets a computer, they automatically get to use it. There’s no extra software or hardware required for them, just a screen, and they are ready to go. It works the same for programs–every program can work well for sited users, but is that true for the blind?
For us blind people, we need extra software to operate our computers. Unfortunately, quite a bit of that software costs money. For example: did you know that for windows, NVDA is the only free screen reader? I believe that has changed in windows 8, with Microsoft’s narrator becoming a lot more usable. But that’s not my point–things such as Jaws, and window eyes, two screen readers on the market, cost anywhere from $800 to $1300. Sounds like a lot, huh?
I am thankful that I have NVDA, and I guess that settles the expensive screen readers issue, however I wouldn’t be writing this post if screen readers were the only expensive thing out there for blind users. Let’s take braille displays and braille notes (a type of computer meant for blind users) for example. A Braille display, or small device that prints whatever is written on screen into braille so a blind user can read it, costs upwards of $3000! And the screen of a computer comes built in? No one pays extra for that… now do they? And look at the braille note! That costs I think like $5000 or something! Why so much? Why must blind people pay to have technology life easier for them?
I’m not done. This Skype client that I use, the main thing that got me musing about this topic, proves my point exactly. So you know how Skype is free? Well this blind friendly Skype client is free to use, but gives you ads every 30 minutes, which I must say are very obtrusive and annoying. How can you stop the ads? by purchasing and using the screen reader, window eyes, which was made by that same company. How ridiculous is that?
With all that being said, I know how hard these people work to make things easier and more accessible for us blind folks… but why must it cost so much money for us users to purchase that software and hardware? my motto is “Blindness is not a disability, but a characteristic, and it should be treated that way.” So if a sited person gets a screen for their computer or other devices, and a program that is easy to use for them at no extra cost, Then for goodness sake, shouldn’t a blind person get the same thing, and at no extra cost?

Thanks for reading,
type you later,
Steve.