Going wireless

Thursday, 12 March 2009 10:24 am
elettaria: (Autumnal bedspread)
There's a secret they don't tell you about wireless devices. Have too many of them together and if they're on the same radio frequency, they may fight. I ended up returning items that appeared not to work, making umpteen calls to manufacturers and the very useful (though overpriced) Keyboard Company, and even asking my neighbours whether they had an Xbox, before discovering the simple fact that it was my router in the living room that was upsetting all those wireless keyboards and mice. My wireless keyboard and mouse now live in the bedroom, where they more or less behave themselves. I have a nice little setup in the living room, with a laptop stand on the sewing desk which raises the screen to a much better viewing height, has a cooling fan, and a USB hub which stays connected to peripherals such as the external hard drive and a wired keyboard and mouse. All I need to do is plonk the laptop on the stand, plug it into the power socket, and plug in the USB connector from the laptop stand. The wired keyboard is a Keysonic mini one, roughly the same as a laptop keyboard without the number pad, so between that and the laptop stand holding the laptop fairly high, I actually end up with more desk space than I would have with the laptop alone, as well as the ergonomic benefits. There's also a brand new wireless printer/scanner/photocopier on a shelf behind the desk, which connects via the router and doesn't seem to clash with anything. I've been told that I should be able to set my router to another frequency so that it stops interfering with all the other equipment that wants to run on 2.4Ghz. Unfortunately, no one told the router this, and it doesn't seem to be possible.

Keyboards

Back to the bedroom! A wireless keyboard and mouse are very, very useful if you're stuck in bed a lot of the time. Overbed tables are fantastic, but while they might put the laptop at a good place for viewing, try typing at one and you'll spend the entire time struggling to get comfortable and developing aches in muscles you didn't know you had. Wired peripherals seem like the easiest solution, until you realise that you end up ensconced in a nest of cables, at risk of tripping over one and pulling the laptop over when you get out of bed. The first wireless keyboard I tried... )

Keyboard and mouse on quilt 1


Mice )

Headphones )

Going wireless

Thursday, 12 March 2009 10:24 am
elettaria: (Autumnal bedspread)
There's a secret they don't tell you about wireless devices. Have too many of them together and if they're on the same radio frequency, they may fight. I ended up returning items that appeared not to work, making umpteen calls to manufacturers and the very useful (though overpriced) Keyboard Company, and even asking my neighbours whether they had an Xbox, before discovering the simple fact that it was my router in the living room that was upsetting all those wireless keyboards and mice. My wireless keyboard and mouse now live in the bedroom, where they more or less behave themselves. I have a nice little setup in the living room, with a laptop stand on the sewing desk which raises the screen to a much better viewing height, has a cooling fan, and a USB hub which stays connected to peripherals such as the external hard drive and a wired keyboard and mouse. All I need to do is plonk the laptop on the stand, plug it into the power socket, and plug in the USB connector from the laptop stand. The wired keyboard is a Keysonic mini one, roughly the same as a laptop keyboard without the number pad, so between that and the laptop stand holding the laptop fairly high, I actually end up with more desk space than I would have with the laptop alone, as well as the ergonomic benefits. There's also a brand new wireless printer/scanner/photocopier on a shelf behind the desk, which connects via the router and doesn't seem to clash with anything. I've been told that I should be able to set my router to another frequency so that it stops interfering with all the other equipment that wants to run on 2.4Ghz. Unfortunately, no one told the router this, and it doesn't seem to be possible.

Keyboards

Back to the bedroom! A wireless keyboard and mouse are very, very useful if you're stuck in bed a lot of the time. Overbed tables are fantastic, but while they might put the laptop at a good place for viewing, try typing at one and you'll spend the entire time struggling to get comfortable and developing aches in muscles you didn't know you had. Wired peripherals seem like the easiest solution, until you realise that you end up ensconced in a nest of cables, at risk of tripping over one and pulling the laptop over when you get out of bed. The first wireless keyboard I tried... )

Keyboard and mouse on quilt 1


Mice )

Headphones )
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
Returning to the blogging for Asus project, they have six computers they'll be lending out. Something that looks like a smaller iMac, a 17" gaming laptop, a 15" personal entertainment laptop, a 14" business laptop, a 12" "Ecobook" laptop in bamboo, and a 10" top-spec netbook, the S101. The last two immediately caught my eye. I already have a nice multipurpose 17" laptop, everyone makes those these days, they do what laptops generally do. It's the possibilities of ultra-small laptops, where it's more of a challenge cramming everything in and getting it to work well, that interest me.

Ecobook on bamboo


Decisions, decisions )

The Ecobook

I felt a visceral tug when I saw this laptop. Part of me took one look and joyously squealed, "Trees!" Like Ursula Le Guin, who prides herself on being "the most arboreal science fiction writer", I have a slight obsession with trees. My desktop backgrounds are always botanical, my quilts are becoming more and more so, and I could tell you every kind of wood that I have in my flat, from the rosewood Bluthner piano to the beech doorknobs on my kitchen units to the cheapie untreated pine bookcases in the hall. Anything which evokes trees is a instant hook-in for me.

I don't spend all my time metaphorically swinging about in the branches, though, so let's look at this a mite more analytically. Read more... )
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
Returning to the blogging for Asus project, they have six computers they'll be lending out. Something that looks like a smaller iMac, a 17" gaming laptop, a 15" personal entertainment laptop, a 14" business laptop, a 12" "Ecobook" laptop in bamboo, and a 10" top-spec netbook, the S101. The last two immediately caught my eye. I already have a nice multipurpose 17" laptop, everyone makes those these days, they do what laptops generally do. It's the possibilities of ultra-small laptops, where it's more of a challenge cramming everything in and getting it to work well, that interest me.

Ecobook on bamboo


Decisions, decisions )

The Ecobook

I felt a visceral tug when I saw this laptop. Part of me took one look and joyously squealed, "Trees!" Like Ursula Le Guin, who prides herself on being "the most arboreal science fiction writer", I have a slight obsession with trees. My desktop backgrounds are always botanical, my quilts are becoming more and more so, and I could tell you every kind of wood that I have in my flat, from the rosewood Bluthner piano to the beech doorknobs on my kitchen units to the cheapie untreated pine bookcases in the hall. Anything which evokes trees is a instant hook-in for me.

I don't spend all my time metaphorically swinging about in the branches, though, so let's look at this a mite more analytically. Read more... )
elettaria: (Chocolate teapot)
It's odd to look back at what computers were like fifteen years ago. When I was growing up, the internet was unheard-of, floppy disks were floppy, screens were green on black, printers were dot matrix, computer games were so basic that they now have retro charm, I was one of the few students at my school writing my homework on the computer, and I did so using a word processor called Wordstar which threw a canary fit every time I inserted a footnote – and footnotes formed about a third of the text when translating Virgil. Or possibly the computer hated the virtuous Aeneas even more than I did.

At uni, I went through a few years of all-nighters in computer labs before getting a laptop of my own via the Disabled Students' Allowance. It was a 14” Toshiba Satellite Pro, with rather nice sound for a laptop. and a trackpoint, or “nipple” mouse, right in the middle of the keyboard. They don't seem to have been very popular, those trackpoints, and looking back they probably didn't have the all-singing all-dancing functions that mice and touchpads today need to have. I did like being able to mouse without taking my hands out of their usual typing position, and you'd think they'd be making a comeback for netbooks, small wireless keyboards and the like. I have to confess that the pointer function eventually went barmy and refused to do anything other than charge off to the top right corner of the screen, but that would probably have been fixable if the uni disability computing services had sorted out the motherboard instead of repeatedly replacing the keyboard.

So when that little laptop finally gave up the ghost in 2004, right in the middle of a raging (and hilarious) trolling drama on [livejournal.com profile] gothic_lit which necessitated hastily ringing up [livejournal.com profile] eye_of_a_cat and telling her how to hack into my LJ account so that she could become a co-moderator, I ended up buying a cheap and nasty laptop from PC World, under the illusion that it would only be temporary as I'd be getting another DSA-funded computer soon. No such luck! )

Last year, this beastie began to make alarming noises suggesting that its fan was unhappy. I cosseted it with a gel cooling mat, not to mention feeding it more RAM and buying it an external hard drive, but I couldn't deny that it was getting elderly. This is the time when netbooks had just exploded onto the computer scene, and I was eyeing them with great interest. I'd previously tried a Psion Revo Plus, a PDA which is a forerunner of the netbook. )

Back to the ailing laptop. Those gel cooling mats really make a difference, and I was hoping to get a few more months of life out of the thing yet. I'd been waiting for netbooks to come out in XP, as I use the RNIB's audiobook service via online streaming, which can only be used with NetPlexTalk, which only works in Windows. The idea was that I would get the 9" EEE for small-computer uses now, try to keep going between it and that dying duck of a 14" laptop for as long as possible while the prices went down and the specs went up on laptops, and eventually get a nice big 17" laptop for my main computer and for watching films on. The netbook could live on my sewing table in the living room, where I could listen to audiobooks while quilting and do the odd bit of internet browsing. Alternatively, [livejournal.com profile] ghost_of_a_flea and I could give up the lazy habit of watching films in bed, keep the larger laptop in the living room, and use the EEE as a nice little bedside computer. Since even a 17" laptop is perfectly fine for carrying around the house, it wouldn't be difficult to swap them around, it's just that having a netbook as well as a laptop would save constantly ferrying the same computer between rooms.

This didn't quite go as planned. At last we come to the EEE PC 900. )

To those of you who do have netbooks, which one do you have and how do you get on with it?
elettaria: (Chocolate teapot)
It's odd to look back at what computers were like fifteen years ago. When I was growing up, the internet was unheard-of, floppy disks were floppy, screens were green on black, printers were dot matrix, computer games were so basic that they now have retro charm, I was one of the few students at my school writing my homework on the computer, and I did so using a word processor called Wordstar which threw a canary fit every time I inserted a footnote – and footnotes formed about a third of the text when translating Virgil. Or possibly the computer hated the virtuous Aeneas even more than I did.

At uni, I went through a few years of all-nighters in computer labs before getting a laptop of my own via the Disabled Students' Allowance. It was a 14” Toshiba Satellite Pro, with rather nice sound for a laptop. and a trackpoint, or “nipple” mouse, right in the middle of the keyboard. They don't seem to have been very popular, those trackpoints, and looking back they probably didn't have the all-singing all-dancing functions that mice and touchpads today need to have. I did like being able to mouse without taking my hands out of their usual typing position, and you'd think they'd be making a comeback for netbooks, small wireless keyboards and the like. I have to confess that the pointer function eventually went barmy and refused to do anything other than charge off to the top right corner of the screen, but that would probably have been fixable if the uni disability computing services had sorted out the motherboard instead of repeatedly replacing the keyboard.

So when that little laptop finally gave up the ghost in 2004, right in the middle of a raging (and hilarious) trolling drama on [livejournal.com profile] gothic_lit which necessitated hastily ringing up [livejournal.com profile] eye_of_a_cat and telling her how to hack into my LJ account so that she could become a co-moderator, I ended up buying a cheap and nasty laptop from PC World, under the illusion that it would only be temporary as I'd be getting another DSA-funded computer soon. No such luck! )

Last year, this beastie began to make alarming noises suggesting that its fan was unhappy. I cosseted it with a gel cooling mat, not to mention feeding it more RAM and buying it an external hard drive, but I couldn't deny that it was getting elderly. This is the time when netbooks had just exploded onto the computer scene, and I was eyeing them with great interest. I'd previously tried a Psion Revo Plus, a PDA which is a forerunner of the netbook. )

Back to the ailing laptop. Those gel cooling mats really make a difference, and I was hoping to get a few more months of life out of the thing yet. I'd been waiting for netbooks to come out in XP, as I use the RNIB's audiobook service via online streaming, which can only be used with NetPlexTalk, which only works in Windows. The idea was that I would get the 9" EEE for small-computer uses now, try to keep going between it and that dying duck of a 14" laptop for as long as possible while the prices went down and the specs went up on laptops, and eventually get a nice big 17" laptop for my main computer and for watching films on. The netbook could live on my sewing table in the living room, where I could listen to audiobooks while quilting and do the odd bit of internet browsing. Alternatively, [livejournal.com profile] ghost_of_a_flea and I could give up the lazy habit of watching films in bed, keep the larger laptop in the living room, and use the EEE as a nice little bedside computer. Since even a 17" laptop is perfectly fine for carrying around the house, it wouldn't be difficult to swap them around, it's just that having a netbook as well as a laptop would save constantly ferrying the same computer between rooms.

This didn't quite go as planned. At last we come to the EEE PC 900. )

To those of you who do have netbooks, which one do you have and how do you get on with it?
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
Now we've got most of your computer in a good colour scheme, let's turn our attention to Firefox. The great thing about open source software is that people can add all sorts of useful things to it. The snag is that not everything gets updated at once. Some of the add-ons I'm about to recommend aren't yet quite as functional in Firefox 3 as they might be, but overall you can still get a very nice set-up, and matters will undoubtedly improve before long. As well as making reading more comfortable, you can also use colour to organise your browser tabs so that it's easier to tell them apart at a single glance.

The standard way to change your colours in Firefox is to go to Tools, Options, Content, Colours. The range of colours is unfortunately small, and I find most of them unsuitable for text or background use due to being too bright. If you tick "Allow pages to choose their own colours, instead of my selections above", then the browser will show websites as they were originally designed. If you untick that box, then all text will change to a your chosen text and link colours, while everything except for text entry boxes (which will be either white or your OS theme colour) will be the background colour you choose. This isn't as good as it sounds. Websites use different coloured backgrounds and images to assist in navigation and focus attention on certain areas. If you prefer light text on black background, then your problem will be that most websites assume a light coloured background, and any text that was originally coloured may not show up on black, while some text that was originally black may stay black and not show up either. If you prefer dark text on light background, you will probably appreciate having darker areas on the rest of the page to give it definition and reduce glare. The following examples will illustrate this. Click on the images for larger versions.

Changing the colour scheme in Firefox, and why you don't want to do it this way )

Accessibar: the solution? )

Now for something completely different...ColorfulTabs! )

Add-ons that didn't do much for me: Firefox Accessibility, WebVisum, AnyColor )

All of these extensions can be found at the very useful AccessFirefox.org.
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
Now we've got most of your computer in a good colour scheme, let's turn our attention to Firefox. The great thing about open source software is that people can add all sorts of useful things to it. The snag is that not everything gets updated at once. Some of the add-ons I'm about to recommend aren't yet quite as functional in Firefox 3 as they might be, but overall you can still get a very nice set-up, and matters will undoubtedly improve before long. As well as making reading more comfortable, you can also use colour to organise your browser tabs so that it's easier to tell them apart at a single glance.

The standard way to change your colours in Firefox is to go to Tools, Options, Content, Colours. The range of colours is unfortunately small, and I find most of them unsuitable for text or background use due to being too bright. If you tick "Allow pages to choose their own colours, instead of my selections above", then the browser will show websites as they were originally designed. If you untick that box, then all text will change to a your chosen text and link colours, while everything except for text entry boxes (which will be either white or your OS theme colour) will be the background colour you choose. This isn't as good as it sounds. Websites use different coloured backgrounds and images to assist in navigation and focus attention on certain areas. If you prefer light text on black background, then your problem will be that most websites assume a light coloured background, and any text that was originally coloured may not show up on black, while some text that was originally black may stay black and not show up either. If you prefer dark text on light background, you will probably appreciate having darker areas on the rest of the page to give it definition and reduce glare. The following examples will illustrate this. Click on the images for larger versions.

Changing the colour scheme in Firefox, and why you don't want to do it this way )

Accessibar: the solution? )

Now for something completely different...ColorfulTabs! )

Add-ons that didn't do much for me: Firefox Accessibility, WebVisum, AnyColor )

All of these extensions can be found at the very useful AccessFirefox.org.
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
So I've already reviewed monitor colour overlay filters, which may be useful if you have eyestrain, dyslexia, Meares-Irlen Syndrome (also called scotopic sensitivity or Visual Stress), eye problems from ME/CFIDS, migraine, or autism spectrum disorders. Now let's look at how you can adjust colour directly on your computer, and how you might like to do so for your visual comfort. This post will cover operating systems, office suites and instant messaging clients, and the next will focus on ways to adjust Firefox. I'll cover changing the size of text and images in another post.

Operating systems - Windows XP and Vista

Firstly, you can tweak your OS. That link gives you an almost bewildering amount of information, so if you want to change the colour scheme, let's start with Windows XP, where there are excellent instructions here. This will set the general colour scheme for your computer, though not for websites (apart from the odd text entry box and such). You can use any colours that you choose, not just the small range of preset colours, although you may be limited in how they relate to each other. If you sometimes use coloured overlays, remember to check your colour scheme both with and without them. There are certain areas where I'd advise against bright colours, such as the text box background (where I use a pale colour), where you will have very large areas, and the message box text (where I use a medium colour with a fair bit of grey in there), which is also used for toolbar menus and can be overwhelming or distracting in bright colours. You may wish to change your colour scheme from time to time to avoid eyestrain. I usually switch between a muted blue and a soft green. With practice, you will probably find out which areas and applications you prefer in bright colours, greys, dark or light colours. If your colour schemes don't quite look right, you can use a colour wheel to make them look more natural. Shade darker colours a little closer to violet, and lighter colours a little closer to yellow, as this is how colours naturally behave with light and shadow (shadows are actually violet, not black). This is probably just cosmetic, but a colour scheme which you like to look at is one that you're more likely to keep. Remember that increasing the text size may change the colours you need, as it may cause the effect of an increase in contrast.

Vista - not as different as you might think )

Macs and Linux )

Microsoft Word )

Open Office )

Trillian )

Windows Live Messenger )
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
So I've already reviewed monitor colour overlay filters, which may be useful if you have eyestrain, dyslexia, Meares-Irlen Syndrome (also called scotopic sensitivity or Visual Stress), eye problems from ME/CFIDS, migraine, or autism spectrum disorders. Now let's look at how you can adjust colour directly on your computer, and how you might like to do so for your visual comfort. This post will cover operating systems, office suites and instant messaging clients, and the next will focus on ways to adjust Firefox. I'll cover changing the size of text and images in another post.

Operating systems - Windows XP and Vista

Firstly, you can tweak your OS. That link gives you an almost bewildering amount of information, so if you want to change the colour scheme, let's start with Windows XP, where there are excellent instructions here. This will set the general colour scheme for your computer, though not for websites (apart from the odd text entry box and such). You can use any colours that you choose, not just the small range of preset colours, although you may be limited in how they relate to each other. If you sometimes use coloured overlays, remember to check your colour scheme both with and without them. There are certain areas where I'd advise against bright colours, such as the text box background (where I use a pale colour), where you will have very large areas, and the message box text (where I use a medium colour with a fair bit of grey in there), which is also used for toolbar menus and can be overwhelming or distracting in bright colours. You may wish to change your colour scheme from time to time to avoid eyestrain. I usually switch between a muted blue and a soft green. With practice, you will probably find out which areas and applications you prefer in bright colours, greys, dark or light colours. If your colour schemes don't quite look right, you can use a colour wheel to make them look more natural. Shade darker colours a little closer to violet, and lighter colours a little closer to yellow, as this is how colours naturally behave with light and shadow (shadows are actually violet, not black). This is probably just cosmetic, but a colour scheme which you like to look at is one that you're more likely to keep. Remember that increasing the text size may change the colours you need, as it may cause the effect of an increase in contrast.

Vista - not as different as you might think )

Macs and Linux )

Microsoft Word )

Open Office )

Trillian )

Windows Live Messenger )

Brainstorming: other

Sunday, 1 March 2009 08:28 pm
elettaria: (Default)
If you have

* any disabilities, medical conditions or accessibility needs not covered in the previous posts

then comment here to tell me about your experiences, the adaptations or software you use or are interested in, what it's like surfing the web, what you'd want to know about a computer or computer equipment before buying it, and anything else you think is relevant. You can write on behalf of someone you know too.
elettaria: (Default)
If you have any of the following or similar:

* Cognitive problems
* Memory problems
* Concentration problems

e.g. ADHD, dementia, brain fog from ME/CFIDS, problems resulting from a brain injury

then comment here to tell me about your experiences, the adaptations or software you use or are interested in, what it's like surfing the web, what you'd want to know about a computer or computer equipment before buying it, and anything else you think is relevant. You can write on behalf of someone you know too.
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
If you have any of the following or similar, or feel that your computer use puts you at risk of:

* Fatigue
* Pain
* Muscular or joint problems
* ME/CFIDS
* Fibromyalgia
* RSI
* Issues with ergonomics or physical positioning

then comment here to tell me about your experiences, the adaptations or software you use or are interested in, what it's like surfing the web, what you'd want to know about a computer or computer equipment before buying it, and anything else you think is relevant. You can write on behalf of someone you know too.
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
If you have any of the following:

* Deafness
* Hard of hearing
* Auditory processing disorder (neurologically hard of hearing)
* Other hearing problems

then comment here to tell me about your experiences, the adaptations or software you use or are interested in, what it's like surfing the web, what you'd want to know about a computer or computer equipment before buying it, and anything else you think is relevant. You can write on behalf of someone you know too.
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
If you have any of the following:

* Blindness
* Partial sight
* Meares-Irlen Syndrome/Scotopic Sensitivity/Visual Stress
* Dyslexia
* Other visual problems e.g. from autism spectrum disorders
* Migraine with visual triggers

then comment here to tell me about your experiences, the adaptations or software you use or are interested in, what it's like surfing the web, what you'd want to know about a computer or computer equipment before buying it, and anything else you think is relevant. You can write on behalf of someone you know too.

Brainstorming: other

Sunday, 1 March 2009 08:28 pm
elettaria: (Default)
If you have

* any disabilities, medical conditions or accessibility needs not covered in the previous posts

then comment here to tell me about your experiences, the adaptations or software you use or are interested in, what it's like surfing the web, what you'd want to know about a computer or computer equipment before buying it, and anything else you think is relevant. You can write on behalf of someone you know too.
elettaria: (Default)
If you have any of the following or similar:

* Cognitive problems
* Memory problems
* Concentration problems

e.g. ADHD, dementia, brain fog from ME/CFIDS, problems resulting from a brain injury

then comment here to tell me about your experiences, the adaptations or software you use or are interested in, what it's like surfing the web, what you'd want to know about a computer or computer equipment before buying it, and anything else you think is relevant. You can write on behalf of someone you know too.
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
If you have any of the following or similar, or feel that your computer use puts you at risk of:

* Fatigue
* Pain
* Muscular or joint problems
* ME/CFIDS
* Fibromyalgia
* RSI
* Issues with ergonomics or physical positioning

then comment here to tell me about your experiences, the adaptations or software you use or are interested in, what it's like surfing the web, what you'd want to know about a computer or computer equipment before buying it, and anything else you think is relevant. You can write on behalf of someone you know too.
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
If you have any of the following:

* Deafness
* Hard of hearing
* Auditory processing disorder (neurologically hard of hearing)
* Other hearing problems

then comment here to tell me about your experiences, the adaptations or software you use or are interested in, what it's like surfing the web, what you'd want to know about a computer or computer equipment before buying it, and anything else you think is relevant. You can write on behalf of someone you know too.
elettaria: (Spiral aloe)
If you have any of the following:

* Blindness
* Partial sight
* Meares-Irlen Syndrome/Scotopic Sensitivity/Visual Stress
* Dyslexia
* Other visual problems e.g. from autism spectrum disorders
* Migraine with visual triggers

then comment here to tell me about your experiences, the adaptations or software you use or are interested in, what it's like surfing the web, what you'd want to know about a computer or computer equipment before buying it, and anything else you think is relevant. You can write on behalf of someone you know too.

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