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: (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 )
elettaria: (Default)
Asus, the company who started the netbook craze, have decided that they want to hear more from ordinary users. They've set up a project where six people will get to blog for a month about one of a range of six laptops, ranging in size from a netbook to an equivalent of the iMac. I've long wanted to see something like this, because professional computer reviewers do a sterling job but often leave out so many of the details I'm dying to know. Some of this is quite ordinary – surely I can't be the only person who wants to know how good the speakers are – but much of it is relevant to me as a disabled person.

Why should Asus be interested in the opinions of disabled computer users, I hear you cry? Well, for starters there are an awful lot of us. I've given up trying to keep track of the estimated number of people with disabilities in the UK, mainly due to all the different definitions of “disability”, but 10-20% seems a common range. AbilityNet, a company which helps disabled adults and children use computers and the internet by adapting and adjusting their technology, tells me that the most common reason people have for seeking help is visual problems, and the second is RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). At this point I'm going to stop and switch terminology, because I think “accessibility” is actually a more useful term right now. This isn't just about people with obvious disabilities, this issue applies to everyone. I'll wager that few people have never made some adjustment to make their computer easier to use, whether it's raising the monitor or getting a more suitable chair.

Quite apart from the 3 million people in the UK who are unable to read standard print... )
elettaria: (Default)
Asus, the company who started the netbook craze, have decided that they want to hear more from ordinary users. They've set up a project where six people will get to blog for a month about one of a range of six laptops, ranging in size from a netbook to an equivalent of the iMac. I've long wanted to see something like this, because professional computer reviewers do a sterling job but often leave out so many of the details I'm dying to know. Some of this is quite ordinary – surely I can't be the only person who wants to know how good the speakers are – but much of it is relevant to me as a disabled person.

Why should Asus be interested in the opinions of disabled computer users, I hear you cry? Well, for starters there are an awful lot of us. I've given up trying to keep track of the estimated number of people with disabilities in the UK, mainly due to all the different definitions of “disability”, but 10-20% seems a common range. AbilityNet, a company which helps disabled adults and children use computers and the internet by adapting and adjusting their technology, tells me that the most common reason people have for seeking help is visual problems, and the second is RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). At this point I'm going to stop and switch terminology, because I think “accessibility” is actually a more useful term right now. This isn't just about people with obvious disabilities, this issue applies to everyone. I'll wager that few people have never made some adjustment to make their computer easier to use, whether it's raising the monitor or getting a more suitable chair.

Quite apart from the 3 million people in the UK who are unable to read standard print... )
elettaria: (Default)
What are they? Sheets of transparent plastic in a range of five colours (only three for the largest) that you place over your computer screen. One side is matte, one side shiny. The matteness helps reduce glare, which is particularly useful as most monitor screens these days are high gloss.

What are they for? Certain visual problems, in particular dyslexia and Meares Irlen Syndrome, can be improved by the use of colour to reduce the visual distortions and discomfort caused by these visual processing disorders. Eye problems due to ME/CFIDS or autism spectrum disorders may also benefit, and they can be useful for people suffering from eyestrain or migraine. Colour overlays have long been used for placing over printed paper, although as they're very awkward to use on books due to the curve of the page, people usually graduate to tinted spectacles after using the overlays for a trial period to see if colour helps them. These monitor overlays are simply larger versions of the A4 reading overlays, though in a much smaller range of colours. Different people need different colours, it's specific to each person, and the colour needed for an overlay may be different to the colour needed for spectacles. My spectacles are tinted pure blue, but my preferred overlay colour is lime green.

Where can you buy them? Read more... )

Cross-posted to my journal, [livejournal.com profile] migraines, [livejournal.com profile] disabledstudent, [livejournal.com profile] low_vision and [livejournal.com profile] cfids_me.
elettaria: (Default)
What are they? Sheets of transparent plastic in a range of five colours (only three for the largest) that you place over your computer screen. One side is matte, one side shiny. The matteness helps reduce glare, which is particularly useful as most monitor screens these days are high gloss.

What are they for? Certain visual problems, in particular dyslexia and Meares Irlen Syndrome, can be improved by the use of colour to reduce the visual distortions and discomfort caused by these visual processing disorders. Eye problems due to ME/CFIDS or autism spectrum disorders may also benefit, and they can be useful for people suffering from eyestrain or migraine. Colour overlays have long been used for placing over printed paper, although as they're very awkward to use on books due to the curve of the page, people usually graduate to tinted spectacles after using the overlays for a trial period to see if colour helps them. These monitor overlays are simply larger versions of the A4 reading overlays, though in a much smaller range of colours. Different people need different colours, it's specific to each person, and the colour needed for an overlay may be different to the colour needed for spectacles. My spectacles are tinted pure blue, but my preferred overlay colour is lime green.

Where can you buy them? Read more... )

Cross-posted to my journal, [livejournal.com profile] migraines, [livejournal.com profile] disabledstudent, [livejournal.com profile] low_vision and [livejournal.com profile] cfids_me.

Quotations of the day

Wednesday, 4 April 2007 01:15 am
elettaria: (Rock badger)
"You will not be discriminated against as a result of making a complaint. If you feel you have been, make a further complaint."

- How your complaint is being dealt with, leaflet by the City of Edinburgh Council which is full of so many allusions to investigations, secrecy and hints that you should get a lawyer, that I'm wondering whether it's the FBI I'm actually dealing with here.


"Sitting in a church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sitting in a carpark makes you a car."

- Paul from Manchester, commenting on a BBC article about nominal Christians.


"A collection of adult fairy tales or an excuse to write explicit pornography?

"If you are looking for a book to satisfy lustful passions, this is the book for you with no less than four sections that would be better suited to a top shelf pornography magazine. If you are looking to explore spirituality, may I recommend the bible, a book that would bear much more fruit on the subject of spirituality and is suitable to be read by all ages!"

- Amazon reviewer on Sara Maitland's book of short stories, On Becoming a Fairy Godmother. I should mention that Maitland is not exactly writing porn, that she writes sex rather well on the rare occasions that she writes it, and that incidentally she's published several theological works.

And one I've been admiring for years )

Quotations of the day

Wednesday, 4 April 2007 01:15 am
elettaria: (Rock badger)
"You will not be discriminated against as a result of making a complaint. If you feel you have been, make a further complaint."

- How your complaint is being dealt with, leaflet by the City of Edinburgh Council which is full of so many allusions to investigations, secrecy and hints that you should get a lawyer, that I'm wondering whether it's the FBI I'm actually dealing with here.


"Sitting in a church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sitting in a carpark makes you a car."

- Paul from Manchester, commenting on a BBC article about nominal Christians.


"A collection of adult fairy tales or an excuse to write explicit pornography?

"If you are looking for a book to satisfy lustful passions, this is the book for you with no less than four sections that would be better suited to a top shelf pornography magazine. If you are looking to explore spirituality, may I recommend the bible, a book that would bear much more fruit on the subject of spirituality and is suitable to be read by all ages!"

- Amazon reviewer on Sara Maitland's book of short stories, On Becoming a Fairy Godmother. I should mention that Maitland is not exactly writing porn, that she writes sex rather well on the rare occasions that she writes it, and that incidentally she's published several theological works.

And one I've been admiring for years )

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