Venturing into Vista: System Access and Windows Media Center
As I wrote yesterday, I have performed a clean installation of System Access on my
Thus far, though, I haven’t run any programs with System Access under
Before I get into the specifics of using
System Access does a better job than Window-Eyes with keyboard functionality because it has a number of different modifier keys (insert, scroll lock, num lock, caps lock…) which does make using an oddball keyboard like the Kinesis a bit simpler but, because of my peculiar layout, I rarely need to use a function key while running JAWS so, while running SA, I need to take my hands off of home row more frequently than with JAWS or Window-Eyes which forces me to put additional stress on my wrists and forearms. Thus, I would very much like to see a keymap editor added to System Access.
My second major complaint about SA regards the synthesizers with which it ships. Over the years, like many other JAWS users, I have grown addicted to Eloquence. No matter how clear, human sounding or emotive a speech synthesizer might sound, nothing sounds as good as Eloquence at fast speech rates. Thus, DecTalk and NeoSpeech simply don’t sound good enough at the speed I like to use a screen reader so, due to its lack of Eloquence, I need to move more slowly when using SA.
As I wrote yesterday, I have a very strong interest in making home appliances and consumer electronics products accessible. Thus, the ability to use the
I attached the coaxial cable to the jack for digital television on the back of my new PC and turned it on. After logging in, I started System Access and, on the desktop, hit ENTER on the
The people at Microsoft who designed the
I found a button that said, “Setup TV” and hit ENTER on it. This launched a wizard like set of dialogues that I had to follow to get the system to recognize my television tuner and cable attachment. With System Access, I had to employ the “Virtual Mouse” (equates to the JAWS cursor and the WE Mouse Cursor) quite a few times to read the static text in these dialogues. For comparison sake, I quit out of SA a few times to launch JAWS and Window-Eyes to see how they acted in this interface that SA struggled with. Using the PC cursor in JAWS, I could only read the name of the default control, using the JAWS cursor, I heard nothing but “blank, blank, blank…” Window-Eyes fared slightly better than JAWS but I could not use it to complete the tasks at hand.
Limping along using the SA Virtual Mouse Cursor, I completed the television setup task. As the task was impossible with the other two screen readers, System Access won the day easily.
Next, I launched the “Guide” by hitting ENTER on a button with that label. This brought me into the program guide set up wizard. Much like the television set up interface, I had to switch to the SA Virtual Mouse Cursor to read static text. Trying the same dialogues with JAWS resulted in the JAWS cursor saying nothing more than “blank” and my results with Window-Eyes were almost equally useless. In some of the set up guide dialogues, I could navigate from control to control with SA but the labels didn’t read automatically; fortunately, on each of the controls I could reach by hitting TAB, doing a SayLine read the information about the control and I could use it pretty much as one would expect.
At some point, the guide set up wizard presented me with an edit control in which I was supposed to type in my zip code. I do not know why but SA neither echoed the keys as I typed them nor could it read with its version of the PC cursor or with its Virtual Mouse Cursor. I learned after I hit ENTER on the “Next” button that, in fact, I had typed my zip code correctly.
Once I completed setting up the Guide,
Historically, I have always argued that professional applications, those that people use in a workplace, should have priority over home and entertainment programs. To a large extent, I still hold this belief but I must say that having the ability to control a home entertainment center made me happy and, even with an imperfect screen reader experience from System Access in
Today, I will play around with SA in Windows Media Center some more and, hopefully, if the latest Potter book doesn’t keep me too enthralled, I’ll get to the Speech Recognition features today.
While SA was the only screen access tool that could handle the