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Friday, January 04, 2008

Living With Vic

I received my Vic from ILA about a month ago.  I cannot remember a day passing in which I didn’t use it for at least a few minutes and, on many days, I’ve enjoyed it for hours.  Vic has grown into my second most used bit of AT (JAWS on my various computers holding the number one position) and I’ve enjoyed everything from serious politics like “Hegemony or Survival,” by Noam Chomsky; light and funny books like “Fluke” and “Lamb,” by Christopher Moore and, from audible.com, “Hindi Conversation,” an introductory set of lessons that teach an English speaker to understand a number of useful words and phrases.

 

As a bit of disclosure, I do know a few people who work at Humanware but do not maintain a close relationship with any of them.  Every time we are both at CSUN, I go out on a “date” with my friend Myrna Vodda and we enjoy each other’s company and share New York stories and random gossip.  If I remember correctly, Derek Cote, formerly a contractor for HJ/FS works at Humanware Canada but the last time I talked to him was in Seattle in fall 2003.  Finally, at conferences and such, I try to stop and say hello to another former FS employee , Vinny Rappa for a quick catch up on how everyone is doing.  Thus, I do not have any strong personal bonds that would cause me to be exceptionally nice or overly critical to products from Humanware.

 

With that, I would like to suggest a few things that would make life with Vic, already a terrific experience, even better.  Someone else in the biz told me that the Vic ran on a GNU/Linux kernel but I haven’t heard any independent verification of such.  When I use USB on my Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution, it transfers data very quickly; why then does the Vic take so long to perform any USB data transfers?  I know, the documentation suggests that the work-around means pulling the SD card out of the device, sticking it into a card reader and copying the files on my PC.  This set of steps is a bit clumsy but it works nicely but I still am left wondering what went wrong with the USB implantation on this terrific device.

 

The USB issue represents the only flaw in the device I notice with any regularity.  The rest of my comments discuss features I’d like to see in future releases of the software that runs on Vic:

 

For books that contain text (bookshare.org, html, Daisy with speech and text, etc.) I would like to have a search facility.  This could be done by adding a search to the menu and then using the keys on the telephone like keypad to spell out the search term as if the user had a SmartPhone with MSS and typed an SMS to a friend.  I don’t know the various structured text formats very well so I don’t know how hard a search might be to implement but it would be very nice to have.

 

Second, save settings like speech rate by book.  When I’m reading a novel for pleasure, I crank the rate up and listen about as fast as the Vic can talk.  When I’m trying to learn a handful of Hindi words so I won’t need to stand around looking baffled while in New Delhi for TechShare next month, I want the speech rate to be exactly as recorded to ensure that I get every inflection and that what I hear and attempt to repeat is a reasonable facsimile of how the words sound in Hindi.  I can’t imagine that this feature would be too hard too add and, for the situation I just described and likely lots of others, it would be very helpful.

 

Although I have a fast Internet connection and, for me at least, it doesn’t make much difference if I download audible.com content in format 3 or 4, I wonder why only format 4 is supported.  My mobile phone accepts all four formats in its version of audible player and I would expect that this can happen on the Vic with a reasonable amount of effort.

 

This might be an RTFM as it might already exist but I haven’t bumped into it yet but at the Vic starts up, I can tell by the little tone that it turned on and do not need to hear that I am welcome to a device I already own, I don’t need to know each time that one user key has been processed and I don’t need to be reminded of which book I had been reading (although the title is the least annoying of the start up jabbering).  It should be possible to add a verbosity setting that silences all of this and just plays the little tune to announce that, indeed, I managed to figure out how to turn on this device.

 

Repeating myself once again, I feel strongly that the Vic is the coolest product for the blindness market niche in many years.  I believe Humanware has tossed down the price/performance gauntlet and has put a truly terrific device in the hands of we users that does exactly what it promises.  I cannot recall another device in our niche that has as few bugs or other defects nor one that has brought me so much pleasure in such a short amount of time.  My suggestions are provided in the hope that the people at Humanware will make an excellent product even better and I hope they can get some of these and ideas from other consumers into future updates.

 

-- End

5 Comments:

Blogger Jeff Bishop said...

1. USB performance is being improoved and will be in the next firmware release.

2. Audible 3 and 4 would require more licensing cost as I understand it (but I am not a Humanware employee).

3. Remove the MLS key file. Once loaded it will be in flash memory and doesn't need to be processed each time. That would get rid of the user key processed message.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Mia said...

I'd like to see better battery charge level indication, including while it's charging. High, medium, low, very low doesn't tell me very much, and I have no way of guessing how much longer I need to leave the puppy on the charger at any given time.
Actually, a quick way of checking battery status besides having to scroll through all the info would be good.

Otherwise, I'm pretty happy with it, though I think your suggestions are good ones.

3:00 PM  
Blogger T.Reid said...

Ah! You refer to your Victor Reader Stream as Vic, I refer to mine as My Sweet Vicky.

Either way, the ability to use a bluetooth headset would be pretty nice.

BTW - I enjoy the blog.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Toonhead said...

I think the Stream, or Vic as he's called here is just about the best blindness related peace of technology I've seen in a great while! Yes, remove the file with the K X O extention from your sd card and you won't hear that it's being processed every single time.
I'm having an interesting issue with regard to charging the battery. It reports the status of the battery ok, but when I plug it in to charge it, it only charges for a while and then for whatever reason, stops charging and the only way to get it going again is to unplug the stream from the power supply and then plug it in again. I know this is happening because I have *just* enough usable vision to tell wether the green LED light is blinking or not.
As for features I'd like to see, I think it would be cool if the stream remembered which setting you had on before, for example if you're someone who likes to change the volume a lot, but you don't change the speed or the tone, it should remember what setting you used last, so you wouldn't have to toggle through speed, tone, and volume to change it again.
Search feature? Interesting idea but it might be kind of tough to implement, they would probably have to put that in a major firmware update. Re Audible books, i thinkit would make a lot more sense if all the audible books went into $VRAudibleBooks instead of $VROtherBooks, because if someone's looking for audible books to listen to then naturally they're going to put all their audible books in there. The folder is just use for an authorization file, but it might make more sense to the new user. But yeah I can't wait for the next update. More fun for the stream!

9:48 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

I don't own one of these fabulous machines. However, I think that the idea of easier charging status reporting is a good one. I also enjoy the blog.

1:49 AM  

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