Article: The ACB Braille Forum, February 2016, Part 1: A Plethora of Possibilities

American Council of the Blind
February Braille Forum

The Things I Do Today
Part 1: A Plethora of Possibilities
by Paul Edwards
As I write this article, I have a baseball game on in the background. I am currently using satellite radio to listen to it. Essentially, this means Sirius XM radio. It offers me a range of listening options that, for the most part, did not exist 15 years ago. My subscription allows me to listen to every major league baseball, football, basketball or hockey game. I can listen to the Cable News Network, MSNBC, Fox News, the BBC World Service, three public radio channels, 80 or 90 music channels and much, much more!

I have over 200 Internet radio stations loaded on my Victor Reader Stream, second edition. I have several programs on my iPhone that allow me to choose from among thousands of listening options. I am currently downloading 15 or so podcasts automatically to my Stream or my phone, and get dozens of newspapers through NFB-Newsline both on my phone and on my Stream just as painlessly.

Put simply, I can now get more information every day than I can possibly use, and it has revolutionized some of the ways I spend my time. I am going to use the next few articles to provide more information about some of the things I have talked about so that more of you may have the same problem I have. I have so many options in terms of what I can listen to that I couldn’t possibly access nearly all that I have, even if I worked at it 24 hours a day.

I read books using Bookshare, BARD, Kindle, Audible, Librivox, and Ibooks, to name some of the sources I use. I have probably 25 accessible games on my phone. I have four or five GPS programs, a few scanning programs, a couple of money identifiers, a few calendars, a light detector and a whole host of other applications that I can use whenever I choose.

Does this seem like information overkill? Perhaps it does to some! For me, instead, it represents diversity and choice. Oh, and did I mention that I have almost 5,000 songs on my phone and several music-playing programs?

The truth is, oh best beloved reader, I can choose to read in braille, using high-quality speech synthesis through Voice Dream or listen to human readers. I am writing this article using a notetaker, and my notetaker allows me to access Facebook, Twitter, play music, listen to radio stations, download podcasts, and on and on and on. I probably spend more time with all these toys than most people do because I can! I’m retired now and I never slept much anyway. But, even though you don’t have to be a constantly connected nerd like I am, you should be able to know what’s out there, and ought to know how to do the things I do.

I don’t have to depend on American news sources. I can get my news, and do, from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and a whole range of other countries that make online information available in English. When I was growing up, I did some of the same things using shortwave radio. However, reception was iffy and sunspots would often make reception questionable. While stations occasionally go silent for a few seconds, for the most part, everything I listen to is crystal clear. The quality of the books I receive is essentially “publisher” good!

So, stay tuned over the next few issues for articles about podcasts, Internet radio, satellite radio, Voice Dream, and other stuff too! But don’t blame me if you get less sleep and can’t turn the stuff off. It is addictive to have access to the world, and I don’t want to kick the habit!

I do not consider myself an expert on any of the subjects I am going to be writing about. I hope that one of the things that will happen is that what I write will prompt others who know more than I do to write about their experiences and their approaches. I will be telling you about the way I deal with things and will provide my understanding of how things work. I have not been a real technology guru since DOS went away, which is a very long time ago.

The other issue I will deal with, to a degree, concerns platforms. My next article will be about satellite radio, so the problem will only arise to a minimal extent. For other articles, there are more devices than you can shake a stick at that can do what I will be talking about. I will try to provide some information about which they are, and talk a little about how each works. I do not intend to provide detailed instructions for most things, but I hope that the advice I give will help folks be more prepared to take the plunge! Devices change too, and so do applications. I will be writing about the current versions of both software and hardware. I will tell you what I use, but inevitably there will be changes that will invalidate some of what I will say. That is the way life is in today’s ever-changing digital world, and I have no intention of going back and correcting outdated details.

So, now I have another thing to do with my day! I get immense fun out of what I do! I want more of you to try some of the things I like doing. Let me know what you like and don’t like! If I am making people mad or frustrated, I need to know it. I may not be too old to change!

So come with me! Let me tell you what I know and what I think and what is good and what is bad about the things I do today!