Saturday, November 29, 2008

Shooting Skeet

My brother called earlier today and asked if I wanted to go skeet shooting with him next weekend. Last time I went hunting with my brother I was probably 14 years old (he would have been 17) and fairly confident he wasn't excited that I was going along. Now, I don't spend a lot of time with my older brother and I do like a challenge, so I'm thinking, what the hell, I'll give it a try.

Not knowing what to expect I did a quick Google search for "quadriplegic shooting skeet" and I found the following movie.


You might be asking yourself, "What does skeet shooting have to do with technology?" I concede that you are right in thinking that the intention of my column and its focus on technology is a little different than the broader definition provided in Wikipedia that states, "Technology is a broad concept that deals with a species' usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects a species' ability to control and adapt to its environment." So you see, the technology featured in the movie above is merely a primitive adaptation. Let also me remind the reader that this blog is additionally about living with a mobility impairment, with the emphasis on "living;" and in life it's all about experience. I'll work on getting some pictures on what we come up with.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New e-Ink Reader: coming soon

As a person living with quadriplegia I loathe reading the morning paper. I begin with a headline and maybe one paragraph, my interest is now captured, and before you know it the editor forces me to continue the article in another section, on another page, and then find the right column in order to continue reading. And all the while, I struggle to manage an unwieldy and awkwardly sized, flimsy and dirty bunch of paper; I hate it! To address my issues with the medium of newspaper, I have been searching for the right solution by following the development and marketing of e-Ink readers, mainly the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, and iRex iLiad e-Reader. I was excited the other day to read that more competition is on the horizon, though this newcomer promises to focus on a different niche--the needs of the business reader.
The Plastic Logic reader supports a full range of business document formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and Adobe PDFs, as well as newspapers, periodicals and books. It has an easy gesture-based user interface and powerful software tools that will help business users to organize and manage their information. Users can connect to their information either wired or wirelessly and store thousands of documents on the device. The reader incorporates E Ink technology for great readability and features low power consumption and long battery life. The Plastic Logic reader is scheduled to ship in the first half of 2009.
I'll continue to follow developments in the e-Ink/eReader market and report back here and in my column in PN Magazine. And when I finally get my hands on the different options, I'll let you know what I think. Until then, here is a video with a close-up look at the newest guy on the block...enjoy!


Saturday, September 13, 2008

“Democratization” of technology: Will it happen?

This political season we are hearing so much about change. I recently wrote, that I am ready to help usher in a new era—the “democratization” of technology. I use the term “democratization,” referencing Daniel Boorstin’s work, The Americans: The Democratic Experience, where Boorstin describes democracy as elevated beyond its definition as a form of government to a filter in which nearly every aspect of modern life was reshaped.

Here's an article that describes new uses of inexpensive "SmartHome" technology leading to a day when we don't actively engage the computer, but passively live with it to improve our lives.

SmartHome uses sensors on home walls, floors, and furniture that connects to a computer. It does not require people to wear monitors or buttons. The sensors send alert signals of falls, medication reminders, and even early disease detections, like arthritis, back to a centralized computer.

Developers said the sensors are affordable and easy to install. They haven’t set specific prices yet to fully install a home, but did say the technology uses sensors priced around $80.

Wow, what times we live in. Read the full article.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Christopher Reeve: Hope in Motion

Living life with a disability isn't an easy thing. For some, it is difficult to talk about, to share the intimate details, the frustrations, and the challenges. I am adding this film to my blog in hopes that it can speak for those that struggle to tell their story and find their own voice.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Choosing a Laptop: accessorizing

My next article for the Computer Corner in PN Magazine, due out July 1, focuses on choosing a laptop. In the piece I promised to share photos and information on my blog about the accessories I have chosen to make me 1) comfortable, 2) productive, 3) mobile, and nearly totally 4) independent. I start with a few photos and then I'll describe each attribute and the products that support it.

Comfortable

If your are someone like me who has used a wheelchair for very long you sometimes end-up feeling like a shopping cart; everything lands on your lap. If it happens to frequently be a laptop computer you can find yourself lugging a heavy, fragile, and often hot piece of equipment. Solution: the ADA Lap, a universal system that simply slides under your wheelchair cushion. I like the product so much I decided to make them available here on my blog. The ADA Lap lifts off your lap the hot, heavy, and awkward objects you encounter throughout the course of daily life.

Productive
For me productivity equates to connectivity. Around the house and in most work environments connecting to the World Wide Web is easily achieved via a wireless router (803.11b/g). I travel frequently though and find myself in meetings and lodging where either the network is closed to guests or requires payment. Solution: a Sprint Wireless Connection Data Card and services account. You'll need to size-up your computer and which solution works best for you, Sprint is not the only provider offering data cards and services, but I've been extremely happy with the USB style card and Sprint's network availability. This is not an inexpensive undertaking, but figuring that staying just three nights in a hotel and paying for an Internet connection can equal the cost of monthly service, not to mention the hours of vehicle travel that can now serve as work time, its a solution I find pays off.

Mobile
Connectivity isn't everything when it comes to working a full day online. Even just browsing the web and emailing, two rather simple tasks that do not require a lot of processing power, can drain a laptop battery in roughly 2.5 hours. Solution: a long-life external battery from Battery Geek. This too is not an inexpensive solution at $299; however, my choice of units extends my unconnected (to AC power) usage from 2.5 to over 8 hours and comes with a case that allows the unit to hang neatly behind my chair back. I found their staff very knowledgeable and responsive to my questions; check them out on the web at: www.batterygeek.net.

Independent
This attribute isn't easily linked to one part of the system but represents to collective benefits of all the parts. That said, there's on accessory I haven't profiled yet that both supports firmly and allows independent adjustment of a laptop. Solution: the Targus Podium CoolPad which raises the back edge of your notebook to increase airflow, improving the cooling efficiency of your laptop. It also allows for a 360-degree rotation of your computer, making it ideal for small presentations, while the six small rubber pads on the bottom provide a tight grip, ideal for wheelchair travelers. And finally, this is an inexpensive part of the system at under $20; shop for them on the web at: http://www.google.com/products?hl=en&q=Podium+CoolPad&scoring=p.

All in all I've been very happy with my choice of accessories. When I purchased the ADA Lap Base, I ordered an extra piece of Velcro Hook to secure the CoolPad.

If you buy it here, see below, note that it will come with the Base Unit and 4"Velcro Hook for $195 (+ 7.25% sales tax if you're from CA); a savings of $21 over MSRP with S&H. Additionally, I'll donate $5 of each purchase to the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

ADA Lap Base & 4" Velcro Hook (Shipping Included) $195

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Technology Changing Human Performance

Technology empowers me. As someone who's lived through the initial trauma of a spinal cord injury at age twenty, I'm certain had I lived a century ago I would never survived the first few days, let alone lived a full and productive life for twenty-nine additional years and still be going strong. Servomechanisms and PCs allow me to drive independently; I connect remotely to work via a laptop and data and telecommunication networks; and this past January I received a chair outfitted with gyros and three computers that enables me to once again communicate eye-to-eye with another standing adult. Wow how my life has changed!

Oscar Pistorius has a feel-good story too. He runs very fast, so fast he may compete in the Olympics; but on carbon fiber legs.
He has overcome unusual limitations as a disabled athlete. But his bid for the Olympics with artificial legs also raises fresh questions about what it means to be human.
Having not formed an opinion yet I am conflicted. On one hand I think, "You go Oscar!" On the other, I question whether the technology that empowers him makes for fair competition. I rest in the fact I don't have to decide. I urge you to read the full article and decide.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Independence...

"bold, italicized, underlined and Capitalized." Those are Todd Stabelfeldt's remarkable words. I don't know Todd, but I certainly respect and appreciate his drive, ambition, and example. How many times have I heard from someone, "I am sorry," when they first learn that I use a wheelchair to navigate life. Often, my first response is, "Don't be sorry, I lead a very full and wonderful life." Society too often treats those living with a disability as persons who deserve/need pity; far from it. If you doubt what I say, pay closer attention to the language used to describe persons living with a disability. "He is confined to a wheelchair." "She suffers from paralysis." "They overcome their disabilities."

Okay, off the soapbox! Take time to read Todd Stabelfeldt's story. Be inspired. Use technology to make yourself more independent.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Robots here we come!

Okay, space exploration and going to the moon gave us Tang (the orange juice substitute that I never liked, but my mom always bought), but now I am reading that defense research is slated to help the disabled? I guess that makes sense; however, maybe if the human race decided that wars were not a smart answer to our conflicts, we'd have a lot fewer persons forced to live life with missing limbs, body parts and function. That aside, back to the focus of my entry today.

It seems the Japanese will will now begin budgeting for research on using defense technologies to solve problems of persons living with a disability.
Among devices envisioned by the ministry is a device for helping people with weakened muscles walk by making use of the application of robot-related technology, sources told The Yomiuri Shimbun.
Wow, what times we live in. Read the full article.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Standards Aid Accessibility Features of OS

In my professional experience, attention to providing accessible technology solutions is an imperative. Scanning my regular news feeds I just learned the Microsoft has taken a major step forward helping the disabled community by opening up its,
"usability specifications, the User Interface Automation (UIA), to the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA), a group formed to develop standards for making user interfaces more accessible to people with disabilities."
This is great news and will assist all software developers to better address the needs of those living with a disability of most any type.

Read the full article.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sample Podcast: The Power of Voice

An audio version of my January 2008 column in PN Magazine on podcasts; essentially it is me reading the article. It gives you an example of how Weblinks, images, music, and sound effects can be included in a podcast episode. I produced it on a MacBook Pro with Apple’s GarageBand software and a Plantronics headset.


The episode is best experienced in iTunes. Download the episode to iTunes now.

To get iTunes free for PC or Mac, visit: http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/

Happy New Year, 2008