I feel like writing. Why? Who knows. I never thought that I would be particularly interested in sharing my thoughts, especially in my boring written English, but… Things change, I suppose. As it seems, my underdeveloped imagination is unable to come up with another interesting post. This is why I have decided that I will try to write up small status updates where I will try to talk about any interesting bits of information/software/meow I happen to come across and may be interesting to other people.
By the way, YES. MEOW. If you have a problem with my choice of a polyvalent term, feel free to contact me and I will do everything I can to ignore you. Thank you.
Royally wasting time with fellow peers: The Jackbox Party Pack
About a week ago, my friend Pitermach randomly decided it would be a good idea to purchase The Jackbox Party Pack on Steam. This collection of 5 games is the first in a series of (currently) 4 packs filled with fully voiced humorous games, with styles ranging from general trivia to finding the truth within a list of lies that your peers whip up. The multiplayer aspect is similar to something like Kahoot!: the host computer runs the game, displays the graphics and plays the audio, while players connect to it through Jackbox.TV, which lets them act as controllers. The host app is written using Adobe Air, which makes it somewhat usable (it displays a web view in which you can usually read the text that is being displayed on the screen). This is by far not ideal, but it is more than you got in their previous games. Party Pack 3 (and possibly 4) also displays a web view, but it is blank. You can usually use OCR to get around this. The Jackbox.TV UI is accessible in the games we can play. In the cases where the buttons don’t have labels, their functions are obvious enough (for example, You Don’t Know Jack has 4 unlabelled buttons for the 4 answers and a fifth “Screw Button”).
Remember that, since the games are made to be played on a big screen or a Twitch stream, the audio is ONLY played on the host computer. If you plan to play with your online buddies, the host will have to stream their audio to all the players in realtime.
If there is enough interest, I will write a post about these games, accessibility tips for each one, and possible improvements for them. If you have played these, or you do play them after reading this post, please make sure to write to Jackbox Games and tell them about what could be improved. The more messages we write, and the more specific and well thought out the messages are, the more of a chance we have of the situation getting better. Thank you!
Reaffirming myself on the fact that Spanish is weird: T and Translate-Shell
As a mac user without the option of spending $20, I do not yet have an app capable of posting 280-character tweets (I still cannot believe this). I got tired of it, so I made myself a quick shell script to post to my account using T. Yes, T. Simple as that. T is a Ruby gem designed for quick interaction with the Twitter API through an easy-to-use command-line interface. It requires you to register a new app on Twitter, which is not hard at all. Viewing tweets might not be convenient, but it’s a way to get around the posting issue.
Of course, my first thought after writing the script was the potential for tweet automation. And suddenly I remembered Translate-Shell, a command line application for those of us who can be more comfortable in a terminal window than a web browser. Translate-Shell provides a complete and very customizable console interface to a few translation engines, such as Google or Yandex.
By combining T and Translate-Shell, I was able to create a script that would take input in Spanish, post a tweet to my Spanish account, translate it using Google, and post the result to my English account, adding a hashtag. While this may not give perfectly accurate results, it can be somewhat amusing, especially since I tend to use somewhat informal Castilian Spanish. If you speak two languages, and you are extremely bored, well, this could be something to do. If you don’t, you now know about two great CLI apps to enhance your terminal.
- mac users: Translate-Shell is available on Homebrew. If you don’t know what Homebrew is, shame on you. 😛
The frustrations of an international blind prospective student of an American university
I am currently working on applying to the Indiana university Jacob’s School of Music, as well as the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance. The application for IU was fairly simple, the ApplyIU website is very well marked up and completely accessible. UM, on the other hand, makes you use the Common Application, which is a bit of a pain to navigate. For example, popup buttons/combo boxes are basically a link that opens up a list with all the choices and a small search box. If you attempt to click on an item without anything in the search field, nothing happens. Even if the combo box has two items, you must type something in the search field for it to let you make a choice. After you do, there is no telling where your cursor will end up. As a website that many college students will most likely use, I find this quite unacceptable. Nonetheless, I completed my applications and turned them in. But that was not all.
Spanish students do not usually take the SAT. It is not required or even offered here unless it is needed by students planning to study in the states. The College Board offers online registration for those that do want to take it, though, so scheduling a test is not a huge issue. Unless, of course, you need accommodations for your test, in which case you literally have to give them your home address so they can mail you a paper-based form that you have to fill in to make sure you are applicable for accommodations. Honestly, nothing more needs to be said.
As English is not my first language, I am required to take the TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language). This test is pretty standard, so I wasn’t expecting to have many issues. Unfortunately, I am not enrolled in any language learning schools, which means I had to do everything on my own. Yet again, regular students can quickly complete a web form and schedule a test. But what if you have a disability? In this case, you need to print out two forms (one of which is about 25 pages long), complete them, scan them and send them to ETS for verification. They take up to 6 weeks to greenlight the requests, not counting the time it takes to schedule the test.
I do not have confirmation from either ETS or the College Board yet, and I am extremely scared of not being eligible for admission into either university because of this extremely inefficient and tedious process.
The latest addition to my vintage assistive technology collection
Those who know me well will surely be aware of my interests in vintage technology for the blind. I have collected a fair number of devices in the last few years and will soon be starting an online repository of resources regarding this technology.
A few weeks ago, I posted on Blind-BST asking for a BookPort classic. Not even 24 hours later I had received a very tempting offer from a user of this list. A couple weeks later, I became the proud owner of a BookPort, running software version 2.4.
Some of you will know that, even though I know that the devices I obtain are quite old, I still try to find a use for them. In this case, this wasn’t hard. I carry my BookPort with me most of the time and use it every day to read books on the subway. I find the DoubleTalk speech quite pleasant to listen to, and it is interesting to me to see how people read books in the past. While I do have better and more modern solutions for reading, there is a certain feeling that comes with reading your favorite books with a device that has existed for about 15 years and is still able to sound pretty decent.
Those of you who owned a BookPort will know how much of a pain it was to transfer files back and forth, since it had its own strange format made up of two files per book (a ._DD and a ._IX). BookPort Transfer no longer works on Windows 10, but there is a utility by the name of UBT which lets you transfer books from Unix computers. It no longer compiles on newer hardware, but Tyler Spivey has helpfully made a couple modifications that make it work on Mac OS (tested under 10.12 Sierra). I wrote a shell script and a bunch of hammerspoon functions which automate the entire process of transferring books to a BookPort straight from ePub files with minimal effort. If you are interested in any of these, feel free to contact me.
Thank you so much for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends and let me know. I will keep writing these updates as I think of more things that may be interesting to others.