February update

looking forward to becoming a backup mentor, the training weekend should be fun

still waiting on a date for my kidney stone operation, hopefully fairly soon, don’t want to interfere with the stag do  (and the wedding :->).

Working on making sure the off-road wheelchair is perfect before delivery, in my experience wheelchair after sales service is often a contentious issue, best to get it right before delivery.

Lots of live music queued up, Mr scruff this weekend, King Charles, Lianne L’Havas , two door Cinema club and Metronomy and Laurent Garnier including others coming up.

What a great film the Rum diary is, Johnny Depp doing what he loves best, playing his Hunter S Thompson-esque character.

Very excited about wedding stuff although not enjoying the chores involved!

Working with voice recognition: Alternative PDF Reader

Using Mu PDF

MuPDF is a more keyboard friendly PDF reader than Adobe Acrobat reader.
The Adobe product is more flash/air based and therefore doesn’t respond as easily to keyboard control. It is geared towards point-and-click type usage and the voice recognition “say what you see” paradigm doesn’t work quite so well.
Very simple program which doesn’t seem to crash or have unexpected results, exactly what you need when trying to control with voice recognition.
</> Do page up/down 10 pages, very useful for quickly browsing through documents. can use m/t as in vim for Mark/trace back to previous mark, can also use a list of 10 marks e.g. m[0-9]/t[0-9].

One less frustrating program to deal with.

Hands-free Software Development, Pt I

I thought I would write a little bit about the way in which I develop software. I will try to explain the combinations of tools and the rationale behind the decisions. I will also note my opinions based on the experiences I have had. If anyone has anything specific they would like explained/elaborated upon please post a comment or e-mail whizz2000 at Hotmail dot com.

I rely completely on hands-free solutions, my main tool has been Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I use the most up-to-date version if I can because any performance improvement results in a significant time saving. I do not use the Dragon professional version, to create scripts like you can in the professional version, I use “NatLink” by Joel Gould I think. NatLink is a Python-based scripting extension that can be used to interact with Dragon.

I use Dragon as an input method in a variety of ways. The highest level (most powerful least flexible) being scripted commands for example “search Google for voice recognition” or a NatLink macro command “insert address one”. Obviously dictation is a very powerful feature of Dragon and the autopunctuation (which I usually turn off) can be useful for some people, I find dictation very accurate with Dragon 11.5 (as of writing).
The next level of input is using the “spell …” syntax, which allows you to spell out letters in quick succession. This is very useful when spelling words not in your Dragon vocabulary. Unfortunately with newer versions of Windows and browser-based text input this is not always possible. For example when using the start bar desktop search function in Windows 7, issuing the spell command changes focus out of the desktop search text field. A workaround for this is to “switch to spell mode” and then spell out the word. When using Firefox, if you use a custom chrome file you can remove the orange button in the top left which always opens when issuing a spell command. Even then the spell command can also take you back to the first tab, I’m sure there is another workaround using a chrome file but I haven’t had time to find it yet. You can again use “spell mode” or only a single tab per Firefox window. I always use phonetics when producing characters as it reduces ambiguity, increases accuracy and speed of recognition. It takes a while to learn them but I have found it worthwhile in the long run.
The next level of input is the “press …” command with which you can only issue single or combination keyboard presses (and mouse-keyboard combinations as of Dragon 11). This can be useful when the spell command will not work for some reason. I do a lot of work across different terminal types etc and for example using virtual machines or Remote Desktop/vnc sometimes the Dragon builtins don’t work.
The mouse grid input can be learnt from the Dragon documentation and is fairly intuitive. Learning to use this quickly is a great help but requires you to visualise coordinates in advance of uttering them. The Mac version does not allow you to issue multiple coordinates at once and therefore is unusable for me.

Next time, autohotkeys, putty and NatLink

Touchscreen with mouth stick or voice recognition, that is the question

Having seen the quality of the iPad 2 screen (very responsive), and the availability of the Dragon dictation application, I’m now looking to see if I can acquire one and a stand to use a mouth stick for various tasks. Time will tell whether this is as efficient as voice recognition. It’s likely that it will be more efficient for various tasks but not universally. Now to try to find the cash for one…

Disability benefits

regarding the increased negative attitude towards people claiming disability benefits due to the government increased attention on benefit fraud.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/06/negative-attitudes-disability


Dear Jessica,

My name is Tom Nabarro, I am a software engineer working in telecommunication. My number is provided below. I am physically disabled through a spinal injury four years ago and have completely lost the use of muscles below my shoulders (including my arms). I don’t receive many income assessed disability benefits because of my employment status.

In response to the allegation of increased levels of abuse and hostile behaviour towards disabled people as a result of the government interest in tackling benefit fraud, I don’t usually receive noticeable hostile attention and have not personally experienced any increase. I believe that it is an increasing problem for a significant number of other disabled people. Those who have non-transparent disabilities including those whose disabilities are not necessary to do with mobility are likely to be most affected.

It’s a very common occurrence for an ignorant onlooker (the vast majority of us are ignorant with respect to details of any more than one specific disability) to assume that because they can’t see the disability, support to counteract the effects of the disability is not warranted. Obviously the role of making such decisions should be left to the relevant authority with knowledge of the specific disability.

The occurrences of disability benefit fraud are a persistent worry, it is important for the government to tackle these problems but attention also needs to be paid not to disturb the quality of living of disabled people who are valid recipients of disability benefit. This can be achieved by increasing public awareness of the subtleties of disability and continue to actively protecting the human rights of disabled people.

An issue that does affect me and is a direct result of increased vigilance against benefits fraud is the tightening of financial support for disabled people who are in employment. ‘Access to work’ is an invaluable government initiative to assist with disability related costs of employment and encourage the employment of disabled persons. Recently I’ve noticed increased reluctance to cover what I see as disability related expenses, this is illustrated by the removal of items that access to work will cover, for example ‘laptops and accessories’. As my ability to work relies on specialist IT equipment, this is not particularly helpful. Another result of this tightening is an increase in time and resource required to make a successful application, which puts off most people from the start.

Best regards


Stag party

Having fun helping Raj arrange my stag do, planning to go to Ibiza for 10 days in June. Really excited, I don’t get to listen to enough dance music these days. If you think you should be invited but haven’t been, get in touch!

Sent an interesting mail to the care commission to try to get special authorisation to privately employ a familiar male carer for this trip:

If this exception could be made solely for this short period it would make my life much easier. As you can appreciate it’s important to have someone familiar and reliable (and male) to look out for me when being abused by drunken degenerates (my friends).”

I’m looking forward to the response!

Waiting for the final touches to the off-road wheelchair.

Enjoyed scuba-diving in a pool last week, no fishes but a few nice legs!