Raised Dot Computing Newsletter Exploring Microcomputer Applications for the Visually Impaired -- ISSN 0890-0019. [Never mailed]; -- Volume 12, Number 102.

[This is the draft of the next Newsletter when the Raised Dot Computing Newsletter was canceled. This distribution of this edition is the first time this copy has been seen outside of a few staff members of Raised Dot Computing.]

Electronic Access Changes

Our new fax number is 608-257-4143. Our new E-mail address is [email protected]. Our physical address remains the same at 408 South Baldwin Street, Madison WI 53703.

From The Editor

This may be the last issue of the Raised Dot Computing Newsletter. Over the last two years, the job of writing and supporting MegaDots has been so taxing that we have been able to produce only a few issues.

We hope to replace the Newsletter with a new publication. One plan is to create a "MegaDots User's Newsletter" as a disk only publication. Your suggestions and input are most welcome.

The Raised Dot Computing Newsletter was started in February, 1982 at a time when there were few information resources on computer technology for the blind. Flipping back through old issues, I am impressed at the range of issues that we presented to our readers. We predicted the advent of the CD-ROM before CD-ROM was introduced. We talked about the significance of SGML and structured markup for the production of braille long before the International Commission on Accessible Document Design (ICADD) formalized this discussion.

Despite the accomplishments of the Newsletter, we must face the fact that we are totally unable to produce the Newsletter in the old format in anything resembling a schedule. So we have to work out something new. We welcome your suggestions and ideas. We have to look to the future, not the past. Our future lies in finding better ways to aggressively support our MegaDots customers. Thank you for your understanding.

MegaDots Status Report

We mailed MegaDots version 1.4 to all known customers in November, 1994. If you have not received your version 1.4 update, please contact us. If you have not installed version 1.4, please do so.

We planned version 1.4 to be the "final free update". The idea was to pack MegaDots with so many features and goodies, that no one would dream of accusing us of not providing value for their money.

We are paranoid about quality. We mailed out beta (testing) copies of MegaDots 1.4 to about 75 customers. We figured that if our beta testers were happy, then the rest of our customers would be happy.

We were wrong. MegaDots 1.4 had enough technical glitches to keep our technical helpline fairly busy. We are still not sure what went wrong. We know there were some "isolated reports" of problems that David ignored when we should have paid more attention. We think that many beta testers ignored the beta test software. Once again, we need to figure out ways to maintain our quality control. And we are not alone in this. If Intel can stumble with the Pentium chip, and Disney can stumble with the Lion King CD-ROM, we don't feel so bad.

One element in the stew is that MegaDots 1.4 wants to be installed in the "Enhanced Edition". The Enhanced Edition uses a DOS Extender to make use of vast amounts of RAM memory. The DOS Extender is very fussy about how the CONFIG.SYS file is written. If the CONFIG.SYS file (which directs DOS on how to structure RAM memory) is not modified correctly, MegaDots crashes all over the place.

In the past, customers with memory problems just installed the Regular Edition. This is unsatisfactory since the Regular Edition only lets you work with small files. There are some features which simply do not work on the Regular Edition. Unless your computer has only 1 megabyte of RAM, MegaDots 1.4 automatically installs itself in the Enhanced Edition.

So our tech line has been busy. Much of this time has been spent telling customers how to modify their CONFIG.SYS file with the DOS EDIT program. Now we now have a better solution. We have just finished writing a program called RECONFIG that fixes up CONFIG.SYS files for you. See separate article on RECONFIG.

Technology Introduction: MegaDots Version 1.4

Since we didn't produce a Newsletter in latter 1994, we missed the opportunity to formally launch version 1.4 with the appropriate fanfare. Better late than never.

Raised Dot Computing is proud to announce MegaDots 1.4. We started shipping the new program in November, 1994.

Improved Access

If there is a word that sums up version 1.4 it is access. MegaDots 1.4 provides a far wider range of access tools to fit your needs.

MegaDots now has its own large print program built-in. By requesting large print, you get characters that are twice as tall and twice as wide as standard characters on the screen. MegaDots fits everything into the enlarged screen so no panning or control is required. This makes MegaDots a convenient large print word processor.

Since many large print programs are in the 500 dollar range, this could be a significant savings.

Depending on the capabilities of your screen access program, you can easily combine speech and large print. Many people with low vision prefer a combination of large print and voice.

If you use your own screen enlargement program for access to the PC, you'll appreciate MegaDots' improved compatibility with these programs. When MegaDots works with these programs, such as ZoomText, LP-DOS, and Lyon software, it fits everything on the enlarged screen.

That's not all. MegaDots now works smoothly with refreshable braille access devices, including Braille Power, Navigator, Alva, and the David computer. The width of the screen is the size of your braille display. The prompts and help screens come out in grade two braille. You can enter MegaDots menu choices in either grade one or grade two braille.

Using these different functions isn't any easier if it is still too tricky to set up the program. MegaDots has an improved, simpler way of initially configuring for voice, braille or large print access. It is thoroughly described in the README.TXT file, the Command Summary (formerly called the REference Card), and the documentation.

There are some new editing commands, Alt-C and Alt-K for Append Copy and Append Kut. The "append" means append to the clipboard. Now you can add several items to the clipboard, just as you can with BEX.

Alt-E now toggles on and off a "go everywhere mode". When it is on, the cursor is allowed to fall on every line of the document, such as page breaks and blank lines between paragraphs that you would not normally edit. Use of the "go everywhere mode" allows a blind user to better appreciate the layout of a document from the Editor.

Better Documentation

MegaDots 1.4 gives you instant access to information. From anywhere in MegaDots, press F12 to access the entire Reference Manual on-line. Press F11 to get a complete Help Index. From the MegaDots Editor, press F10 H I to get the MegaDots Interface Guide, or F10 H N to get access to a large database on Nemeth Code for Braille Mathematics. These on line documents provide "incremental search" to help you find things quickly. As you begin typing the name of the topic you want, For example, to learn about Spanish translation, get into the Reference Manual with F12, and then type SPAN <Enter>.

The content of the documentation has been improved as well. All the elements of the documentation have been revised and improved. If you are familiar with previous editions of MegaDots you will notice the difference.

Another form of access is getting the documentation in an appropriate form. There is now a much simpler way to produce MegaDots documentation in print, braille or on disk. Just type MEGAMAN <Enter> from the DOS Command Line. You get a nice menu system that guides you into making exactly what you want. Pick through a list of documents and a list of output formats.

Better Brailling Features

MegaDots does an even better job of formatting for interpoint. MegaDots now places a blank page after the title page and puts the table of contents and the first page of the main body on an odd page for interpoint.

MegaDots can now import files designed for producing brailler graphics and integrate them into a MegaDots file. In interpoint, MegaDots keeps the back side of graphics pages blank.

There are two new choices in the Braille Page Menu. "Gap For Graphics" leaves some of the page open for graphics and "Right Hand New Page" forces an odd page on interpoint printers.

MegaDots has a whole new, significantly faster translation module. Translating War and Peace on a 33 MHz 486 machine now takes 25 seconds instead of 80. It takes about 12 seconds on a faster PC (75 Mhz 486 or 90 Mhz Pentium).

There is a new translation mode designed to assist someone producing a book in Nemeth code (but it is not a full Nemeth translator). Numbers and punctuation are done in the Nemeth style. The system is smart enough to revert to standard translation for title pages and for the page numbers.

Reverse CBC allows better translation of computer program listings into Computer Braille Code when the inkprint text is mostly in upper case. This feature relieves the reader from an over-abundance of capital signs in the braille.

Version 1.4 is Serialized

Starting with version 1.4, MegaDots will be serialized. Each copy comes embedded with your name and serial number. This helps us track our customers better. Each time you start MegaDots, you will see or hear your name and serial number.

New RECONFIG Program fixes CONFIG.SYS file

You just type RECONFIG at the DOS Command line, and answer a few simple Yes/No questions (like "Do you want to Continue?"). If you run the program a second time, you have an opportunity to restore the changes. We hope that the distribution of RECONFIG will free up our technical line. If you need a copy, give us a call. Our number is 608-257-8833. Or drop us a fax with your address to 608-257-4143.

Project Big Ben Gets Rolling

Since November, Raised Dot Computing has been working on the next version of MegaDots beyond version 1.4. We have been calling this version "Project Big Ben". We want to avoid committing ourselves to a new version number before we are ready. Here are some of the significant features of the new version:

Transcriber Training Manual Available

Marcia Leibowitz of Jacksonville, Florida has written a Training Manual for MegaDots designed for braille transcribers. It is available from Raised Dot Computing. This modest length (65 inkprint pages) manual is spiral bound and costs only $25.

The Training Manual for MegaDots joins the training video xxxxx.

MegaDots Disk Consolidation Available

Some of our users have received a large number of MegaDots update disks over the years. The large number of disks is confusing and frustrating if you need to re-install MegaDots. If you want to consolidate your MegaDots program disks, send all your disks plus $10 to Raised Dot Computing. We will supply you with a set of new install disks that reflects our currently shipping software. The $10 is for high density 3.5 inch disks. The charge is $20 for other formats (high density 5.25 or low density 3.5 inch). Please note that we no longer support low density 5.25 inch disks.

Please mail your disk collections to the "department of disk consolidation". Please enclose payment (check, credit card, or purchase order).

Sensory Overload Introduction

For over 10 years, Raised Dot Computing has graciously allowed another company to offer their latest products to the public. That company is Sensory Overload Inc. Usually, we try to allocate space as close to April first as possible. Because of our inexcusable delays, the public has been kept ignorant about the 1994 products from Sensory Overload. Under threat of lawsuit, we print this long delayed article.

Sensory Overload, Inc.: Items From Our Catalog

As always, Sensory Overload uses the facilities of Raised Dot once a year at a time loosely associated with April Fools Day. We welcome this year's creative products from the folks that "do stuff".

Several of our customers who have purchased our braille tombstone embossing software and hardware featured in the previous catalog have grave concerns about changing the braille code. Sensory Overload responds to its customers by proposing and adopting its own Petrified Braille Code. The code is written in stone and cannot be changed.

SO's is expanding its line of orientation and mobility aids thanks to Warren F.:

MegaDots Customer Support: We Want to Be Fair to Everyone

We need to clarify our customer support policy. Too many rumors are starting about what we are doing to blind consumers. Raised Dot Computing does not charge to answer any technical phone calls. Naturally, our technical phone line is limited in availability (we have only one person answering technical calls at a time). During staff meetings and special projects, you are likely to get an answering machine.

Because of the very nature of how we do maintenance programming (i.e. bug fixing) on MegaDots, it is not possible for us to provide instant solutions to every phone call. We are most efficient when we batch things up: 10 formatting bugs or 12 translation features put in at once.

Since we know that we cannot provide instant service to everyone (but we can do it for a limited number) we decided to auction off those slots. Purchasing "premium support" from Raised Dot Computing puts you on the fast track to getting your bugs fixed.

Launching MegaDots from Windows

Many MegaDots users, especially sighted users, want to launch MegaDots from within Windows. It is awkward and unnecessary to write in your favorite Windows word processor, and then have to leave Windows to start up MegaDots. There are actually three different ways to launch MegaDots from within Windows:

The first choice is annoying because of the number of keystrokes. The second choice is annoying because of the vast number of directories and files you have to wade through to locate the one you want. The third choice is the best. Creating your own icon is definitely the most satisfying. You help structure your Windows environment. Just double click on the MegaDots icon, and MegaDots is launched.

Creating a MegaDots Icon

Using the PIF Editor

No matter which way you launch MegaDots from within Windows, it is best if Windows knows how to allocate memory and priority resources to MegaDots. You do this with a Windows option called the PIF (Program Information File) Editor. A tip of the hat to Jim Allan of the Texas School for the Blind for his PIF parameters. Here are the steps:

You just created a PIF file for MegaDots. The PIF file lives in the Windows directory, just where the PIF Editor puts it. In future editions of MegaDots, we will automatically install a MEGA.PIF file in the Windows directory. But for now, this has to be done manually.

Now you should be all set up. MegaDots should run so seemlessly from Windows that you will stop asking us to write "a Windows version of MegaDots". Using MegaDots this way is not a perfect solution. After all, MegaDots does not have access to the Windows print spooler or Windows fonts. But you cannot beat the price. In fifteen minutes time, you can create a "Windows version" of MegaDots without having to open a checkbook or write a purchase order.

Raised Dot Computing Announces Nemeth translator Project

Many MegaDots users are already using our "Baby Nemeth" system which is built into MegaDots 1.4. xxxx Raised Dot Computing is currently working on a Nemeth Code translator for MegaDots. This is a large and elaborate project. We have hired John Boyer of Computers to Help People to write some of the core translation modules.

We want to build a system that can display math equations three ways: as graphical inkprint on the screen, as a verbal sequence ("the square root of x squared plus y squared terminate square root"), or as Nemeth braille. This will allow blind or sighted persons to write, edit, and review the math material before translating into braille.

We are in the process of salvaging what we can from our innovative MathematiX program. This Apple II software

As John's work progresses, Aaron, Caryn and David will be xxxx

Finally: Affordable Braille for Blind Individuals -- Dean Martineau

Tired of paying upwards of ten cents a page for the privilege of acquiring a braille document? Now, thanks to the Washington State Braille Access Center and MegaDots, you may not have to.

The Braille Access Center has two Braille Express embossers, and is mainly in the business of meeting the brailling needs of organizations trying to comply with the ADA. They use MegaDots, and have established a very good price for MegaDots users who format their own documents. It is this: if you send them a MegaDots file to emboss, and all you ask them to do is emboss it (using the MEGA /b /q command), your cost will be eight cents per interpoint sheet, four cents per side of braille. Spiral binding is $1.00 per volume, and plastic covers are also $1.00 per volume.

To put this price into perspective, the best price I ever found for fanfold braille paper was three cents per sheet. With my own embosser, I had to pay the lofty maintenance agreement. I also had to listen to the unit grind out my job, deal with paper jams, and do my own binding and collating. Obviously, there are lots of jobs for which having an embosser on-sight is ideal, but this service provides a low-cost alternative.

I have questioned Colleen Heiden, their Director, quite closely, and there is no limit to what they will emboss under this pricing structure. The key is that they need do no formatting of the document; they'll do that for you too, but the price is much steeper. You should include a file on the disk with shipping and billing info and instructions for what you want (binding, covers, multiple copies, etc.) They prefer to bill you rather than receive payment with order. Turnaround time should be quite short unless they have major projects occupying both embossers, which apparently happens most often in September and October.

You can contact the Washington State Braille Access Center as follows: 2214 E. 13th St., #201, Vancouver, WA 98661-4120; 360-696-6321 x158

Seen At the Conferences

The Myna

The Myna is the first palmtop talking 386 computer. It is a little longer than a Braille 'n Speak. It runs at a respectable 20 Megahertz, has 4 megabytes of RAM and 4 megabytes of ROM. It contains full DECtalk speech and is bundled with IBM Screen Reader. The unit has 2 PCMCIA slots for expansion modules. All for $2000 (until the end of the year, when the price goes up to $2400).

This is definitely a breakthrough product. It weighs only 19 oz. It is only 9.6 by 4.7 by 1.16 inches in size. Compare with the Braille 'n Speak which is 8 by 5 by 1.25 inches.

To be a useful computer, you need a hard disk. You can use one PCMCIA slot for a flash memory card. This functions like a hard disk. A 10 megabyte card costs xxxx. Nex

Processing Publishers Files -- Promises and Pitfalls -- David Holladay

For decades now, there have been calls for using publisher's files to make braille. After all, if computers are used to produce inkprint books, why not use the computer tapes or disks for making braille? While this is being done all the time, it is fairly tricky. There are many different publishing systems, and many different ways of creating "usable computer files".

This article is written with the assumption that someone has mailed you a book on disk and asked you to produce it in braille. So what do you do? It is quite difficult to write a simple guide to working with publisher's files since they present so many different problems.

The Goal: An ASCII file with explicit markup

Before we begin, I should describe what I consider the ideal computer file for books and magazines. The ideal file is a well behaved "ASCII line file" with explicit markup. An ASCII line file uses a return to show the start of paragraphs, but does not have any soft returns. (For example, if a paragraph is 600 characters long, there should be 600 characters between carriage returns).

Explicit markup means that there is easily readable codes (i.e. the codes do not use control or high-bit characters) to indicate format and character attributes. For example, <it> for start italics and </it> for end italics. It is easier to manipulate and change markup when the markup is made up of readable and printable characters. As we will see, the ICADD system of explicit markup is the very best system for markup for a file going into MegaDots.

This article has been quite difficult to write because so much of it is circular. It is hard to describe what we need to do before we describe what we are trying to achieve. It is hard to describe what we are trying to achieve without describing the tools that can be used in these processes. The processes do not make sense unless you have done a few projects yourself.

The best approach to handling your project is to take a representative sample of the text, and take it through the whole process. After you have finished, refine your technique, and do it again. Once you feel you have achieved all the efficiencies possible and you have dealt with all the major "unusual situations" found in your project, then tackle the entire project.

Classifying the File

The first step is to look at the file (or files) to figure out what is there. What kind of file format is it? Is there any explicit markup? If so, what do the various tags mean.

How do I look at the file? I use a simple DOS utility program that lets me look at the raw bytes of the file. This program, LIST.COM, is on the Texas/ICADD Utility disk which is available from Raised Dot Computing.

If you use LIST, press Alt-H to look at the beginning of the file in raw hexadecimal. Straight ASCII files have no control characters (except carriage return, linefeed, and form feed). WordPerfect files start with <255> WPC.

You can use MegaDots to identify a file type. Import a file into MegaDots. Then do a dummy file export (press Control-F4 and give just any old file name). Look at the default file type in the list of choices. That is the file type. This method is not foolproof, but is definitely a help when no one knows anything about a file.

The Best and the Worst: Pure ASCII (No Markup)

A pure ASCII file (i.e. no markup at all) is easy to deal with because there is almost nothing to process. If the file came from a publisher, it is really a shame. It usually means that someone paid good money to throw away the markup which you now have to painfully type back in. Lock the door, fill up the coffee machine, order some pizza, and get to work.

It is my experience that ASCII files are usually poorly formatted as well. You cannot tell by the pattern of carriage returns in the file where new paragraphs in the book start. So you need to go through the entire book, inserting and removing carriage returns just to get it to the point of being able to work with it. One approach is to change all carriage returns followed by a lower case letter to a space. If you can observe any other patterns at all (i.e. most itemized lists start with bullets, etc.), you can use those patterns for other replacements. If you have a poorly formatted pure ASCII file, do what ever you can to avoid unnecessary manual labor.

Almost as Bad: A WordPerfect File

A WordPerfect File is a lot better, since you usually have each paragraph properly marked. When a WordPerfect file is loaded into MegaDots, MegaDots uses the WordPerfect definition for the start and end of each paragraph. Load a representative sample file. Make sure that the paragraph boundaries are correct.

Often there is quite a bit of totally unnecessary markup in the WordPerfect file. For example, some typeface markup will be totally irrelevant to braille.

There are quite a few ways of cleaning up these files. One approach is to use contextual replace (and rules files) from within MegaDots. Another approach is to export the file as an ASCII line file with markup on. You can use conventional global replace tools on the exported file. For example, you can use the program GLOBAL (which comes with MegaDots) to process an exported ASCII line file. Once you have the markup to your satisfaction, you can reload the modified file back into MegaDots.

Danger Ahead: Scanned Files

Be very careful of scanned files. Some publishers create instant "publisher's files" by optically scanning the book. A scanned file has dozens of text and formatting challenges. There may be many typos still in the text. The pattern of carriage returns may be all messed up even if the file is presented in WordPerfect (or other word processor) format. Pictures, small typefaces, superscripts, underlining, marginal elements may contribute to garble. Some sections may not properly decolumnize (a line from one column of text followed by a line from the second column). Some tables may be decolumnized (first all of one column, then all of the second column, etc.).

While it is beyond the scope of this article to give exact instructions of how to cope, I can offer some advice. Use all the tools at your disposal. Use the strengths of WordPerfect, MegaDots, and other software tools to their fullest. Use the "optical scanner aware" Spell Checker available for MegaDots.

I have scanned several large files and have noticed that I get better results (and do not get burned out) by going through the text in three or four passes rather than one huge pass. For example, I may whip through a file deleting major garble first (searching for at signs or other symbols that crop up when pictures or other non-text items are scanned). Then I go through with a spell checker. Finally, I go through fixing up the format. As I go through, I keep a list of questionable punctuation and other elements (period hyphen for colon, quote problems, etc.). I subject my text to a battery of replace (or contextual replace) to locate and fix these lingering questionable items).

I have not done any careful timing tests comparing "one pass" with "four pass" work. I do find "one pass" projects to be exhausting. Everyone needs to find their own pace and path through these projects.

Unusual Characters

Most publisher's files start in a form designed for specialized typesetting systems. These systems have their own way of handling special characters. You may find that double quotes are made up of unusual combinations of single quotes or accent characters. You may find unusual characters for bullets, degree signs, dashes, and other non-ASCII characters. Be alert for these, and use global replace tools to change these into the appropriate characters in MegaDots. Change bullets to hyphens, dashes to double hyphens, curly quotes to straight quotes. MegaDots can handle many unusual characters (degree sign, upside down question mark, Yen sign etc.)

Introducing the ICADD 22 Tag System

ICADD is the International Committee on Accessible Document Design. It is a virtual group which meets twice a year (at C-SUN and Closing the Gap). ICADD is charged with the task of setting up a universal file format for use by the visually impaired.

This article is a graphic example of the needs for the ICADD project. Virtually every file format has its problems as a means of presenting information for the visually impaired.

Working out the best file format has not been an easy task. Some people want an extremely simple file format that is easy to read with their word processors. Others want elaborate tagging systems for handling complex formatting situations. Some want standards and guidelines right away. Others want to wait until every factor can be carefully studied.

A complicating factor has been the Texas Braille Bill. The State of Texas has a very centralized mechanism for approving textbooks. Two years ago, Texas required that publishers who do business with Texas to provide disk copies of their books to speed up braille production.

For the last two years, most of the Texas books have come in as ASCII files. This has been a shame. It means that the publishers have taken disk files full of formatting information (italics, bold face, start and end of headings, etc.) and thrown the format information in the data garbage heap. The braille producers then have to go through by hand to put most of the formatting information back in.

Setting up a file format to satisfy publishers, braille producers, and the Texas education bureaucracy is a daunting task. Publishers want a simple file format, braille producers (and those working with electronic text) want a more complex file format. The compromise has been a set of 22 tags drawn from the American Association of Publisher's standard for representing books with SGML. As a means to exchange and archive books, the 22 tags set is quite inadequate.

Making Use of the ICADD 22 Tag System

For the last year and a half, MegaDots has been able to read ICADD files. Each of the ICADD codes is automatically changed into the appropriate MegaDots command. The result is a simple, transparent system.

But it has its drawbacks. The MegaDots file importer does not have the ability to filter out inappropriate ICADD commands. For example, I could easily write a file with a stop boldface command with no start boldface. Or I could start italics and never end it. The resulting MegaDots file can be very unstable (i.e. liable to crash).

Of course, if you have data prepared on a formal SGML system, you would not face these problems. The SGML parser would alert the user to these violations of the "Document Type Description". But in the real world there is a lot of data which is not formally produced and is loaded with structural problems.

My solution was to write a special program designed to study ICADD files. It generates a report on inappropriate markup. In many cases, it is able to repair these files automatically. This program, called TEXTCHK is available from Raised Dot Computing on a disk called "TEXTCHK Tag Checker for ICADD/Texas files". This is available from Raised Dot Computing at no charge. It is a useful disk for those processing marked up files into MegaDots. It contains a detailed description of the ICADD tags and how to use them. It contains numerous sample files and special instructions on how to automatically repair quite a few different classes of file problems.

Now that we have introduced the cast of characters (groan!) , I can tell you how I process publisher's files. I perform any number of tricks (importing and exporting through MegaDots, global replace, etc.) to get a file which looks as much as possible as a genuine ICADD file. Then I run my TEXTCHK program to verify that the file is error-free. Once I get the file all cleaned up, I import the file into MegaDots for good.

Sheryl Knack Writes Documentation for Publishers.

To help the textbook publishers who need to prepare ICADD -tagged versions of their books (i.e. so they can sell books to Texas), Sheryl Knack of Black Dot Graphics has written a special manual on the use of the ICADD tags. This inkprint booklet contains numerous typeset examples of how books look followed by the properly tagged examples. While her booklet is designed for those in the publishing trade, it is of interest of someone deeply involved with the work of taking publisher's files into braille.

As of this writing, her booklet is still in draft form. If you would like a copy of her booklet, please send David a note with a self-addressed mailing label.

The Publishing Industry is Taking Notice

There is growing recognition of the ICADD standard in the publishing industry. Some companies are building in facilities to their software to generate ICADD files. Other companies are supporting more general SGML standards. As these tools become more widespread, we can all hope that it gets easier and easier to work with publisher's files.

ICADD and RFB Are Building a Better Mousetrap

Work is proceeding on a better, larger ICADD tag set. Once that file format is fully defined, it will be used by a variety of vendors and sources. RFB will use it as a standard for internally preparing electronic books. Raised Dot will teach MegaDots to read with the expanded tag set. Stay tuned to this newsletter for more details.

Cross-Works Still Available

In the xxxx issue of the Newsletter, we described a product called Cross-Works. This product consists of a special cable and software to connect an Apple II and an MS-DOS computer. The software allows AppleWorks files on the Apple II to becomes WordPerfect files on the MS-DOS computer and vice-versa.

If you have AppleWorks files you want to convert to MS-DOS, this is the tool for you. If you have WordPerfect files that you want to read in BEX on an Apple II, this is also the tool for you.

Cross-Works is available from an outfit called Resource Central. Cross-Works costs $79.95. Contact Resource Central at 913-469-6502.

Henter-Joyce Moves

Henter-Joyce (the maker of the JAWS screen access program) has moved to a new location in St. Petersburg Florida. They are now at 2100 62nd Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. Their phone number is 813-528-8900. Their toll-free number remains 800-336-5658.

National Braille Press Book: The CD-ROM Advantage

The National Braille Press has just released a new book on CD-ROM technology called The CD-ROM Advantage. This book answers the most commonly-asked questions about CD-ROM technology and how it works with speech and braille. The CD-ROM Advantage is loaded with practical advice from blind CD-ROM users who talk about the advantages, and the pitfalls, of this exciting new technology. Profiles of blind users add a human element to an otherwise technical subject, and, as an added feature the book lists over 100 CD-ROM titles that do work with speech and braille. There's plenty of resource information, including where to go for help and support. Find out what all the excitement is about and enjoy the reading experience at the same time.

$11.95 in braille, disk, or print (add $3.50 for postage for the print edition). Specify 3.5 or 5.25 inch size for the disk edition. The address of National Braille Press is 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston MA 02115. Contact NBP at 617-226-6160.

Automate Braille Graphics with DotGraph

DotGraph is a PC program which automates the production of mathematical graphs using brailler graphics. It is designed for blind students and for braille transcribers.

DotGraph was motivated by the author's difficulty in getting accessible mathematical graphs while taking math courses. The program is designed to be operated by a blind individual (no mouse required!). It is fast and easy to use. You can zoom in our out to show the detail you want. The program comes with a number of sample files to show how it can be used. It has been tested on a Juliet, Romeo, Braille Blazer, and a VersaPoint.

For a copy of DotGraph, send $15 to: Paul Lovvik, PO Box 9011, San Bernardino, CA 92427.

Strider and Atlas

When we at Raised Dot heard about Strider and Atlas (products from Arkenstone) we knew that we had to describe them in our Newsletter. It is products like Strider and Atlas which makes writing the Sensory Overload Catalog such a challenge. What seems like a joke one year becomes a real product the next. Here is some literature from Arkenstone:

Want to know exactly where you are and how to get from here to there, faster, easier and more safely? With Strider, Arkenstone's revolutionary approach to map access, use your mobility skills with confidence to go to new places and try new things!

Let Strider be your companion when you explore your neighborhood, city or country. Customize maps, save and retrieve favorite routes, add bus stops, favorite restaurants, friends' homes, interesting shops or places to avoid - Strider is versatile and easy to use.

Add Strider's software and Global Position System (GPS) receiver to your talking Notebook PC. The GPS receiver is accurate to within 100 meters. The optional Differential GPS (DGPS), improves that accuracy to within 5 to 7 meters.

What is Strider?

Strider is an orientation tool. It will aid individuals who are blind or visually impaired to geographically orient themselves, allowing them to better use their mobility tools, particularly in unknown areas. It is not a replacement for the individual's mobility skills.

What does Strider require?

To work, Strider requires a 386 or 486 notebook computer, speech synthesizer, keypad, global positioning system (GPS) receiver, earphone, and software maps. The Arkenstone product includes Strider software, one map and the GPS receiver, along with a small backpack or carrying case which measures approximately 12" x 13" x 4"

What kind of maps?

The product uses Etak's incredibly complete digital maps of the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S. alone, Etak boasts maps of 3,000 counties and approximately 20,000 cities. We will offer maps to individual regions of interest, or, you may acquire maps for the entire country. Since the maps fill almost 2 gigabytes of memory, we suggest you purchase maps on a compact disc (CD). However, various regions are available on floppy disk.

What does GPS mean? DGPS?

Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is based on seven global satellites, which beam information to the earth 7 days a week, 24 hours per day. This technology allows you to know where you are within 100 meters of a destination. DGPS (Differential Global Positioning System) allows accuracy of 1 to 10 meters.

Will this software and these maps work on my personal computer?

Yes, with our Atlas Speaks product. Atlas Speaks is a "Talking map" that can be used at home or the office in "armchair" mode. Strider, however, is our "Walking, Talking map."

A CD-ROM drive is recommended although not required for use with the product. We will be offering a CD-ROM drive; however many brands will work.

What is Atlas Speaks? What does it include?

Atlas Speaks is a talking map, designed to help an individual "walk" an area. Like a regular map, the user may determine where they are going, the name of the next street or highway, and landmarks along the way. Atlas Speaks is for home or office use, such as when you are planning a trip. Explore your neighborhood, city or country. Once you've determined your route, save the directions to your personal tape recorder, Braille 'n Speak or hardcopy Braille. The product includes talking software maps that work on your personal computer with your speech synthesizer. Again, we recommend purchasing this software on CD-ROM rather than floppy disc.

Are you selling these products now?

This is a technology introduction. We expect Atlas Speaks and Strider to be shipping in the third quarter. Currently, we are working with alpha products and will be doing intensive beta work from now until product ship. We welcome your suggestions.

What is the cost of these products?

The software will be priced at approximately $500. The GPS receiver will be under $1,500; the optional DGPS receiver under $500. Prices for additional maps will vary depending upon region, ranging from $150 to $400.

Will these products work with my other visual aids?

Atlas Speaks and Strider are the initial offerings in tills product line. As technology increases, sizes reduce, and prices erode, we expect these products to grow, mature, and change.

Arkenstone's philosophy is to use off-the-shelf technology as much possible, and to maintain and interface with standards whenever possible. Some products Atlas Speaks and Strider currently support include DECtalk PC, Accent SA, Keynote Gold, Braille 'n Speak, Audapter and other popular speech synthesizers and Braille displays.

Is it easy to use?

If you are familiar with a PC, you'll find Atlas Speaks and Strider extremely easy to use. A demo will show you how intuitive the products are: with only a two button joy stick, keypad, keyboard, or mouse, you can easily navigate through the product menus.

Bulletin Board

For Sale: Nearly New Braillo 90 with Serial Port, MegaDots software and Duxbury software, all for $2,800 or best offer. For details, call Kathy Perdue-Nemo at 818-344-4813, or write to PO Box 17055, Encino, CA 91416.

Items for Sale: 1. Juliet interpoint embosser, prints like new. Negotiable prices. $4,150 includes extended warranty through September 1995, and 2nd-day air shipping anywhere within the U.S. $3,750 includes 2nd-day air shipping, no extended service agreement. Warranty expires September 1994.

2. Braille 'n Speak 640 with disk drive. Updated to latest revision. $1,600 includes 2nd-day air shipping within the U.S. Negotiable price.

3. Announcement: Available in Grade 1 or 2 Braille upon request: Programs for Rose Parade 1995. More description than on tv, because background articles included, as well as all float descriptions. 150-300 pages interpoint, depending upon Braille grade. For Free Matter shipping, please send your order by November 15, 1994. Send your address label, a check for $5.00 and a typed, Braille or ASCII disk note as to which Grade of Braille you prefer.