Raised Dot Computing NewsletterExploring Microcomputer Applications for the Visually Impaired -- ISSN 0890-0019. September-October 1991 -- Volume 9, Number 92.

Published Every Other Month by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., 408 South Baldwin Street, Madison, Wisconsin USA 53703. Telephone: 608-257-9595. Fax: (608) 241-2498.

Subscriptions: $18/year Print, $20/year Audio Tape, $30/year Apple II BEX data disk or MS-DOS data disk. (Kindly add $20/year for postage outside N. America.)

Single issues: $4 each (specify medium).

Submissions are always welcome, especially on diskette. All are subject to editing for style and clarity. All opinions expressed are those of the author. Editors: Caryn Navy, David Holladay, and Phyllis Herrington.

Entire contents copyright 1991 by Raised Dot Computing, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Nothing may be reprinted in any medium--print, braille, audio, or electronic--without prior written permission from RDC Inc.

Table of contents:

From the Editor -- Caryn Navy

We apologize for the delay in getting this issue out. We thank all of you who have answered and returned our survey forms about the Newsletter. Get your response to us by December 1, 1991 to be entered in the drawing for a prize of $100. So far, the most common request is for more reviews of new equipment. We are shy about reviewing other developers' products unless we use them enough to learn them well. We usually do not have the resources to buy equipment to review. You can help by contacting us if you have purchased or borrowed a new piece of adaptive equipment. We can help you to write a review for the RDC Newsletter.

This offer also extends to other articles that you would like to write. If you would like to write an article but cannot get past a road block, just get in touch with us for some help.

Fire at Blazie Engineering -- Deane Blazie

On Oct. 17, at 11:00 PM a fire broke out in the offices of Blazie Engineering. Nobody was hurt. The building was badly damaged but most of the important papers and stock were removed. Fortunately we are well insured. We expect about a 2 week delay in shipments and we appreciate your patience with this delay. We thank everyone for their concern. We have received hundreds of phone calls with condolences and we are so grateful to have such loyal and caring customers. Thank you.

RDC Will Buy Back Your Braille BEX 3.0 Manual

[Editor's note: We are continuing the same offer we announced in the March/April issue.]

Do you have a set of the braille documentation for BEX 3.0 just lying around? To avoid an expensive braille production job, Raised Dot Computing would like to buy back some of the 11-volume sets of the braille documentation for BEX 3.0. The 11-volume set does not include the three-volume reference set (Quick Reference Card, Thick Reference Card, and Reference Volume). To qualify, the 11-volume set must be in resalable condition (no missing pages, no torn or bent pages, no pages sticking together). We will pay $40 for each complete set you send us. If you want, we can trade a set of braille documentation for audio documentation plus a check for $15.

We reserve the right to withdraw this offer at any point. We reserve the right to determine "resalable condition." This offer is not valid for any BEX 2.0 documentation. Do not send the three-volume reference set. If you have any questions or concerns, call us before you mail us anything.

Maintenance Upgrade in Flipper -- Caryn Navy

We are currently shipping version 3.06 of Flipper. Flipper is the screen access program developed by Omnichron for IBM-PC and compatible computers. Version 3.06 is not a major upgrade. However, the changes in this new version are a great improvement for some users.

In Flipper the command for reading continuously with automatic scrolling of the screen is Alt-down arrow. Starting with version 3.06, this command works in a new way that makes it much more dependable. In previous versions, in some situations Flipper was unable to carry out the command and would simply say, "failure." This problem has been eliminated. For me, this change makes it much easier to use Flipper with my CD-ROM system at home. It means that when I am reading an encyclopedia or magazine article or a book from the CD-ROM, I can press Alt-down arrow and read continuously.

Flipper 3.06 also supports two new voice synthesizers. They are the DoubleTalk, manufactured by RC Systems, and the Apollo, manufactured by Dolphin Systems in England.

Flipper's "extended automatic output" feature has also been improved in this new version. When the extended automatic output option is turned on, many programs automatically read their prompts and other information which they do not read otherwise.

Another improvement in Flipper version 3.06 is the removal of a conflict with MS-DOS 5.0.

RDC has demonstration disks of Flipper version 3.06. Write or call for a demonstration disk if you would like to see whether Flipper meets your needs.

Raised Dot Computing: New Policy on Technical Support -- David Holladay

The purpose of this article is to announce a new RDC policy on technical support and to explain why we are making the change. As of the beginning of 1992, only subscribers to the Raised Dot Computing Newsletter will be offered technical support. If you have let your subscription lapse, you will have to re-subscribe to have your technical inquiries answered by Raised Dot Computing.

We know this will inconvenience people. Those who do not read the Newsletter and therefore do not get advance word of this policy change will be especially inconvenienced.

There will be some exceptions to this policy. We do not expect that children who have received a copy of BEX through a school or an agency need to subscribe to the Newsletter. If you feel that this policy would be inappropriate for you or for a client, please write or call so we can consider your situation. Be aware that we will not make any exceptions for schools on the grounds of school budget problems. No matter how severe the money problems are, we feel that the Newsletter is a sensible purchase for anyone using BEX, Hot Dots, or Flipper.

Raised Dot Computing has always put a heavy emphasis on technical support. Our manuals contain detailed technical information about interfacing products of many different vendors. We publish our Newsletter and provide a year's subscription to purchasers of substantial products (BEX, Hot Dots, and Flipper). If you do have problems that cannot be resolved by reading our literature, you can call our technical help line.

The Raised Dot Computing Newsletter was started in February, 1982. The motivation for starting the Newsletter was to avoid having to explain the same things to 50 different people. Over the years, we have continued to use the Newsletter as a tool to cut down on the number of routine telephone calls and letters. By answering the common questions in advance in the Newsletter and in our manuals, we are able to have the time and energy to deal with the more challenging problems that may arise.

Lately the system has broken down. Right now, most customers are not re-subscribing when their free subscription expires. Increasingly, the technical questions we get are issues that we have covered in the Newsletter. In the last month I have fielded quite a few phone calls from people wanting to know if there is an optical scanner that is compatible with the Apple II computer and BEX. We wrote a detailed description of using the InWords software and the Quickie scanner with BEX on an Apple IIgs in the last issue of the Newsletter. Each caller had let their Newsletter subscription lapse.

As the list of paying subscribers shrinks, we have been getting fewer submissions of articles from outside the RDC staff. The lack of outside articles eliminates some of the spice and variation which make the Newsletter both interesting and useful. We hope that as we get more people to re-subscribe, we will also entice more people to submit articles and suggestions for articles.

We know that implementing this new policy will be frustrating for our non-subscribing customers and for our technical support staff. Your understanding and prompt resubscription will eliminate any frustration on your part when you need technical support from Raised Dot. Thank you for your understanding.

Learning BEX 3.0 on an Apple IIgs -- Phyllis Herrington

[Editor's note: This is adapted from the January/February 1990 issue. That article inspired us to write BEX 3.1. BEX 3.1 gives access to a RAM drive in the Learner and User Levels. If you do have BEX 3.1, read the manual insert Welcome to BEX 3.1 rather than this article for information about BEX 3.1 and RAM drives.]

The key to using BEX on an Apple II system without disk swapping frustration is using more than one disk drive. You need one disk drive for the software and one disk drive for your data disk. If you have only one disk drive, you have to keep swapping between the program disk and your data disk. Both the Learner and User levels of the BEX documentation explain how to use the program with two 5.25 inch disk drives. However, the IIgs usually comes with one 5.25 inch drive, one 3.5 inch drive, and RAM memory. With BEX 3.0, you must be at the Master level to use a 3.5 inch disk drive or a RAM drive. As a result, you are left with only one disk drive if you configure at the Learner or User level. In order to access at least two drives with a IIgs, you must configure BEX 3.0 at the Master level.

When one gets a computer with one 5.25 inch disk drive and one 3.5 inch drive, one is tempted to ask, "How do I configure to use both of these disk drives?" This question is overvalued. While you can write a configuration using just the two physical disk drives, it is an inefficient way to use BEX on an Apple IIgs. Your Apple IIgs is blessed with plenty of memory to use as super fast "disk drives."

After you have mastered RAM drives (as memory-based disk emulators are called), then you can work with your 3.5 inch disk drives as well. Our first Master level configuration starts out with "drive 1" (your program drive) being RAM memory, and "drive 2" (your data disk) being your 5.25 inch disk drive.

When you configure at the Master level, many options are available to you which are not discussed at either the Learner or User level. There is no need to feel apprehensive. Continue using BEX and learning the system as if at the level where you are most comfortable.

In changing from the Learner level to the User level, you are asked many more configuration questions (see User Level Section 3 for the details). You might think that in changing from the User level to the Master level, you will have to answer a raft of additional questions. In fact, you are asked just one additional question: "Do you have an extended disk system?" If you answer "yes," you get to arrange the resources of your computer as you see fit to store and manipulate your data.

In describing your "extended disk system" in your Master level configuration, you list the disk devices (called virtual drives) that you want to use. Each of these devices has a "slot number" and a "drive number." Your 5.25 inch disk drive is "slot 6, drive 1." Your 3.5 inch disk drive is "slot 5, drive 1" (and also "slot 5, drive 3," but we are getting ahead of ourselves). Your RAM memory is "slot 3, drive 1." Depending on the memory in your computer, you can have additional RAM drives, "slot 3, drive 2," etc. These building blocks of drives and memory can be configured in various combinations. The Master level allows up to eight of these slot and drive pairs per configuration. For starters, however, we're going to configure two drives: one RAM drive and your 5.25 inch floppy drive.

Writing the Configuration

BEX always boots from the 5.25 inch disk. In order to gain access to the Master level configuration process, press the ampersand (shift of the 7) when prompted to enter a configuration. Here is a sample configuration which includes one RAM drive and one 5.25 inch floppy drive. You can answer these questions any way appropriate for your system until the extended disk system questions. Then answer exactly as presented here:

Once you get to the Starting Menu, take the opportunity to initialize the stack of disks you want to use as data disks. Initializing means wiping out the contents of a disk so that it can be used for storing new data or programs. As a consequence of using BEX at the Master level (on the Apple IIgs with slot 5 set for "smart port"), you are not able to initialize any more 5.25 inch disks after getting to the Main side (more on this later). (Other software uses the memory reserved for the initializing software.)

To get to the Main side, keep the Boot disk in the drive and press the spacebar from the Starting Menu. You get the following message:

After the beeps, insert the BEX Main disk and press any key. The disk spins for a while as BEX loads the entire contents of your Main side software into memory for instant access.

Once you get to the Main side, try things out by pressing S and then press J. You can go from menu to menu in a fraction of a second! You have a very powerful computer system at your fingertips!

Why Do Things Run So Fast?

Since all of your Main side software is stored in memory on a RAM drive, your access to the BEX program is speeded up tremendously. Any time you need a portion of the software, it is loaded from memory instead of from disk. You can remove the BEX program disk from your 5.25 inch floppy drive. You do not need it again until you want to go back to the Starting Menu.

With this configuration, BEX thinks it has a two-drive system. Having the Main side of BEX on the RAM drive frees the 5.25 inch floppy disk drive for data storage. The Main side of BEX remains on the RAM drive until you turn off the computer or run software which wipes out the RAM drive memory. Once the Main side is loaded, you can warm boot as many times as you wish and the material is still in memory.

Working with BEX

At the Main Menu, you can insert your data disk and begin working with it as if you had a two-drive system. You should have no problem editing, translating, printing, and manipulating chapters on your data disk.

What if you need to use both your "disk drives" for data. For example, you may want to copy a chapter from one floppy disk to another. Even with the BEX Main side software on your RAM drive, it still has some room for data. As long as the chapter is not gigantic, you can copy the chapter from drive 2 (your floppy) to drive 1 (your RAM drive). Once the copying is done, insert your destination disk in the floppy drive and copy from drive 1 (your RAM drive) to drive 2 (your destination floppy). Once this is done, use Kill chapters to eliminate the copy from drive 1, freeing up the memory for other operations. Remember that when you place the digit 1 before a chapter name, you are referring to a chapter on drive one. In this configuration, drive 2 (the 5.25 inch disk drive) is your "default data drive." When you don't put a number in front of a chapter name, you are referring to a chapter on your 5.25 inch disk. Here is the user dialogue:

You can also read files from a ProDOS 5.25 inch disk with this configuration. The target chapter needs to be stored on drive 1. Later you can copy the chapter to a real floppy disk. When you want to return to the Starting Menu, you must be at the Main Menu. Remove the data disk from the drive and insert the Boot side of BEX. Now press the spacebar. The drive whirs and you're back at the Starting Menu. To go back to the Main Menu, simply press the spacebar. Almost instantaneously you're back at the Main Menu.

So What is AmDOS?

As the Main side of BEX is loading onto the RAM drive, you will get the following message prior to the Main Menu prompt if you are at the Master level of BEX and slot 5 of your IIgs is set for "smart port."

AmDOS 3.5 for UniDisk 3.5

Copyright (c) 1986 Gary B. Little

AmDOS is the software that allows access to the 3.5 inch disk drives. Although you do not have your 3.5 inch drive configured at this point, BEX at the Master level recognizes its presence and loads AmDOS, the operating system for the 3.5 inch disk drives also known as UniDisks. Although AmDOS is loaded, you cannot access the 3.5 inch drive unless it is included in your configuration. Once AmDOS is loaded, you cannot initialize any more 5.25 inch disks (unless you reboot). [This restriction does not apply to BEX 3.1; new software makes it possible to initialize a 5.25 inch disk even after AmDOS is loaded.] You should make sure that you have an adequate supply of initialized 5.25 inch disks before you leave the Starting Menu.

More Menu Options

At the Master level you encounter shorter prompts than at the Learner level and added menu options. If you are a newcomer to BEX, work through the Learner level documentation as if you are configured at the Learner level. When you press the return key at a menu prompt to list the options, don't worry about the extra options.

More RAM Drives

Now that we have seen how useful RAM drives are for speeding up program access, it is time to use RAM drives to speed up data access as well. Configure again. This time, we are going to have 4 disk drives (three RAM drives and one 5.25 inch drive). Here is the important part of the configuration dialogue: Do you have an extended disk system? Y <CR>

Enter name for this configuration: ML4 <CR>

A Final Configuration

Once you feel comfortable using RAM drives, it is time to introduce the 3.5 inch disk drives. Here is how you would add a 3.5 inch disk drive to our configuration:

Enter name for this configuration: ML3.5 <CR>

What To Do With the BEX Save Chapter -- Phyllis Herrington

Your Data Life Boat: the SAVE Chapter

When you edit a BEX chapter, the current BEX page you're editing is held in an area of computer memory called the page buffer. When you finish that page and move to the next page, the text in the page buffer is saved to disk and a new page is placed in the page buffer.

If for some reason the page cannot be written to disk, BEX lets you know that the page cannot be saved to disk. You're then told to insert an initialized disk in drive 1 and press any key. BEX then saves the entire contents of the page buffer into a chapter named SAVE on drive 1. Often this occurs when a disk is too full and no more material can be written to the disk. Our job now is to delete the unwanted portions of the SAVE chapter, copy all the pieces of the crippled chapter to a fresh disk, and combine the SAVE chapter with the rest of the crippled chapter.

In effect, the SAVE chapter is a life boat for data that would otherwise be lost because of a "data storm." To complete the rescue mission, we need to know how to get the data safely to its proper place in the chapter you are working on.

Let's say you are writing a report. You're on page 9 and want to go to page 10. You press ctrl-P ctrl-A to advance to the next page. You expect the Editor to save to disk the text on BEX page 9 and to take you to page 10, a blank page ready to receive data. All of a sudden you get the following message: Cannot write to disk. Insert a data disk in drive 1 and press any key.

Your heart sinks. You tortured yourself writing this particular section. Don't panic. Insert an initialized data disk in drive 1. Those of you who have loaded their BEX software onto a RAM drive will find the Save chapter on this RAM drive.

BEX prompts Chapter SAVE is on the program drive and leaves you at the BASIC prompt. To get back to the Main Menu, press the caps lock down and type RUN <cr>

What to Do with the SAVE Chapter

Go into the BEX Editor and examine the SAVE chapter. You will notice that it is full (4095 characters). BEX has saved the entire page buffer. At some point in the page, there is a transition between your material and garbage. Advance the cursor to that position. Press ctrl-D ctrl-A to delete everything after the cursor. Press ctrl-Q to quit the Editor.

If you were working on a one-page chapter, then the current contents of the SAVE chapter are your entire chapter. Copy this chapter to the appropriate disk with the appropriate name. You are done.

If you were working on a multi-page chapter (as we stated in our scenario), then we need to get the contents of the SAVE chapter added to the chapter in question.

Before we do anything else, we need to know why there was a problem saving to disk. To be on the safe side, copy the crippled chapter onto the same fresh disk you have the SAVE chapter on.

You can use the clipboard to get the SAVE chapter back into the crippled chapter. Or you can use Grab Pages. I will describe the Grab Pages method, since it is available at all levels of BEX (the clipboard is not available at the Learner level).

Press Z to Zip to the Page Menu. If you press return, you will see a list of options. The one we're interested in is Grab Pages. Press G. When BEX prompts Grab into Chapter:, type the name of your copied problem chapter and press return. In this case, we're calling the chapter REPORT. BEX then prompts Grab pages from chapter:. Type SAVE <cr>.

BEX then copies the text in the SAVE chapter into the REPORT chapter. It has been placed as the last page in the chapter. You may have to move the page to some other position in the chapter. If so, use option R - Rearrange Pages in the Page Menu.

Once your chapter has been made whole again, you can delete the SAVE chapter if you want to.

For further information about the SAVE chapter, read Learner Level 4:21, 13:8-11. For more information about Grab Pages, read Learner Level 11:10.

The Work of Horizons for the Blind: an Interview with Camille Caffarelli -- Phyllis Herrington

It's sometimes hard for me to get focused on work on Monday morning. However, my week had a great start with a Monday morning interview with Camille Caffarelli, Executive Director of Horizons for the Blind. She is a delightful individual, and she is very knowledgeable about tactual art and about tactual graphics as a tool for improving accessibility for the blind. So without any further editorial comment, I introduce Camille Caffarelli and Horizons for the Blind.

(Note: Camille Caffarelli indicated that they hope to do more access projects with the city of Chicago. They provide maps and materials which are helpful to blind and visually impaired individuals planning to attend the various summer festivals and other events throughout the Chicago area.)

Changing the VersaPoint Set-Up -- Caryn Navy

For several years, we have been selling the VersaPoint Brailler, manufactured by TeleSensory. The VersaPoint can behave in different ways in order to accept braille from different kinds of machines or to change the kind of braille it produces. For example, it can produce 8-dot braille. It can braille sideways, printing each line down along one or more pages, to allow for braille lines longer than 42 cells. By resetting parameters, which the VersaPoint saves even when the power is off, you can change the behavior of the VersaPoint.

You use the VersaPoint set up menu to adjust most properties of the VersaPoint. However, there are some properties that you change very easily without having to use the set up menu. Most notably, on the model D VersaPoint, you can switch between the serial port and the parallel port without entering the set up menu. A rocker switch that you set for serial or parallel allows for this simplification. For example, when the VersaPoint is set to the factory-set default parameters (set-up 0), you can set the switch for serial to braille from an Apple II serial port or card, or you can set the switch for parallel to braille from an IBM-PC parallel port. The model D VersaPoint also has a five-position knob for changing the intensity of the braille dots, low intensity for light paper or higher intensity for heavy paper or plastic.

Nonetheless, there are times when you do need to change the set-up of VersaPoint parameters. Through troubleshooting for our VersaPoint customers or testing new set-ups before making a sale, we have had many occasions to reconfigure the VersaPoint parameters, and we would like to share some suggestions for making that less intimidating.

Some Background on Changing the VersaPoint Parameter Set-Up

There are no tiny DIP switches for setting the parameters on the VersaPoint. Instead, you go through a dialogue with the VersaPoint. The VersaPoint remembers 5 different collections of parameters (set-ups 0 through 4), and it is easy to switch between them. It is much easier to switch between set-up 0 and set-up 4 than to go through the entire dialogue. So it helps to save the settings you need at different times as separate set-ups.

Set-up 0 is fixed (you cannot save any new settings in set-up 0). To do a total reset on the VersaPoint, turn it off, set the A/B switch to A (on the model D), set the on line/off line switch to on line, and hold down all four buttons while you power on. This resets all the set-ups to their original factory settings and sets the default set-up to be set-up 0. The default set-up means the set-up that the VersaPoint uses when you turn on the power.

To switch between the five set-ups or to create a new set-up, hold down the LF button during power up (with the A/B switch at A and the on line/off line switch at on line). In the dialogue, the FF (form feed) button means yes, the LF (line feed) button means NO, and the TF (top of form) button means exit. The display always shows the parameter in question followed by the current choice for that parameter. When you do not want to accept the current choice, press LF (no) to move to the next choice for that parameter. When you find the choice that you want, press FF (yes) to move to the next parameter. When you have changed all the parameters that you want to change, exit the set up menu by pressing TF (exit). The VersaPoint then asks you about saving your chosen parameter settings. You can save the parameter settings in any one of the four set-up slots 1 through 4, or you may choose not to save them for use after this session. Move to the choice you want with the LF button. A typical dialogue is as follows:

TF (exit)

There is one major quirk in the VersaPoint configuration process. A set-up becomes the power-up default only through the act of being loaded, not by being saved. For example, suppose you load set-up 4, make some changes, and then save the results in set-up 1. You might expect that set-up 1 (the revised parameters) would be the default. Wrong. The last set-up that was loaded (set-up 4) is still the default. However, once you load set-up 1 (which contains the changes you saved), it becomes the default set-up. When you save a set-up, the configuration program offers you a chance to load that set-up again. Do it. That will make that set-up the default set-up. For example, to make set-up 1 the default in the situation just described, don't press TF (exit) as soon as the VersaPoint says STORE SET UP: 1. Instead, go through the following dialogue:

TF (exit) TF (exit)

Using Voice or Inkprint Output in the Set Up Process

From time to time I have been called upon to help find new settings for VersaPoint configuration parameters. It took many attempts for us to work out the use of the VersaPoint with the TABICAT braille transcription program on the Commodore computer. Ordinarily, when you enter the VersaPoint's set up menu, the brailler prints out the questions and answer choices in braille. Waiting for each question and answer choice to appear in braille makes for a tedious process, especially if you do it frequently. In working out the TABICAT set-up, I was motivated to set the VersaPoint parameters more quickly.

Having used the Braille Blazer at a conference, I realized that having the choices spoken instead of brailled speeds up the process. It also saves paper. So I tried it on the VersaPoint.

Using voice output in the VersaPoint set up menu turned out to be very straightforward. It requires a serial voice device. I use my Braille 'n Speak.

To go through the VersaPoint set up menu with voice output from the Braille 'n Speak, connect the standard Braille 'n Speak I/O cable directly to the VersaPoint serial port (no extra cables or adapters). Set the Braille 'n Speak for 9600 baud, no parity, 8 data bits, and 1 stop bit. On the Braille 'n Speak, turn on the serial port and turn on "speech box mode." Then power up the VersaPoint while holding down the LF button to get into the set up menu. When the VersaPoint brailles its introductory message, you also hear it spoken on the Braille 'n Speak. The message ends with the choice BRAILLE OUTPUT: YES. Press LF (no) to get the choice BRAILLE OUTPUT: NO. Press FF (yes) to accept this choice, and from then on the dialogue is only spoken, not brailled. Go through the set up menu as you would ordinarily.

You can also use devices other than the Braille 'n Speak to display the VersaPoint set up dialogue. If you are more comfortable with reading print than with reading braille, you can read the VersaPoint set up dialogue in print. When RDC sells a VersaPoint, we include a VersaPoint Set Up Disk that lets you use the Apple for displaying the VersaPoint set up dialogue. You could even use a serial inkprint printer for displaying the dialogue. Whatever the device, you must connect it properly to the VersaPoint's serial port and set the device to 9600 baud, no parity, 8 data bits, and 1 stop bit. If you are like me, you may take some pleasure in making two devices talk to each other in a new way.

Library of the Future Second Edition: Making Braille Copies of Entire Books -- David Holladay

One of the CD-ROM disks that comes with the original DAK CD-ROM is called Library of the Future. The Library of the Future is an enormous collection of short stories, plays, novels, and historical documents. All of the literature is accessible through your choice choice of access technology, voice output or braille. The registration card for Library of the Future even has a box for blind users to check to receive the manual on disk.

The Second Edition

Recently, World Library Inc. released the Library of the Future, Second Edition. Those who have purchased the first edition (and have registered their purchase) can upgrade to the Second Edition for $129.

The Second Edition contains numerous additional titles. The First Edition has more than 450 titles, the second edition has more than 900 titles.

Many things have been improved in the Second Edition. World Library, Inc. made some of the changes in response to input from blind users. With the improved user interface, it is much easier to navigate through the program. The way that the text of a work is displayed on the screen was changed to accommodate voice output users; the presence of a cursor in the text allows for continuous reading through voice output with a number of screen access programs. In the First Edition, you could save or print out only one screen at a time. In the Second Edition, you can print out an entire work. You can save 5 screens to disk at a time.

To make a braille copy, you need a way of saving an entire book as a single disk file. There exist a number of utility programs which redirect printer output and save the material to a disk file. Since the Second Edition allows you to print an entire book, such a utility program would allow you to save an entire book in one operation. I tried this with two printer redirection utilities that I had access to. Both failed. But we have since located one utility program, PRN2FILE, which is compatible with the Library of the Future Second Edition. We would like to thank B. T. Kimborough, who kindly Next Day Aired the software to us so we could write about it for this Newsletter.

By running PRN2FILE before you go into the Library of the Future application, you can save any output meant for the printer as a disk file. This process takes about 2 seconds per screen. The book Peter Pan with 240 screens was saved to disk in under 8 minutes.

I have written a program which takes a print image file from the Library of the Future and removes all the non-text material from the file. This makes it a snap to turn any book in the Second Edition into braille.

Actually Making Braille

Making a braille copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn required just a few commands. First I typed LOF C:\TEXT\HUCK.TX0 C:\TEXT\HUCK.TXT <enter> This command starts up Library of the Future. Automatically the PRN2FILE program is called to save any print output into HUCK.TX0.

Once inside the Library Program, I load on the screen the title page from Huckleberry Finn. Then I type the 4 keys F9 P 0 <enter> This command prints the entire book. In about 15 minutes the "printing" (actually saving to disk) is done. Then I type <esc> <esc> <esc> Y to leave the Library Software. Automatically, my file reformatting software reads the file HUCK.TX0 and writes HUCK.TXT which is clean of all ornamentation and formatting marks. In case you are curious, HUCK.TX0 is about 716,000 characters, and HUCK.TXT is about 576,000 characters.

At this point I run Hot Dots 3.0. I type in the single command DOTS1234 HUCK.TXT ASCD LPT1 to produce braille on an embosser hooked up to the parallel port. That is all there is to it. This method works well only with prose text. Poems or plays based on verse (e.g., Shakespeare) get scrambled in the Hot Dots importation process. I am in the process of writing additional software for Hot Dots to properly braille verse material. In one experiment with Hamlet, it took 8 minutes to locate it on CD-ROM, save the entire work to disk, clean out extra characters, import it into Hot Dots, translate into grade two braille, format for hardcopy braille output, and initiate braille output.

You can do the same trick of diverting print output to a file on the Library of the Future First Edition, but it takes more work. You can save only the current screen in the First Edition. Once you start at the title screen, you have to keep pressing three keys over and over again: F3 P PgDn. This prints the current screen and advances to the next screen.

Special Software Free from RDC

Since early 1991, Raised Dot Computing has been distributing a PC disk with information about and software tools for using CD-ROM systems. The information and the software tools deal primarily with the CD-ROM products available at cut-rate prices from DAK, Inc.

Even though most of the CD-ROM applications are text-based (and can be used by blind persons using access technology), the installation programs and the application launchers supplied by DAK are too graphical for most screen access systems for blind users. The CD-ROM disk from Raised Dot contains installation information, installation software, and batch files that allow blind users to bypass the DAK graphical software. The disk also contains a "reference card" with instructions and hints for using the CD-ROM systems.

Raised Dot Computing has been distributing this disk for free to anyone who writes or calls for information about CD-ROM systems. We improved the disk in late October, 1991 to include the special software for collecting entire books from Library of the Future in a single textfile. If you want to learn more about CD-ROM technology or want to be able to braille entire books with just a few keystrokes, call or write for a disk today.

Copyright Issues

I have spoken to Larry Granis of World Library, Inc. He indicates that the copyright for the Library of the Future CD-ROM allows an individual purchaser to make braille copies of books for personal use. Do not abuse the copyright. While I have made a braille copy of Peter Pan, I do not have the right to sell braille copies of Peter Pan.

CD-ROM Access without a CD-ROM Drive

There is a new product for those who would like to know what CD-ROM access is like but cannot afford a CD-ROM drive for an MS-DOS computer. For $9 plus $4 for shipping and handling, DAK will send you a collection of 25 books and articles on floppy disk plus reading software which simulates access to CD-ROM books. You get Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and MacBeth from Shakespeare, several short stories from Poe and Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Twain, Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, and many more.

To order, look up the DAK address in Facts on File at the end of the Newsletter. For 720k 3.5 inch disks, use order number 5972. For high density 5.25 inch disks, use order number 5973. For low density (360k) 5.25 inch disks, use order number 5974.

Hot Dots and Your Computer's Environment Space -- Phyllis Herrington

Running Hot Dots 3.0 is easy and straightforward. Most people use the batch file DOTS1234 to accomplish the entire task of making good hardcopy braille from a word processing file. Other users opt to select the various processing steps from the DOTS menu, which also works easily. From numerous calls to our technical line, we have learned that if Hot Dots comes to a halt or behaves strangely, there is very likely not enough room in the system's environment space.

What Is the Environment Space?

When you boot your MS-DOS computer, it maintains a small area of memory called the environment. The environment contains a list of variables and their values. Any program module can examine or set the value of an environmental variable. The environment is one of the few mechanisms on the PC which allow different program modules to know what the others are doing. The size of the environment space is established when you boot the computer.

To see what the environment looks like in your computer, just type SET <enter> at the DOS prompt. You also use the command SET to set the value of an environmental variable. For example: SET FISHMODE=TROUT <enter> (no spaces around the equal sign). This sets the variable FISHMODE equal to the value TROUT. If you want to get rid of this variable, just type SET FISHMODE= <enter> at the DOS prompt (<enter> immediately after the equal sign).

One variable that is always in your environment is PATH. Its value is the list of all the directories where DOS should look for a command file that it is supposed to execute; this list may be long. It is also common for programs to set environmental variables which they use later. Often, when you install a new program, it places lines in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file which create environmental variables. However, the CONFIG.SYS file in your root directory establishes how large the environment space is. If it is too small to hold all the environmental variables set up by the programs you use, they don't work properly.

Environment Space Problems with Hot Dots

Hot Dots automatically sets up and uses a number of environmental variables, including HOTPATH, HDWIDTH, and HDFORM. If you need to use values for these variables different from the Hot Dots defaults, you can establish them by using the SET command. For example, if you use narrow braille paper and want a carriage width of 32, you need to issue the command SET HDWIDTH=32 <enter>. You can also use the SET command to establish other environmental variables that control the behavior of Hot Dots, such as HDDRIVER. For example, to get Dipner Dot output (braille on a daisy wheel inkprint printer), give the command SET HDDRIVER=DIPNER <enter>. You can place these SET commands in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file to have them executed automatically when you boot your system.

If your environment space does not have enough room for the environmental variables which Hot Dots needs, Hot Dots does not work properly. The symptoms of this problem vary.

Here are some clues which indicate that you indeed are out of environment space. In DOS 4.0, the clue is very clear: you get the message OUT OF ENVIRONMENT SPACE. According to reports from customers using DOS 3.3, they do not get such a self-explanatory message. In some cases they get the message BAD COMMAND OR FILENAME when they run DOTS1234. In other cases Hot Dots performs the operations you ask for but does not perform them properly. For example, you may get braille in just the leftmost cell of each line. If you are certain you have entered the Hot Dots commands correctly and have set your path and other environmental variables properly, your environment space is a likely suspect. Check the environment space setting in the CONFIG.SYS file.

The Solution

The solution to the problem of running out of environment space is to increase the size of the environment space. Look at your CONFIG.SYS file (located in the root directory on your booting drive). The CONFIG.SYS file is a textfile easily edited by a text editor or your word processor. You may have a line that looks like the following: shell=c:\command.com c:\ /p /e:250. (In this example, the environment is limited to 250 characters.) It seems that virtually every PC expert recommends limiting the environment space to the absolute minimum. Unfortunately, by leaving no room to spare, you run into problems when you run a new software package that needs to define some new environmental variables.

To give yourself more room, edit the line in the CONFIG.SYS file and increase the size limit by 30 or so. In this case, the new line would read: shell=c:\command.com c:\ /p /e:280.

Some of you may have never included this line in your CONFIG.SYS file. If so, your system uses the default size for the environment space, allowing up to 160 characters. To prevent running into a shortage of environment space, add shell=c:\command.com c:\ /p /e:280 (or some other number) to the CONFIG.SYS file.

Using Hot Dots with 4DOS or NDOS

Over the last few weeks, we have received scattered reports that Hot Dots 3.0 was having problems when people were booting their computers with 4DOS or NDOS, both alternatives to MS-DOS which give the user some additional power. 4DOS is a product of JP Software Inc. At some point the 4DOS program was purchased by the publishers of the Norton Utilities and repackaged under the name NDOS. The 4DOS software is available as shareware, and it can be obtained from a number of computer bulletin board systems. We thank Rick Roderick and Nick Dotson for bringing this problem to our attention and helping us to solve it.


4DOS and NDOS are replacements for the MS-DOS program COMMAND.COM. COMMAND.COM is the program which reads and executes MS-DOS commands. The 4DOS and NDOS programs offer more commands than standard MS-DOS, and commands can be written in more exotic ways.

One new command in these DOS variants is called GLOBAL. Unfortunately, the global replace utility in Hot Dots is also called GLOBAL. When the importation portion of Hot Dots tries to execute its own GLOBAL operation, the result is an attempt to execute the 4DOS GLOBAL command. This terminates the Hot Dots file importation process.

The 4DOS GLOBAL allows you to execute a DOS command in the current directory and in all of its subdirectories. It is easy to rename the 4DOS GLOBAL command. Just add the following two lines to your AUTOEXEC.BAT file: ALIAS DOALL *GLOBAL


These commands rename the 4DOS GLOBAL command as DOALL and make sure any reference to GLOBAL really refers to the Hot Dots global search and replace option. If you have your Hot Dots software in a different subdirectory, alter the second line accordingly.

Changing Your Ampersands

A second problem is caused by the use of the ampersand character in Hot Dots batch files. Ampersand (&) means something different in 4DOS than in regular MS-DOS. A simple solution is to change all occurrences of ampersand to a plus sign in the six Hot Dots batch files. Here is the dialogue to fix the file DOTS1234:

Search and Replace Started ...s

Perform this operation on each of the six batch files in your Hot Dots directory. Once you have made these changes, Hot Dots 3.0 should be fully compatible with 4DOS and NDOS. Of course, there is no need to change your Hot Dots software unless you are installing 4DOS or NDOS in your computer. If you do not feel comfortable making the changes to your software, contact Raised Dot Computing at (608) 257-8833.

Other Alternatives to MS-DOS

We are aware of another MS-DOS variant called DR-DOS. Based on a call to our technical line, it is our understanding that DR-DOS does not have any clashes with Hot Dots. If your experience is different, or if you experience any other problems, call our technical help line at (608) 257-8833.

Other Compatibility Problems with Hot Dots

Running Hot Dots on a Computer Network

A user recently raised the issue of using Hot Dots 3.0 on a computer network. As written, Hot Dots does not allow two users on a computer network to run the software at the same time. If you want a way around this, please contact us at (608) 257-8833.

Using Hot Dots with ASAP

ASAP is the very innovative new screen access program from MicroTalk. When David of the Blazie Engineering technical support staff found that Hot Dots was no longer working for him, he searched his brain for anything that had changed on his system. He realized that he had started using a new version of ASAP. With this early warning, we were able to do further testing here. When you use a recent version of ASAP together with a recent version of Hot Dots, Hot Dots comes to a halt during the process of importing a file.

We contacted Larry Skutchan, the developer of ASAP, to consult about solving the problem. As always, he has been very helpful. We do not fully understand the cause of the problem. However, Larry found a simple remedy that works in all the cases that have come to our attention.

The remedy is to create a new file in your ASAP directory. The ASAP directory contains a file called ASAP.SET. Make a copy of this file in a new file called DX.SET in the ASAP directory. To do this, type:

CD \ASAP <enter> COPY ASAP.SET DX.SET <enter>

Bulletin Board

Arkenstone and Other Equipment for Sale

For sale: an Arkenstone system. It includes the Arkenstone board model E, an HP ScanJet Plus scanner with HP interface board, and the Arkenstone II software. In addition, it comes with an Epson 286 12 megahertz computer with 40 meg hard disk. Asking $4100.

Also for sale: an Accent XE speech synthesizer board for the Toshiba 1000 laptop computer. Asking: $350.

Contact: Dennis Clark at (312) 667-1010.

SmallTalk Computer System for Sale

For sale: a SmallTalk talking portable computer notebook, version 2.2. This electronic notebook weighs 5 pounds and has Slotbuster-quality speech, rechargeable NiCad batteries, clock-calendar, latest versions of the built-in software: WordTalk version 3.0, TermTalk version 1.3 with ASCII upload and download capability as well as VT 100 emulator, and CalcTalk version 1.1 scientific calculator. The device can be interfaced with other computers, printers, and modems. It has a built-in mini dot matrix inkprinter, tape drive for storage of data, and a full typewriter-style ASCII keyboard. Although this machine is not an MS/DOS computer, you can write and save talking programs with the built-in BASIC language. Includes cables for connecting SmallTalk to modems and MS/DOS and Apple II computers. Smart battery charger, custom briefcase, and a good supply of mini tapes and paper for the printer will also be included. The manuals are in print and on cassette. Make an offer!

Contact: Mark Dubnick, P.O. Box 670, Washington Grove, MD 20880; Phone (301) 963-0294. Please call if you need more information.

New Catalog of Braille Books from Seedlings

The new 1992 catalog of Seedlings Braille Books for Children became available 9/1/91. Twenty exciting new selections have been added, bringing the total number of books available in braille to 144!

Prices have not been raised for the sixth straight year, and the average price is just $8 per book (which is half of what it costs to produce the books)!

The types of books offered range from board books for infants, complete with print braille, pictures, and textures, to the Newbery Award winner Number the Stars by Lois Lowry to 10- to 14-year-olds.

These books are always in stock--no back orders! Prompt shipping is a priority, but please order early to avoid the holiday rush!

To obtain a catalog, just write to: Seedlings, PO Box 2395, Livonia, MI 48151-0395; or call: (313) 427-8552. Thank you.

Facts on File: Addresses Mentioned

VersaPoint, CD-ROM PC Disk, & Flipper: Raised Dot Computing

CD-ROM Simulator: DAK Industries

Library of the Future: World Library, Inc.

The RDC Full Cell Plus

Carolyn Briggs, Shipping Goddess; Phyllis Herrington, Tech Support; David Holladay, President; Aaron Leventhal, Software Development; Linda Millard, Bookkeeper; Susan Murray, Office Manager; Caryn Navy, Vice-President.

Production Notes

Written & edited with RDCUs BEX on an Apple IIgs. BEX commands changed to RTF/Interchange format control words with BEX's Contextual Replace. File transfer with BEX and Hayes Smartcom II to an Apple Macintosh Plus. RTF commands interpreted and then spell checked by Microsoft Word 4.0. Pages composed with Aldus PageMaker 3.02, output on an Apple LaserWriter, and printed at the Print Shop. Two track audio edition mastered on APH Recorder and copied on high speed Recordex 3-to-1 duplicators.