Runng on Empty

Yes, I’ve been quiet lately. I try to at least leave bread
crumbs of hope in my blog, and there isn’t a lot of that to go around. I’m
to a point where I don’t have a clear path to what I should do next. Without
that, I’m only rehashing old material. We have heard reports lately of  a
“locked in” quadriplegic who had electrodes implanted in his brain,
and is now learning to use them to control sounds made by a computer. The ultimate
goal being to make the computer talk for him.

 

Sorry, I don’t remember the guy’s name, or all
the details of the project. Yet, some obvious issues come to my mind. Wouldn’t
it be much easier for his thoughts to tell the computer what he wants in more standardized
input forms, input to any program that computer can run? That would have
to be simpler than to guide it through all the sounds that even an average
sound card can generate. Humans can speak because both our brains and our
speech organs are optimized for that. A computer’s ability for creating
sound is much less specific, and thus would require considerable concentration
to make it understandable to listeners in real-time. If the researchers intend
to optimize the computer for speech, why start from scratch? Why not build upon
software that already tackles that step successfully? Consider this: if I could
“thought-type,” Xpress-It would allow me to converse as freely as
anyone. That same interface also would allow me to create and debug software at
a pace fast enough to send other developers screaming into the night in a blind
panic.

 

The point here is really that the limited goal of that project,
to teach a disabled person to speak by controlling a computer sound system is
rather emblematic of the narrow-focus approach taken by many in assistive communication.
How is learning to make specific sounds going to enable that man to earn a living
or manage his life? Perhaps it will, but I don’t see how. To me, it would
be far more enabling to teach the gentleman overall use of that computer, to
earn a living, run his own life, and—oh yes—talk clearly. Unfortunately,
I’ve yet to see anyone in the rehab sphere really doing that. Instead, the
norm continues to be to treat computers as dedicated single-use devices. I suppose
that’s why computer hogs like EZKeys continue to do so well.

 

Of course, the Words+ rep was correct in pointing out a fundamental
problem in marketing something like Xpress-It. She admitted that it had certain
advantages over her products. She also said Words+ was working to make their
products more like Xpress-It. Yet, Words+ has one big advantage I can’t match:
a marketing budget. The people in the rehab community stick with vendors they
know. That’s not as cynical as it might seem. Speech pathologists are
just people too. They know speech pathology, but not much about computers for
the most part. They know Words+, and so that’s who they trust. I really don’t
see how I can raise awareness enough to overcome that. How do I get people to
broaden their rehab goals from just helping the Disabled simply communicate to
empowering the patients to take back control of their lives? That’s a
question I’m still struggling to answer.

 

Let’s face it, I wouldn’t be eager to recommend
Xpress-It if I were a SLP. After all, the vendor—me—is down to a
less-than-one-man operation. But, Xpress-It’s simple design is meant to keep
its support burden to a minimum. That, and a steady flow of orders would turn
my tiny company into something quite robust in short order. Still, that won’t
happen unless I can somehow get the people who do the actual rehab work to take
a more holistic approach to the process instead of going at it piecemeal.

 

I am frequently told I have an outstanding setup, referring
to my wheelchair and the stuff on it. Maybe, but you’re unlikely to see
the technology reach others who need it anytime soon. It’s not that
complex, but it is beyond what most people in the wheelchair business know. The
few who can understand it, are prohibited by their manufacturers and insurers
from reproducing it. So, how do disabled people who need this technology and the
freedom it brings gain access to it? In short, this is the classic question of
how do you alter the perception of a community to be more open to different
technology? Sticking electrodes into someone’s brain is all well and
good, but the true value of that project will be subsequently determined by
what the electrodes are connected to. Don’t stop with just some sounds. Give
the man full access to a good general purpose computer and prepare to be awed!

 

It seems to me that the only reliable way to change a
community’s established response to technology is on the inside. Community
members who become aware of new, potentially helpful technologies have to take
up some degree of responsibility for fostering their growth. If you think an
idea has promise, ask what you can do to help. Even if you don’t think
the idea is perfect, your input will probably help to improve it. Also, your
colleagues are considerably more likely to weigh your perspective on a product
or technology than that of an outsider like me.  Please get involved in
technology advocacy.

 

I’ve remarked that it seems my only lasting legacy to
the public will be the words in this blog. That saddens me because I know I could
offer more tangible contributions. Still, a lot of what I talk about pertains
directly to the challenges disabled people face  in our society. The hope
is that someone somewhere will benefit from my experiences and thereby enact my
minute contribution to society. Great. I guess that’s better than
nothing.  

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RE: It’s Time

Richard,

 

Quit apologizing. I didn’t
expect you to work Thanksgiving.

 

Now, a comment and a question. In
my situation, 17” screens are not always a good thing. Yes, they are nice
to have when you’re coding, but I don’t do a lot of that anymore. Otherwise,
17’ screens are larger, hungrier mouths to feed. They can also be driving
hazards. Sometimes, it’s necessary for me to move round with the laptop open
(sometimes, it’s guiding me even using GPS), and a honking big display is
a real keister-buster. In fact, past experience says that anything above 13”
is a hemorrhoid.
J

 

Speaking of past experience, I just
realized that three of my last four laptops are still running around the planet. 
So why do the 1420 and 1520 only have 3-year warranties? True, Dell could argue
that multi-media machines obsolete faster, but that’s only so if the customer
fails to take account of likely future needs in his purchase. Of course you realize
that things like this push me back toward the XPS.

 

Oh, one more thing. I sent a
separate email to you regarding a nVidia 7950 upgrade for this M1710. It’s
a pricy upgrade, and I really don’t want my caregivers that deeply into
this machine.  If I do decide to do that upgrade, is there any hope of a
tech doing it?

Scott

 

From:
Richard_Bernier@Dell.com [mailto:Richard_Bernier@Dell.com]
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2007 2:27 PM
To: royall@conchbbs.com
Subject: RE: It’s Time

 

Mr. Royal,

 

Sorry I did not reply sooner, but I was away on vacation.  I
hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving!

 

Okay, so it looks like you have narrowed down you picks with the
Inspiron 1520, Inspiron 1410, and the XPS M1330.

 

Inspiron 1520

·        
WLAN Dell Wireless 1505 a/b/g/n Mini-Card / Intel 4965 Next-Gen
Wireless-N Mini-card

·        
WWAN Dell Wireless 5720 Mobile Broadband Mini-Card with GPS

·        
Dell 355 Bluetooth v2.0 + Enhanced Data Rate (EDR)

·        
256 MB Graphics card, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT

·        
4096 MB max / DDR2 667 MHz SODIMMs

·        
320G max hard drive available

·        
3 yr In-Home Service, 24/7 Technical Support

 

Base on our conversations in the past and the most recent
requirements, I would advocate you go with the 1520.  It has everything
you want and need.  The only thing that it does not have is a 4 year
warranty, currently 3 years is being offered.  Plus, I really do not
believe you would be happy using an LCD display that is smaller than 15.4 since
you are now using an 17” LCD on the XPS 1710.

 

Finally, the difference between the Inspiron and Latitude line is
part configuration and part construction.  The Inspiron lines will have
more multimedia options than a Latitude.  The Latitude line is constructed
to be carried around 24/7.  So it is build for business.  That is
basically it, not much more to say about that.

 

Please, get back to me if I missed anything.  It was great
hearing from you again!

 

Best regards,

Richard Bernier
Online Community Outreach Liaison
Dell Inc.


From: Scott Royall
[mailto:royall@conchbbs.com]
Sent: Sunday, November 18, 2007 7:09 PM
To: ‘Scott Royall’; Bernier, Richard
Subject: RE: It’s Time

 

One other recommendation that I
almost forgot:  the winning laptop should have all three radios
internally. I’m talking about 802.11N, Bluetooth 2, and EV-DO.
That’s almost a requirement because the M1710’s PCI Express slot is
the only thing about it that I detest. My EV-DO cards come out much too easy.

 

From: Scott Royall
[mailto:royall@conchbbs.com]
Sent: Sunday, November 18, 2007 3:23 PM
To: ‘Richard_Bernier@Dell.com’
Subject: It’s Time

 

Richard,

Yeah, my “travel season” finally ended yesterday
so it’s time to take my M1710 off the frontline. That means selecting a
replacement workhorse. As you know, the leaders in that race has been the 1410
and M1330, with Dell further muddying the waters with the new 1520. Boy, Dell
delights in keeping the waters of decision turbid!

 

Ok, let’s generate some questions for you to work on.
I will give you a set of core requirements and high-priority recommended
extras. But, I should first pose a “meta” question that has always
bugged me. Can you delineate the difference between Dell’s various laptop
product lines? Yes, I know, it used to be that the Latitude was for business,
and the Inspiron was for consumers. Yet, I could easily configure either to do
anything I wanted for about the same price point. Now we have also Precision,
and XPS. XPS is supposedly the big gun, but once again, the Inspiron 1420 can
be set up to breathe just as much fire. So what’s what?

 

On to the requirements:

 

·        
Four-year on-site support

·        
200 MB HD

·        
2 GB RAM

·        
Discrete graphics

 

Recommendations:

 

·        
Same keyboard layout as M1710

·        
Compatible with Dell’s Type D power
supplies

·        
Minimal size required to meet my needs

·        
nVidia high-end graphics

·        
More than two USB2 ports

 

Of course the M1330 fails the USB criteria but blows the
others away in the size category so the race is still neck-and-neck.

 

Oh, this post is being blogged so don’t put your phone
number in your reply unless you want the world calling you.

 

Scott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                          

 

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RE: It’s Time

One other recommendation that I almost
forgot:  the winning laptop should have all three radios internally. I’m
talking about 802.11N, Bluetooth 2, and EV-DO. That’s almost a requirement
because the M1710’s PCI Express slot is the only thing about it that I detest.
My EV-DO cards come out much too easy.

 

From: Scott Royall
[mailto:royall@conchbbs.com]
Sent: Sunday, November 18, 2007 3:23 PM
To: ‘Richard_Bernier@Dell.com’
Subject: It’s Time

 

Richard,

Yeah, my “travel season” finally ended yesterday
so it’s time to take my M1710 off the frontline. That means selecting a
replacement workhorse. As you know, the leaders in that race has been the 1410
and M1330, with Dell further muddying the waters with the new 1520. Boy, Dell
delights in keeping the waters of decision turbid!

 

Ok, let’s generate some questions for you to work on.
I will give you a set of core requirements and high-priority recommended
extras. But, I should first pose a “meta” question that has always
bugged me. Can you delineate the difference between Dell’s various laptop
product lines? Yes, I know, it used to be that the Latitude was for business,
and the Inspiron was for consumers. Yet, I could easily configure either to do
anything I wanted for about the same price point. Now we have also Precision,
and XPS. XPS is supposedly the big gun, but once again, the Inspiron 1420 can
be set up to breathe just as much fire. So what’s what?

 

On to the requirements:

 

·        
Four-year on-site support

·        
200 MB HD

·        
2 GB RAM

·        
Discrete graphics

 

Recommendations:

 

·        
Same keyboard layout as M1710

·        
Compatible with Dell’s Type D power
supplies

·        
Minimal size required to meet my needs

·        
nVidia high-end graphics

·        
More than two USB2 ports

 

Of course the M1330 fails the USB criteria but blows the
others away in the size category so the race is still neck-and-neck.

 

Oh, this post is being blogged so don’t put your phone
number in your reply unless you want the world calling you.

 

Scott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                          

 

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It’s Time

Richard,

Yeah, my “travel season” finally ended yesterday
so it’s time to take my M1710 off the frontline. That means selecting a
replacement workhorse. As you know, the leaders in that race has been the 1410
and M1330, with Dell further muddying the waters with the new 1520. Boy, Dell
delights in keeping the waters of decision turbid!

 

Ok, let’s generate some questions for you to work on. I
will give you a set of core requirements and high-priority recommended extras. But,
I should first pose a “meta” question that has always bugged me. Can
you delineate the difference between Dell’s various laptop product lines?
Yes, I know, it used to be that the Latitude was for business, and the Inspiron
was for consumers. Yet, I could easily configure either to do anything I wanted
for about the same price point. Now we have also Precision, and XPS. XPS is
supposedly the big gun, but once again, the Inspiron 1420 can be set up to
breathe just as much fire. So what’s what?

 

On to the requirements:

 

·        
Four-year on-site support

·        
200 MB HD

·        
2 GB RAM

·        
Discrete graphics

 

Recommendations:

 

·        
Same keyboard layout as M1710

·        
Compatible with Dell’s Type D power supplies

·        
Minimal size required to meet my needs

·        
nVidia high-end graphics

·        
More than two USB2 ports

 

Of course the M1330 fails the USB criteria but blows the
others away in the size category so the race is still neck-and-neck.

 

Oh, this post is being blogged so don’t put your phone
number in your reply unless you want the world calling you.

 

Scott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                          

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FW: Electronic fuel Injection Worthy of Nobel Consideration?

Yeah, seeing is believing. I
would’ve expected the injectors to be closer to the spark plugs though as
both are at the cylinder heads. Still, I wonder if Chrysler knows how insanely
reliable that design has proven to be.


When and where’s lunch next week?

 

From: Tim McLean
[mailto:tmclean@helfmandodge.com]
Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2007 4:24 PM
To: ‘Scott Royall’
Subject: RE: Electronic fuel Injection Worthy of Nobel Consideration?

 

Scott,

 

See the attached picture; the injectors are yellow!

 

 

 

Timothy McLean

Service Manager

Helfman Dodge

713-533-6252

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Scott Royall [mailto:royall@conchbbs.com]
Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2007 12:06 PM
To: Scott Royall
Subject: Electronic fuel Injetion Worthy of Nobel Consideration?

 

From the
Things-that-make-you-go-hmm department:.

 

It remains to be seen if my 1994
Dodge Ram 250 van is fuel injected or not. Tim McLean, Service Manager for
Helfman Dodge here in Houston swears it is, and Chrysler’s build record
(sort of the van’s birth certificate) bears him out. On the other hand,
the Crown Dodge salesman said nothing about fuel injection when I bought the
van new. Electronic Fuel Injection is something automotive manufacturers like
to crow loudly over, because it does improve engine performance. Virtually
every vehicle with EFI has at least one placard proclaiming its presence,
sometimes obnoxiously. Not mine. Not even a “Magnum” placard, as
the build record indicates the van to be. Computers weren’t controlling
the engine builds in 1994 so something could’ve been switched in the
paperwork.

 

At least that is my theory, and
I’m betting Tim lunch over it. The only way to determine if EFI is there
is through skilunking into the innards of the engine compartment for a couple
of hours. So the van goes back to Helfman tomorrow for the day. The good news
is that Helfman narrowed the problem down to cylinders 7 or 8. If EFI is
present, it’s one or two malfunctioning injectors. Expensive, but not
like a computer!

 

The thing I find amazing is that,
if my van has EFI, whoever designed those injectors is long overdue for a Nobel
Prize, because even Mercedes

EFI needs regular maintenance.
Injectors are really just electrically-fired atomizers, and they are prone to
clog. If I have injectors still purring after 120,000 miles and 14 years of
neglect, that designer is a god! J

 

 

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Electronic fuel Injetion Worthy of Nobel Consideration?

From the Things-that-make-you-go-hmm department:.

 

It remains to be seen if my 1994 Dodge Ram 250 van is fuel injected
or not. Tim McLean, Service Manager for Helfman Dodge here in Houston swears it
is, and Chrysler’s build record (sort of the van’s birth certificate)
bears him out. On the other hand, the Crown Dodge salesman said nothing about fuel
injection when I bought the van new. Electronic Fuel Injection is something automotive
manufacturers like to crow loudly over, because it does improve engine performance.
Virtually every vehicle with EFI has at least one placard proclaiming its presence,
sometimes obnoxiously. Not mine. Not even a “Magnum” placard, as
the build record indicates the van to be. Computers weren’t controlling the
engine builds in 1994 so something could’ve been switched in the paperwork.

 

At least that is my theory, and I’m betting Tim lunch
over it. The only way to determine if EFI is there is through skilunking into
the innards of the engine compartment for a couple of hours. So the van goes
back to Helfman tomorrow for the day. The good news is that Helfman narrowed the
problem down to cylinders 7 or 8. If EFI is present, it’s one or two
malfunctioning injectors. Expensive, but not like a computer!

 

The thing I find amazing is that, if my van has EFI, whoever
designed those injectors is long overdue for a Nobel Prize, because even Mercedes

EFI needs regular maintenance. Injectors are really just electrically-fired
atomizers, and they are prone to clog. If I have injectors still purring after 120,000
miles and 14 years of neglect, that designer is a god! J

 

No virus found in this outgoing message.
Checked by AVG Free Edition.
Version: 7.5.503 / Virus Database: 269.15.31/1130 – Release Date: 11/14/2007 9:27 AM

Electronic fuel Injetion Worthy of Nobel Consideration?

From the Things-that-make-you-go-hmm department:.

 

It remains to be seen if my 1994 Dodge Ram 250 van is fuel injected
or not. Tim McLean, Service Manager for Helfman Dodge here in Houston swears it
is, and Chrysler’s build record (sort of the van’s birth certificate)
bears him out. On the other hand, the Crown Dodge salesman said nothing about fuel
injection when I bought the van new. Electronic Fuel Injection is something automotive
manufacturers like to crow loudly over, because it does improve engine performance.
Virtually every vehicle with EFI has at least one placard proclaiming its presence,
sometimes obnoxiously. Not mine. Not even a “Magnum” placard, as
the build record indicates the van to be. Computers weren’t controlling the
engine builds in 1994 so something could’ve been switched in the paperwork.

 

At least that is my theory, and I’m betting Tim lunch
over it. The only way to determine if EFI is there is through skilunking into
the innards of the engine compartment for a couple of hours. So the van goes
back to Helfman tomorrow for the day. The good news is that Helfman narrowed the
problem down to cylinders 7 or 8. If EFI is present, it’s one or two
malfunctioning injectors. Expensive, but not like a computer!

 

The thing I find amazing is that, if my van has EFI, whoever
designed those injectors is long overdue for a Nobel Prize, because even Mercedes

EFI needs regular maintenance. Injectors are really just electrically-fired
atomizers, and they are prone to clog. If I have injectors still purring after 120,000
miles and 14 years of neglect, that designer is a god! J

 

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