Product recommendation- Apple News+

Can you want something that you don’t want?

Here is my dilemma, I’ve trialled Apple News+, and although the concept is great! I.e. access to hundreds of magazines and newspapers all in one place, but who really has the time to consume all of this content?

The value proposition is there, $14.99 per month to have access to all of these magazines from the US, Canada, UK and Australia- titles which could easily cost upwards of $7.95 each! But you have access to all of them, in the palm of your hand, in an environmentally friendly package!

But have you ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content that you have? I suspect you’ve felt this way if you subscribe to too many podcasts. You know that feeling of anxiety, when you see the list of unlistened content piling up. And now I’m having the same issue with Apple News+, and it hasn’t even been a month yet!

The first thing after securing News+, was that I went into the list of all the magazine titles, and subscribed to everything which caught my interest (from cooking to cars). But less than a month on, I already have this month’s unread title sitting there (July), and now August’s issue has also made its way onto my unread list. Now I have double the amount of content to work through, we’re talking about upwards of 15 titles. Yikes!

I attempted to read one magazine cover to cover…… still haven’t quite got there yet. And meanwhile I’ve lost my spot. Boo! But here are the 4 reasons why I’m going to maintain News+ beyond the trial period.

Share-ability

I’ve already mentioned how it’s value+ even for just one user, but with family sharing and the ability to share with up to 6 people in your family! That’s value++. If you divided that cost up, that’s $3 per person per month!

Accessibility

Yes, it’s super easy to access, as titles automatically download to your device each month after you’ve subscribed to it. But it’s also blind accessible! Previously there were no means for me to get my hands on periodic print material like magazines, but because my phone talks, and the format of the magazines are in accessible text so my phone reads out the articles to me! All of a sudden, a whole new world is opened up to me! That in itself is priceless! Hey?

One day, one of these days I’m……

Yeah, one of these days I’m going to find myself lost for something to do, perhaps in-between audio books? Perhaps with a spare 20 minutes to burn? And what better, than to read a short article to pass the time? One of these days, it’s going to happen!

It’s just such a darn good product

I’m not exaggerating here, but it really is a great product! Depending on the magazine title, but it may be a proper digital magazine which is interactive (opposed to just a PDF file); the magazine articles are presented as an individual block, thus you can sit back and allow your screen reader to read the article from start to finish, without the need to turn each page, while the reader doesn’t just read and read either, blending together two articles which could be confusing and annoying; all of the print content is in there, including adverts and images so it’s just as good as the real thing; you can share an article with friends (haven’t tried, but the option is there); and to date I haven’t mentioned much about the available newspapers, or the fact that you’ll no longer hit pay-walls on normal Apple News! There’s really so much value for $14.99 per month.

Although I’m going to keep it, however is anyone using it? The main reason why I got News+ in the first place, was for my mum. My idea for her birthday was to buy her an iPad, loaded with magazines that she might be interested in (I think we subscribed to 20 cooking/lifestyle titles on her behalf). But when I checked in with her, she told me that she had tried flipping through one magazine, but found it unnatural. I guess mum is more used to a physical magazine, and being able to flip through quickly and only stopping when something caught her eye. So that’s one family member not using it.

My sister said she preferred to use Google news, preferring to put up with pay-walls than to change news providers.

My wife just doesn’t have the time, and just prefers reading news which friends share on Facebook.

And my dad who I thought would be the biggest fan of News+, he too preferred what he already has (has subscription to Sydney Morning Herald), which he says there is already enough content there to keep him occupied.

So here is my dilemma, I want to keep a product and keep paying for it although it seems that no one wants it! Maybe it’s a reflection of our changing times? People prefer content in small digestible bite sized pieces; people only want what they’re interested in (not spoon fed a 70+ page document); and perhaps people rather watch something than read something (my mum loves Disney Plus, which we also downloaded to her iPad).

The value is definitely there, now it just requires an audience who has the time and patience to read. But if you want to learn more about Apple News+, click HERE! It might be just what you’re looking for! But for now, Apple you can keep having my money, God knows how much you’ve already taken from me.

Product recommendation- Bass guitars

Oh, Covid lock-down blues……

Ok, this isn’t exactly a product recommendation, because I don’t have a product to recommend to you just yet……. But I’m putting forward an idea, a concept, a spark to stimulate your own thinking? It just might help you pass time quicker during isolation.

So a few months back I received my Roland Hand Sonic, a multi-purpose digital percussion instrument, and as I was banging away on it bashing along to tunes off Spotify, I came to the realisation that I actually preferred the bass part of songs, than being the beat…….

Hmmmm, this posed a few problems, as I had just dropped over $1500 on the Roland, and only now at this late stage I’m realising that I prefer to learn how to play the bass guitar, Than Drums!? D’oh!

So I started to watch YouTube tutorials, to find out how difficult (or achievable) it might be to learn; and I was checking online music stores to find out how much a bass guitar can be, to allow me to join this bass playing fraternity. But like fads or phases, after a week or so, I got over it and I didn’t think much more about it.

That was until one Sunday, as we were waiting for church to start, a friend came to us and handed us a bass guitar, “Um, someone said that you guys were looking to learn how to play?” He said, as he handed over the bass guitar which was enclosed in its bass guitar bag to us.

“Um, yeah….” I could only mutter, as it felt so unreal, like I had only been thinking about it, and only my wife knew of this desire to try, but here it was, handed to us solid in my hands. It turned out that my wife had mentioned it to a friend (a bass player), and her second bass was making the rounds around the church, being lent out to people who wanted to tinker around on its 4 steal strings. And now it was my turn to tinker!

First impressions, boy it’s heavy! Carrying it back to the car I was so surprised by its weight. And trying to play it for the first time, boy the strings were stiff and quite painful to press down. And only after a few minutes of mucking around on it, I decided that the bass was probably not for me, as I couldn’t stand the pain on my fingers. I know! I’m a wimp! So I packed it away, and my largest achievement that day, was to find space in our apartment to store it. As we live in a small apartment, and everything has its place, and I hadn’t devised a spot for it during my day-dreamings. But I found a nook for it, and it was now out of sight, out of mind. To be returned back to our friend, the next time we saw them.

However in the first week, I kept going back to the bass, pulling it out and flick at the strings, still not knowing what I was doing. But the turning point was when I started to use a bass guitar pick. Sure, a “proper bass” player would never use a pick, as they’d be using their index and middle fingers to do the walking along the strings, But I simply couldn’t stand the pain! After following one YouTube tutorial, I already developed a blister on my middle finger pad, which annoyed me to the nth degree. But the pick was a vital key in unlocking the next subsequent stage- which was just spending more time playing it.

So after just putting in the time and playing it, I started to get familiar with where everything was. In tutorial one on YouTube, it was all about the E-string, so I’d play every note only using the e-string. Thus I’d move half way up and down the neck, taking way too long to play different notes, until my wife walked in and pointed out: “You do know you can play that same note on the A-string”. And that was turning point No. 2! And an addition to this moment of enlightenment, was my wife’s tip bit that I basically only had to learn 12 notes, and all of them can be played on the E, A and D strings, without going past the 5th Fret. And this piece of wisdom, I believe has been the most important factor in why I’m still humming along, on my journey of learning the bass! Literally and metaphorically.

Now that I knew that the note that I’m looking for, can be found in this small hand span wide area, it has made it so much easier to pick-up a song, and start thumbing along to it, until through trial and error I’ve learnt all the notes for that song.

Other elements which had helped in this learning phase, was adjusting our amp’s setting to max bass and minimum treble- now the bass actually sounds like a bass! Before that, it just sounded like a slightly deeper electric guitar. Secondly it was taking the bass permanently out of its storage nook, and placing it on a guitar stand, thus its easy now to pick up and play whenever the urge comes. And after I got over my marcho-ness and got over needing to play it “like a man”, now I regularly take a seat rather than packing it in after standing for 30 mins and my neck and left shoulder are screaming out to me to stop! Therefore sitting equates to spending more time playing.

To date I’ve learnt the bass parts to 4 songs, and google and YouTube have been a God send! As you can literally find everything you need there, be that learning what key the song is in, or a step by step tutorial in playing the bass part. It’s all there!

And finally, Spotify premium! Nothing like being able to request the song that you want, and play along to it over and over until you’ve perfected the bass part- sounding like you’re one of the band!

So yeah, this latest round of Covid lock-down hasn’t been too bad, as I’ve been spending my indoor time learning a new skill. So Covid blues? No low mood here, just the blues….. of the musical kind. I imagine the next time I post about this, would be a proper ‘Product recommendation’, where I’ve pulled the trigger and purchased my own bass- so this one can be passed on to the next budding bass player.

What I’ve learnt:

  1. Borrow, don’t buy- only after some hands on experience, can you tell if an instrument is right for you. And sometimes it just isn’t for you.
  • Don’t be a man- if I stuck it out and held onto my macho ways, I think I’d given up on the bass after week one. A guitar pick and being willing to sit down to play, has bought me additional time to learn the basics- and now I can build on those foundational building blocks. Maybe in the future I might graduate to big boy pants, and I can do away with the pick, and stand on my own two feet. But for now, my ass is firmly planted in my chair, and I need to stop losing picks, as I’ve only got 2 bass picks left. Ah!
  • Persistence- I’m not musically inclined, and my natural reaction when something doesn’t come naturally to me is to give up. But by persisting with it this time, and of course obtaining advice from others and YouTube, the bass guitar has been achievable. A good entry level musical instrument for those who lack any musical talent. And for those who have it, then you’ll absolutely excel! As long as you don’t find the bass parts too boring, and lacking mental stimulation.  

Product recommendation- ESPN Radio on TuneIn Radio

FREE access to LIVE NBA finals coverage anyone?

You know that old adage, there is no such thing as a free lunch? And in this day and age of paid subscriptions, you’re probably right in 99% of the time in believing in no freebies.  

But I’m here to tell you, that there are still such things as freebies! And from all the various Medias I’m subscribed to at the moment, the media which I’ve been listening to the most ATM is FREE! Yep! FREE!

So the concept of free to air commercial radio isn’t ground-breaking, however the ability to listen to world wide content free to air, in an accessible format might be though?

The media/app which I’m talking about is TuneIn Radio. It enables you access to hundreds of radio stations, from talk back to music, from sports to finance, and heaps in-between. But the radio station which I’ve been keeping on in the background on low all of these weeks, has been ESPN Radio!

And the reason for this is because ESPN Radio broadcasts live the most crucial can-not-must-not miss games! 24/7 ESPN Radio is a Sports talk-back radio station, with Analysts discussing the sports topics of the day. However when there are major events e.g. NBA finals or MLB finals, they place all regular programing on hold and broadcast to you live the most critical matches!

So for us in Australia, all the way on the other side of the world, in the midst of a month long Covid lock-down- we can pass the time by listening to Live broadcasts of the NBA finals, sprinkled in with some MLB All-star action, and some clever American commercials along the way to keep things interesting. Yeah, I’m even enjoying adverts!

Never before have we been able to enjoy LIVE US sports like this, why? Because if this was the normal world, we’d be at school or at work during these hours. But now that we’re working from home, and a Google Home easily plays softly ESPN Radio in the background, we now can enjoy free live sports while still holding down a 9-5 job! Pretty wild hey?

Here’s to the new ways of working! If you too would like to follow live American sports while working on a spreadsheet, just ask your Google Home to “Play ESPN Radio on TuneIn!” So you’ll never miss a critical bounce or strike-out ever again!

Product recommendation- Roland Hand sonic HPD-20

What they’re not telling you!

So, I’ve owned the Roland Hand Sonic HPD-20 for almost a month now, and it’s taken me this long to gather  my thoughts and opinions on the uber ‘must be nice’ hand percussion instrument.

For those who haven’t heard of the Roland Hand Sonic HPD-20 before, it is a digital percussion instrument, played like bongos with your hands. There are 13 silicon touch pads when struck, produce a different sound depending on which kit you have selected. The Hand sonic boasts of over 800 different percussion sounds, grouped into 150+ kits, and you can expand this number by uploading your own MIDI sounds, and creating your own custom kits. Imagine pulling together the wildest assortment of percussion instruments into a corner of your home and banging away at it- but with Hand sonic your percussion corner sits on your desk taking up 1 foot by 1.5 feet, and with headphones in, you don’t disturb anyone in your household!

Priced at $1,849, it is definitely a luxury item, which some people can’t justify as it can be deemed a bit of a novelty item. Prior to pulling the trigger and buying it, I rarely found a YouTube clip of someone actually playing it like an instrument. All reviews just showed someone tapping at the pads, making some sounds for the camera, before toggling over to the next kit and doing the same all over again. And I was that guy as well, for the first couple of weeks of ownership, as there are so many instruments, it’s quite hard to find a starting point to make proper music.

What they’re not telling you!

But this isn’t a conventional product review, as the jury is still out on the value of this device. But I’m going to cover off what they’re not telling you about the Hand sonic, either from sellers or reviewers of the product.

What they’re not telling you 1. 

It doesn’t make any sound! The biggest fact that they’re not telling you, is that the Hand Sonic itself does not have any speakers, to broadcast the music that you’re making! From all the videos, the reviewers never explain how they had set-up their instrument for sound, but the only way I worked it out was by first downloading and reading the Hand sonic PDF manual, and even in there they just briefly touch on the topic. So, if you want to broadcast your music making, you first need to have external speakers or an amp to plug into. For me, I’m fortunate that I have a Bluetooth speaker which also has a 3.5mm headphone port, so I was able to plug a 3.5mm male to 3.5mm male cable from the Hand Sonic to my speaker to project my sound. But the sound is still very mono, and it could be much better. Not to mention, all the ports in the back of the Roland are 6.3mm ports, so you need to buy a 6.3mm male to 3.5mm female adaptor.

If you don’t mind, you can also plug headphones into the Hand sonic, I’ve got a pair of DJ headphones with a 6.3mm male jack, so most of the time I end up using that. As the sound quality and the stereo sound is much better than the external speakers. But in the perfect world, it would have been nice if the Hand Sonic had its own built-in speakers.

What they’re not telling you 2.

Ability to play music tracks through the Hand sonic! this is a good ‘They’re not telling you’, and frankly I’m so surprised that no one has made a YouTube clip filming themselves do this. And Googling around, I haven’t found a blog, video or any official Roland content which states that this could be done.

But on the Hand sonic, there is an auxiliary in port, which I’ve used to plug my phone to, and with Spotify on my phone I can bring up any song I like, press play, and the music is then piped through the Hand Sonic. And when I start bashing away at the percussion pads, I’m freakin’ drumming along with the track! It’s awesome! Absolutely awesome! Something I’d been dreaming to do for years! And again, I’m so surprised that no one is talking about how this could be done on the Hand sonic. After you make some adjustments to the sound levels, so that the Hand sonic instruments are at the same volume levels as the track, it’s almost impossible to tell what sounds are coming from the original track, and which sounds are your creations! And with the ability to record through the Hand Sonic, you can capture your drum remix to be shared with the world! Now this is one great ‘they’re not telling you’, which I discovered, and has given the Roland some much needed used cases in how you can actually use the Roland in real scenarios.

What they’re not telling you 3.

The placement of your instrument is critical for user ergonomics! For most people, you’re not going to fork out another couple hundred dollars for the Hand Sonic stand. Even I’m not that stupid to do that. So, you’re going to probably just place it on any free flat surface around your home. But where you place it, you need to place some thought into it. As if it’s too low, after 30 minutes or so, you’re going to get wrist pain. And any higher…… I’m not sure, perhaps higher is what you want. But for me, I’ve got it sitting on a standard office desk (occupies a corner of my home office desk ATM), and even for me, this set up is too low. Although I’m not tall (5’7), I’m finding that the Hand Sonic is not at the optimal height, so when I’m striking it like a bongo, my wrists are bending back at an unnatural angle, so I’m finding I’m getting wrist pain, thus needing to ration how much time I spend on the Hand sonic per week. Perhaps sliding some thick textbooks under it might help, but it doesn’t help the aesthetics though.

What they’re not telling you 4.

Don’t toggle past the last instrument kit! This problem is only unique to me, as I’m blind. And I have to say I’m so thankful that all the buttons and nobs are tangible physical buttons, not some flat touch screen. But there is a toggle nob which you twist, to scroll through the hundreds of different instrument kits. A little notch in the twist, lets you know that you’ve toggled to the next set. But what I didn’t know was that the final 150+ kits were currently unassigned, so for the first few days I was just testing out each kit. Playing on each for a couple of minutes to learn what sounds were out there, then twisting the nob to the right, to bring up the next kit. And then I got myself into the unassigned kits, and it would just play kit 1, no matter how you twist it. For a week I thought I had broken it, saved this kit for ever, or had gotten into some weird menu loop. For days I was pressing all the buttons, trying to reverse what I had done. And it wasn’t until I got some sighted assistance, when my wife saw that I was into the 200s kit, that were unassigned, and until she was able to get me back to kit one, that was when I could finally use the various instruments again. Would be nice if the device just went back to kit 1, when you shut down.

What they’re not telling you 5.

Novelty++. Obviously, it’s not a selling point to tell potential buyers that 99% of instrument kits are useless. Ok, I’m probably offending people by saying that their cultures percussion instruments are useless. But the majority of instruments are cultural, and although they sound nice, and its fun to bang away at it. But as an actual instrument which you would use to play real songs and at  gigs? There are actually only a handful of kits you’d actually would  use  from the Hand Sonic. In my humble opinion, it is the stock drum kit, and the bongos. Everything else is just novel. 

So, if I had a chance to do over, would I buy the Hand Sonic again? If it wasn’t a pandemic and we weren’t  stuck at home and have all this unused disposable cash to throw around. I wouldn’t buy it. But the reality is, we’re stuck at home, looking for things to entertain ourselves? So, I guess the Roland Hand Sonic HPD-20 serves its purpose.

For more information on the Roland Hand Sonic HPD-20, click HERE

Product recommendation- Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Purifier fan

Is the jury still out on the Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Purifier?

As an outcome of WFH (Working from home), we decided to get an air purifier, due to the time spent at home, and the desires to improve air flow within it.

So we’ve reclaimed our study, which had been a ‘Room of requirement’ for years, after furnishing our second bedroom as a study before we are finding out that wifi signals didn’t reach it. Ah! But after investing in the Google Nest Wifi router, and no immediate end to WFH, we tossed out what we could and reclaimed the study as a study. But what we found after settling ourselves in, was that the study has real bad air circulation, so much so that I was getting headaches only 2 hours into my working day. So we decided to get an air purifier to improve the airflow in our home.

Not knowing much about air purifiers and not wanting to spend huge amounts of time researching, we ended up going with a brand we know and trust- Dyson.

Dyson produces a range of air purifiers, from the large which sees to an entire room, to the small which only services your individual needs. But there is a product for each unique need, and a corresponding cost to your choice. Although we ended up going with the most expensive option, but we think it’s the most value for money option.

 Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Purifier fan

The Hot+Cool is $899, but our thoughts were, even if the air purifier functionality is a gimmick and we don’t have an air quality issue, at least we end up with a Dyson heater? As there’s a cool only air purifier which is around the $700 mark, while the cheapest purifier fan was still around the $500 range, and it only sits on your desk and only purifies for one. So for these reasons, I’d say the Hot+Cool is the most value for money.

We’ve owned it for 6 weeks now, and I have to admit that I’m not sure if it’s a good buy or not?

Does it cool?

Hard to say really, as immediately after we bought the thing, we went through a month of cooler weather in late Oct and early Nov. However when we had the super-hot 40-degree day? Although we had set the temperature at 22 degrees, however the fan wasn’t working hard to cool down the room! Leaving the apartment still quite warm, although it was at least 10 degrees cooler than outside. But hard to say if that was due to the fan, or the natural differences between indoors and outdoors?

Does it heat?

Now, we cannot answer this question either, as we haven’t used the heat functionality at all. 

Does it purify the air?

Again, hard to say. At first, I believed that the air in our apartment was purer. Sitting directly in front of the fan, I thought that the air coming out was purer (but was it only my own imagination?). And I thought in the first 2-3 days, I was less mucus-y. But like these things, after a week I wasn’t sure if there was an actual change, or has it always been like this? As it’s harder to put a finger on the differences, as we’ve adapted to the new norm. 

But what we have liked about the Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Purifier fan has been:

The app and metrics- with the fan, it comes with a companion app. With the app you can remotely control the fan (even when you’re not at home), you can schedule when it comes on or off, and you can view all sorts of live and historic metrics. Like the external temperature, humidity, and air quality. Compared to your internal air temperature, humidity and air quality. To know what is your actual internal temperature, that feature alone is a double tick from me, as short of having an old school thermometer in your home, how else can you tell what is the ambient temperature inside your own home?

Power saving and set and forget- the app allows you to schedule when you’d like the Dyson to be on. I’ve got it scheduled for 7am-9am, 12noon-2pm, and again for 5.30pm-8pm. And once it’s set, it continues on its merry way until the end of time and a day, until you tell it otherwise. So since I spent 10 minutes setting it up on the first day, I haven’t had to bother with it ever since.

Quiet and responsive- when the air in your home is at a good level, the fan is super quiet. Like almost silent! Sometimes the only way you can tell it’s on and operating, is to place your hands in front of it and feel for a breeze. It’s really that silent. And once it detects a drop in air quality, it works hard to bring things back into alignment. On the first day, as soon as we started cooking, and the smells wafted into the living room, the fan started to go crazy, trying to purify the air. And most times after it wakes up from its slumber, it goes crazy again for a couple of minutes, until the air quality is good again, before settling down to a quieter and more chilled fan mode. So this response alone, kind of proves to me that it does really work.

And some elements which I have to point out due to its negatives are:

It’s not as portable as you like- weighing in at 4-5kgs, and I’ve been told that you’re not meant to hold it by the top. So it’s not as portable as you like it to be. Once you have it set-up in a good spot, you’re unlikely to move it from room to room.

Climate control isn’t really climate control- although you can set its temperature, when on auto it doesn’t work to achieve your set temperature like what you’d expect from a car’s climate control system. As an example. The fan only goes crazy when it detects a change in air quality, not due to a change in ambient temperature. So the setting of your exact desired temp, is just as good as selecting between 1-3, on an old school fan if you want the fan force to be higher or lower. The temperature control is no indication of how hot or cool it can make your room.

Ongoing maintenance and costs- and lastly, there’s an ongoing maintenance cost to owning a Dyson air purifier. To achieve air purification, the Dyson uses a filter. And this filter needs to be replaced each year (as we were informed by the salesman)- the app also tells you how much more life you have on the filter. The filter needs to be replaced, not cleaned or washed, as the particles aren’t trapped on the surface of the filter, but inside the filter between two mesh layers and in-between there’s squishy stuff like sand. We’ve been told that the filters cost $150 to replace, so expect a yearly $150 cost to maintain your Dyson air purifier. Which I have to admit is pretty pricy. That’s like more than Netflix for a year, even more than Office 365 for a year!

But coming back to the core reason in why we purchased the Dyson? And did it meet our initial needs?

I think it has, I think air circulation has improve in our home, although the fan is in the living room. There seems to be more air movement around our apartment, so that I haven’t been experiencing those headaches from being in our study anymore. So that alone is a win!

I think, and it is only a thought. But I think the air quality is better now. If I’m going off my own senses alone.

And the fact that I can monitor my internal home temperature, humidity and air quality? That has been a nice gimmick to have. 

But would I recommend it to someone else? Probably not, unless if you have plenty of spare cash to splash around at the moment. But so that you can make your own informed decision, click HERE to check out the Dyson Pure Hot+Cool purifier fan.

Product Recommendation- Apple MacBook Pro

Mac V Windows, Voiceover V JAWS. Which is best?

So, I bought a Mac. Crazy hey? Just like a 35+ year old deciding for the first time to buy a manual car, after only having experience with owning auto vehicles. What motivated this change for a blind user!?

To be honest, I was just sick and tired of being held ransom by Freedom Scientific and their once market leading Screen reading software- JAWS. I was tired of needing to upgrade the $2000+ software each time I upgraded my hardware. Therefore, what ought to be an affordable purchase of $1500-$2000 laptop, immediately became a $4000 investment. So, I decided to cut off this dependence on a third-party screen reading software and go with a device which had its own built-in screen reader.

My thought processes were that, I’m already an iPhone user, so adapting to Mac shouldn’t be that hard right?

But I was so wrong, so wrong. The first week after purchasing the MacBook Pro, I was almost in tears! It took me 2 days to work-out even where the Documents folder was located, and then another 2 days before I was able to work out how to even open a document! Crazy right!? As nothing is simple nor straight forward on a Mac! No Windows start key, no leftt clicks or equivalent keyboard key, and the Enter/Return key was no longer the universal key command to activate an action! Grrrr!

Everything became a keystroke, and everything is hidden under different rocks! This function under this menu, that function under that menu! It truly does test the memory and the patience of this old guy……. But after all of this, and now that I’ve crested the Mac learning curve, I honestly believe the Mac is the far superior product, and here are the reasons why.

Integration

I keep telling my wife, now I’ve got an entire Apple ecosystem! My phone talks to my computer, the software and hardware are now at one, and most importantly they all talk to me! And I no longer have those annoying performance issues where the third-party software slowed down my computer, stressing out the RAM as the software wasn’t designed for that device, and the device wasn’t designed for the software nor a blind user of it. Now everything works seamlessly, the computer doesn’t crash for unknown reasons, and now I can actually browse a website without losing cursor focus every 5 minutes!

Sleek design

This is expected from Apple, as Afterall they spend millions on R&D, and they have the smartest minds in the world working on their products. So, you can expect it to be well designed, modern, and of high build quality. And it’s all that and sleek, clean, sturdy, light, and super quiet. Not once since I’ve gotten it, has it overheated, seemed stressed, nor have I needed to switch it on and off because it had shat itself and stopped talking. The thing which I really love is it’s instant on! Just lift up the lid, count to 5 and Voiceover already asks you to plug in your pin. Within 30 seconds you can be on the web!

Screen reader

Whereas JAWS eloquence was responsive, but the voice was so robotic! Embarrassingly so! But with Apple’s investment in life like voices, now I have Siri as my every-day reading voice. It’s so good that I’ve slowed down the speech rate so I could better admire her sexy voice. Haaha. Previously JAWS was just a means of pulling out information from your computer so after a while you don’t hear the voice anymore, but now listening to Siri, hearing her voice is a joy and an experience in itself so much so I just find random articles for Siri to read- admiring how human she sounds! Sure, I’m less efficient in everything that I do now, but everything about interacting with my device is more pleasurable now. *Eyes rolled into the back of my head*. 

Navigation and Control

Although it took some time to learn all the keystrokes, and nothing is intuitive- however once you get the hang of things you just have a greater control over where you want to go, how to get there (as  there’re multiple ways of  performing most things), and once you’ve put in the hard yards to learn  all its intricacies, the sense of mastery is so satisfying! Returning back to the car analogy, maybe that’s why purists prefer driving manual cars- as it’s that sense of control and needing to be focused- on a Mac you can’t just mindlessly tap away, allowing your fingers to run on muscle memory, but you  need to be totally engaged as you use every key on your keyboard.

While the aspects which I don’t like about the Mac, also starts with navigation and control.

Navigation and Control

As I mentioned before, there are always multiple methods of doing things, and everything has a keystroke- however this is also it’s downside. In JAWS you   basically only use and need the arrow keys and tab key for navigation, and the enter key, sometimes space bar, and at worse the virtual left mouse click to interact with any interactable feature. However, on Mac, different scenarios require different keystrokes to enable, like a keystroke to open folders and documents; a different keystroke to enter a list or table; and a 3-finger combination to click on a link? Why so complex!? In that first week, I’d be left asking “why? Why? Why?” way too often. And the one thing which really annoys me, and still does to this day, is the assignment of keystroke combinations which are impossible to carry-out! As for non-sighted users of a computer, it’s all about touch typing and having your hands and fingers always settled in the same spot- index fingers on the F and J keys. But the keystroke assignments require you to lift up your right hand, slide it under your left as the assigned keystroke requires 5 fingers, a 4-finger combination which can’t be pulled off by one hand alone! And because you’re not sighted and the opposing hand isn’t use to seeking out the Q key (as an example), so I find myself searching out the  Q key with my  ring finger on my left hand, then using my  right hand to trail down the left to secure it over the Q key, before continuing to find the rest of the other 3 keys with my left hand to complete the keystroke. And the annoying thing is that in many cases these complex keystrokes are commonly used functions. Makes no sense!

Losing myself in menu bars

Sure, in this age of social distancing, losing myself in a bar would be a welcomed change now- but losing myself in a menu bar? What the? So now and again, I just randomly find myself in the menu bar, when seconds before I was happily writing in Word, or browsing a website. And to get back out of the menu isn’t as simple as just hitting ESC. But you have to actually find your way out of the maze, oftentimes I just save and exit the document and then re-open, as it’s quicker, or to shut the page down and re-launch another instance of Safari. It’s really that bad. I’m still trying to learn and recognise the virtual doorways out of menus, but I’m still not there yet 1 month on.

Screen reading

And the basic task of screen reading, it can sometimes be so hard! In JAWS, Caps lock key + arrow down from any part of a document or website would start the reader to read out loud from that point on, to the end of the document/website (unless you stop it earlier). But with Voiceover, this simple task is fraught with problems. Either the cursor doesn’t come with you, so if I stop reading at any point, and start read all again, it would literally start from the beginning of the document again! It’s so annoying, and I still haven’t worked out how to remedy this. *Teeth bared*. Or the fact that there is a keystroke to read headings, and the next text paragraph, and another to just read links. But with each of these methods they don’t read everything on a page. Just reading paragraph text, it misses links, just reading headings it skips everything else. While the other alternative is to read line by line, but that’s so much effort on my part! And when editing your work in Word, I never know where the cursor has landed, is it after the last letter, or is it Infront of the first letter of the next word? So, editing my work is now so slow- shudders to think how long it’s going to take me to proofread/edit this long-ass post!

Design

And although I had praised Apple’s sleek design, but the power pack annoys me somewhat, as it’s pretty huge! Sure, all laptops have that big charger pack, but not everyone has the charger pack connected to the actual PowerPoint plug. So, when you have it plugged into the wall, it feels like the wall socket is propping up a heavy load, sure it’s not, but it just seems that way- not to mention the clearance space required, gone are the days of using a powerpoint hidden behind furniture. The oversized touch pad is also a problem, I kept unknowingly brushing it with my sleeve or something, thus moving the cursor so after typing for a while, I’ll find my work completely jumbled as the cursor was moved here and there- causing me to spend just as long fixing up everything. These days I’ve just de-activate the touch pad. Giving up the chance of using my iPhone touch gestures as an alternative to move around the screen. And the last design floor, is the sharp edges. After typing for a while, I’ll have indented lines on my wrists from the angular aluminium edges, and the corners where there is an indentation to open the lid, the corners are particularly sharp, wouldn’t want to cut your wrists on that!

But after this seemingly long list of gripes, I still thing Voiceover is better than JAWS, and Mac more satisfying to use than a Windows device, just due to the fact that there is a sense of accomplishment after pulling off any simple task (pleased that I’d remembered the 4-finger combination). But all cynicism aside, the MacBook is prettier than any other laptop, more powerful for a portable device, the battery life is great, the screen is high res (so I’ve been told), and the sound quality is truly hi def! 

So, if you’re considering a change in your life, looking for a new challenge? Checkout the line-up of Apple MacBook’s, once you master it, it’s so satisfying! Click HERE to see the range of MacBook’s on offer. 

Specs:

13 Inch MacBook Pro

16Gb RAM

2.0Ghz Quad core Intel i5 processor 

512 Gb SSD memory