Friday, July 31, 2015

Budget Conscious Computer Deal for Voice Software Use

I recently wrote about hands-free computer use and shared a demo video of me using voice software thusly.

Utilizing voice software requires a sufficient computer, and I think I found a great deal for anyone who is budget conscious (and really, who isn't, right?).

I mentioned in my earlier writeup that many folks at KnowBrainer.com are genuine experts with voice software and also computer hardware. In their review of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13, they showed the manufacturer (Nuance) minimum requirements and recommended specifications for DNS 13, and also their KnowBrainer minimum and recommended specifications. (For details, see page 14 here.)

The deal I mentioned is currently for a refurbished HP Elitebook 8440P laptop with: Intel i5 2.53 GHz Dual Core Processor, 4 GB DDR3 RAM, Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit, DVD-RW drive, 14 inch display, 250 GB hard drive, 90 day warranty (that's pretty good on a refurbished product – just test it out shortly after getting it) and it is Wi-Fi ready… for just $170* and free shipping (it's actually $200 with a $30 rebate card):

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883250503

For that low of a price, that is a pretty solid machine. It roughly meets the  recommended specifications from Nuance, and is pretty well on par with KnowBrainer's minimum recommendations. Of course, more RAM is better, as is a faster processor (and/or more processor cores), but if money is ultra tight, this is a machine that should run DNS 13 Premium pretty decently (Premium is the version of DNS I recommend for budget conscious folks, or most people, especially if you also get KnowBrainer's command/utility package – which many of my blog readers can probably get for free – see last paragraph).

Why Windows 7 you ask? Well, the touchscreen features that came along with Windows 8, those do hands-free users absolutely no good. I asked the question on the KnowBrainer message board about which operating system is best for hands-free use – Windows 7, 8, or perhaps 10 – and several people recommended Windows 7 at this point (thread details here).

Newegg.com is a reputable vendor and a "Google trusted store" which comes with $1000 of free protection (postpurchase). Some people said that the battery was dead on arrival and could not be charged (and may have left a less-than-great review accordingly) but others said they were able to get it replaced free of charge. There's also a 30 day refund or replacement option in addition to the 90 day warranty.

If you want more RAM, better processor, etc.… they have additional refurbished machines for more money, but still a really strong value in my opinion.

I'm thinking of getting a refurbished laptop as a backup machine (my current backup is having issues). I spend a lot of time using my computer, and if something happened to my primary machine, quite frankly, I would be "lost" without the ability to operate a computer as independently as I am currently able.

Speaking of budget conscious, Lunis Orcutt is the owner of KnowBrainer, and he offers the KnowBrainer command package/utility to people with significant physical disabilities at no cost. It is a very helpful program that makes DNS more user-friendly for hands-free use, and I thank Lunis for his generosity and desire to help.

May God bless us all.

Bill

William A. Miller, BSBA, ME
C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 255 High Bowling Game
Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
About Bill: http://www.lookmomnohands.net/About_Bill.htm

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wheelchair Programming for Bowling Success (with Video)

As THIS post from October explains, I got a new chair last year and it has taken a fair amount of time to program/test/tweak settings that I like for bowling.

I bowl about twice a month with other local wheelchair users (we call ourselves the Central Florida Quad Squad) and I am also unable to change the programming for the different drive modes on my new Permobil C300 wheelchair. Long story short, my wheelchair guy and I set up two similar-but-different bowling modes that I thought I would like. But I have been blessed that my new chair has not had too many issues, so I have not had a lot of appointments with my wheelchair guy, and again, bowling just twice a month… that combination results in a slow process to fine-tune the programming for bowling.

But I think we finally have my chair set up to where I can drive/bowl well using my sip-and-puff controls to direct my chair.

The key is to be able to drive slowly, and make minor turns/adjustments as you approach the foul line with the bowling ball atop your IKAN Bowler®. More specifically, the forward speed and acceleration need to be slow, as do the turning speeds. I have tried accelerating and driving fast, and doing so does not add much speed to the ball (at most, users can increase the ball speed from roughly 6.0 mph to 7.0 mph) and it's not worth the loss in accuracy. Driving slowly and in control is best for bowling.


EDIT: here is a video of me bowling on July 11, at our Quad Squad outing…
 

If you have any questions, or would like to see my actual programming speeds for bowling, feel free to contact me.

Bill Miller :-)
C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 255 High Bowling Game
Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
Business website: http://www.ikanbowler.com
Personal website: http://www.lookmomnohands.net
 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Intro to NaturallySpeaking and Hands-Free Computer Use

My blog is about empowering wheelchair users. Bowling with an IKAN Bowler® is a great deal of fun, and having success with an activity like bowling, can encourage users to tackle additional challenges in their lives (so says therapeutic recreation experts).

One such challenge for quadriplegics like me is learning to use a computer – hands-free. I do so using voice software, in particular Dragon NaturallySpeaking along with KnowBrainer and SpeechStart+, which are third-party applications that make Dragon much more user-friendly for hands-free use.

I did a video (screencast) demonstrating how I used Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12.5, along with KnowBrainer 2012, and SpeechStart+. The goal of the video was/is to help people who are new to voice software to get acclimated and functional, because it is quite frustrating to not know how to begin or literally what to say. I experienced that frustration in the beginning myself.

I sought feedback about my demonstration on the KnowBrainer.com message board, because many of the regular posters on their user forums are real experts regarding the different facets of voice software. The demo was well received, but I kept the YouTube link unlisted, because I did not explain everything I should have (and I also misspoke a couple times). Most notably, I did not explain that saying "MouseGrid" puts a numbered grid over the entire screen (like a tic-tac-toe board) with 1-2-3 across the top, 4-5-6 in the middle, and 7-8-9 across the bottom. Saying "Mouse 1" (for example) immediately puts the grid in the upper left corner, and users can keep saying numbers to "zoom in" until the arrow is in the correct spot (there are ways to reduce the tediousness of using the mouse by voice).

With that description, I think my demo video of hands-free computer use will make sense:

http://youtu.be/Nd0qZYRfmLw

I am sharing the link on my blog now, because I just realized that it could still be helpful for some folks. What made me realize that is another person on the KnowBrainer.com message board shared a very thorough overview of voice software, which he wrote to also help new people get acclimated and learn tips, etc. to make hands-free computer use much more user-friendly and easier to learn.

His writeup specifically mentions using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5, one version before Dragon 12.5 which I demonstrated with my video. And reading his overview, I still found it helpful, and I thought others might, so I asked him for permission to share it and he agreed:

Overview of hands-free computer use written by DSR

That said, the current version of Dragon is 13, which the experts will tell you is much improved (and I concur, although I am not on the expert level yet – I still have plenty to learn). The KnowBrainer folks also released a new version, and I plan to do an updated demonstration with Dragon 13, KnowBrainer 2015, and SpeechStart+ and maybe some additional third-party applications that I want to investigate in the near future.

But for now, my above video might be useful, or the above writeup by "DragonSpeechRookie" might be beneficial.

May God bless us all.

Bill :-)

William A. Miller, BSBA, ME
C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 255 High Bowling Game
Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
Business website: http://www.ikanbowler.com
Personal website: http://www.lookmomnohands.net
 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Second 200+ Game for a 65 Year Young Woman with CP

Imagine not being able to physically pick up a bowling ball… and yet, also possessing the ability to bowl legitimately – and do it well. That does not sound possible, right?

The IKAN Bowler® (and the help of a caddie) makes it possible for wheelchair users like myself and my friend Lilian Strandlund.

Lilian is 65 years young, and has used a wheelchair for more than half of those years due to cerebral palsy. On April 1, 2015 she bowled her second game of 200 or better – a 202 in her women's league – and that is not an April fools joke.

Lilian, among other things, is also a mom, wife, artist, children's book author (the previous link has both, and here's  the first and second on Amazon), and college graduate – and her 215 makes her a world record holder in several categories of bowling.

The goal of bowling (for most folks) should be to have fun, and potentially be competitive. Good scores are relative to the bowler, but bowling 200 or better is particularly noteworthy for a wheelchair user. To my knowledge, seven IKAN Users are in the 200 Club.

Here is Lilian's scoresheet (click to enlarge it):



Way to go Lilian! :-)

Bill Miller :-)
C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 255 High Bowling Game
Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
Business website: http://www.ikanbowler.com
Personal website: http://www.lookmomnohands.net

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rhonda's Bowl-A-Thon Results

Rhonda's bowl-a-thon went well, overall. I did not bowl particularly well for me (my highest of three games was 134) but all things considered, our collective efforts should result in significant help for Rhonda, which was the goal. We raised a significant amount of money, and perhaps even more importantly, the act of raising awareness resulted in two strong leads for potentially helping Rhonda get more care covered (maybe even 24/7, although I don't want to jinx it).

I won't make excuses, but bowling in this chair is significantly different than what I did regularly for more than the previous 10 years, and apparently I'm still not used to it. My three scores were 126, 124, and 134. The bowling star of the show was my fellow Quad Squad bowler, Lilian, who started with a 164 in her first game, and topped it with a 169 in her third.

Much to her chagrin, Rhonda was unable to attend her own bowl-a-thon, due to being hospitalized with pneumonia since March 13. But she seems to be getting better, as she was able to get in her chair for about four hours on Friday, and rumor has it, she may get discharged relatively soon – PTL.

I think everyone in attendance felt good about helping Rhonda, and I thank everyone who has for doing so.

May God bless us all!

Bill Miller :-)
C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 255 High Bowling Game
Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
Business website: http://www.ikanbowler.com
Personal website: http://www.lookmomnohands.net
 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

2nd Annual Bowl-A-Thon for Rhonda

Last February, we had a very successful bowl-a-thon fundraiser to help my friend and fellow quadriplegic, Rhonda Reese, stay out of a nursing home. Roughly two years ago, at the age of 46, she lost both of her parents, and has been trying to do all that she can to keep living in a community setting in her apartment. And I thank everyone who contributed to the success of last year's bowl-a-thon.

But if we are going to KEEP Rhonda out of a nursing home indefinitely, then we will need to do a bowl-a-thon annually. Rhonda is doing other fundraisers and all that she can to avoid having to go to a nursing home, and she does have some government assistance, but it is still a fairly delicate situation that she is managing about as frugally as possible. Only God knows what the future holds, but we are endeavoring to help Rhonda, and hopefully this can be a successful annual event.

Here are the full details about this year's bowl-a-thon:

http://www.lookmomnohands.net/Rhonda.htm

Please contact me with any questions or if you want to participate in any way, and feel free to spread the word.

I thank you for your consideration to help – God bless!

Bill Miller :-)
C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 255 High Bowling Game
Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
Business website: http://www.ikanbowler.com
Personal website: http://www.lookmomnohands.net
 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Charitable Considerations: 4 Ways and Lots of Good Causes

Whether you are looking for good karma, to help your fellow man, or whatever your motivation may be, here are four ways and lots of good charitable causes to consider:

– One great way to make tax-deductible charitable donations (CharityNavigator.org)
– Three worthy individuals in need of direct help (David, Rhonda, and Peggy)
– 10 good causes you can help for free, for 1-2 min. of your time (GreaterGood.com)
– A fun, free way to learn and feed the hungry at the same time (FreeRice.com)

If you're looking to make a tax-deductible donation before this year officially ends, or in the future, CharityNavigator.org is a great way to vet the many different options and make a more informed decision.

If you want to help worthy individuals with disabilities who I know are legit, I list these three in order of urgency:

David Jayne was diagnosed with ALS about 30 years ago. He is a very smart, very accomplished man who has had quite a journey, and he is raising money on Kickstarter.com to help get his autobiography written. At the time of this writing, he already has pledges for more than $23,000 in a short timeframe – but the kicker is that he needs the project funded completely ($30,000) by late evening, January 7, 2015 or he GETS NOTHING, and will likely end up in some type of facility without the ability to finish what I believe could be a book that could cover many of his future expenses (and would be worth reading). There's a good video and more info here:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/625225387/the-unexpected-journey

Rhonda Reese is a personal friend who became a quadriplegic in 1991, and I met shortly after my injury in 1997. For more than 20 years, her mom, Jackie, was her primary caregiver in a small apartment they shared, but two years ago, Rhonda lost both her parents and is now trying to avoid going to a nursing home at the age of 48. We had a successful bowl-a-thon fundraiser for her last year, and we are planning to make it an annual event to help keep her out of a nursing home (we are currently trying to decide on the location and date of the next bowl-a-thon, but it should be in March 2015). If you want to help Rhonda, you could wait for the bowl-a-thon, or you could donate on her YouCaring.com page, which has more info here:
http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-for-rhonda/37633

Peggy Overbey is also a personal friend, and she was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (a form of muscular dystrophy) nearly 3 decades ago. She has lost many physical abilities in that timeframe, and would love to regain some of them with a fancy robotic arm. She knows the price tag is high, and she started a loom knitting business to try to raise funds, yet could still use help. Here is her link for more information and/or to donate:
http://www.gofundme.com/ecjw04

And anyone with Internet access can help 10 good causes for just 1-2 minutes of your time. To make a really significant impact you can visit GreaterGood.com daily, and click to make a sponsor paid donation on 10 different subpages. The Greater Good family of websites has tabs/links to:

TheVeteransSite.com – help provide meals for homeless Veterans with your daily click.

TheAutismSite.com – help fund therapy for children with autism with your daily click.

TheHungerSite.com – help fight hunger with your daily click.

TheBreastCancerSite.com – click daily to help fund free mammograms.

TheDiabetesSite.com – click daily to support the fight against diabetes.

TheLiteracySite.com – click daily to help give free books for children in need.

TheAnimalRescueSite.com – click daily to help give bowls of food for rescued animals.

TheRainforestSite.com – help protect and preserve habitat with your click.

TheAlzheimersSite.com – help support the fight against Alzheimer's with your click.

The above nine links will take you to separate tabs on the GreaterGood.com website. The Greater Good tab/link on the page has a special project to fund with your click. That's 10 different causes you can help in less than one minute (if you're fast:) daily.

FreeRice.com – A fantastic way to have some FUN, LEARN, and FEED THE HUNGRY! The default "game" is multiple choice English vocabulary words, but they also have many other grade school subjects, and you can even choose the level of difficulty in certain categories. And for each correct answer, sponsors will donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme.

Thank you for your consideration in helping any of these or other good causes.

May God bless us all! On a related note, if you're interested in reading the Bible or listening to audio versions, BibleGateway.com has free reading plans (some of which start January 1 and are spread out over the year) which make reading it convenient.
  
Bill Miller :-)
C1-2 Quadriplegic with a 255 High Bowling Game
Co-founder of Manufacturing Genuine Thrills Inc. d/b/a MGT
Business website: http://www.ikanbowler.com
Personal website: http://www.lookmomnohands.net