ShellyBlog Shelly Brisbin's life consists of several long tails. She writes about them here.

December 11, 2016

I Did Not Buy a MacBook Pro

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Random Personal Nonsense — Tags: , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 11:27 PM

Update: Now with a dramatic reading, as heard on NosillaCast #606, at about the 30 minute mark. Thanks to Allison for the opportunity to relive high school poetry interp competition. 

Lots and lots of people have asked if I bought a new MacBook Pro; the one with the dongles and the touch bar. And then, I couldn’t sleep. So I wrote a poem.

I Did Not Buy a MacBook Pro

When I’m on a podcast show,
To talk the tech with friends I know,
I cannot share their Apple glow,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

At coffee shops I seem low rent,
At least my money’s not all spent,
I can afford a latte though,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

No touch bar tops my keyboard tray,
Below the Space my wrists must stay,
Escape is pretty easy, though,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

Adapters, dongles, I know not,
Just Ethernet and SD slot,
Old USB is not so slow,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

It makes me seem a low-tech lass,
And not so upper-middle-class,
To type on something three years old,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

But my curiosity does grow,
So I’ll brave the Texas ice and snow,
And to the Apple Store I’ll go,
To gaze upon the MacBook Pro.

November 15, 2016

My Podcast Smorgasbord

Filed under: Podcast Appearances — Tags: , , , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 9:11 AM

In the course of promoting my book, iOS Access for All, I’ve been invited onto several podcasts. For the most part, these are new opportunities for me, though a few invites came from old friends. I’ll link you to all the shows, but I want to give you reasons to listen to specific ones, since they’re so different. Also, if you just can’t get enough of my yammering, subscribe to the All Shelly, All The Time podcast feed, to hear shows I make, co-host, or visit.

Here’s what I did last week:

  • Mac OS Ken: You should know first off that Ken Ray is one of my favorite people, and I love any excuse to talk with him. This episode is one of the best conversations I’ve ever had on a podcast . We talk about the state of the Mac, my goofy love of the iPod Touch, Apple’s approach to promoting its accessibility offerings, and much more. If you only have time for one of these, make it Ken’s show.
  • Chit Chat Across the Pond: Allison Sheridan didn’t ask me on to flog the book. What she said was “Come on the show to talk about anything you like.” Well that’s a juicy invite, eh? I wanted to talk about my self-publishing journey; picking a subject, summoning the guts to launch a ginormous project, and choosing (and discarding) tools, along the way.
  • Daily Tech News Show: I have admired Tom Merritt since he co-hosted Buzz Out Loud, back in the mid aughts. His current show is fast-paced, wide-ranging, and just plain fun to do. Tom challenges you to step up your game, and his questions, and ability to take in new information are splendid.
  • The Tech Doctor: Robert Carter and Allison Hartley have been kind enough to have me on the show before. They know, as I do, that many in their audience are familiar with my book. Their questions this time around were big picture, and that makes the interview more interesting.
  • Mac Power Users: David Sparks and Katie Floyd share my love of outlines and other structural guidelines. You’ll hear the results in a 1.5 hour conversation about Apple accessibility. I feel as though I was able to describe the breadth of available tools to an audience that understands Apple’s leadership, but doesn’t really know how it all works.
  • MacVoices: Chuck Joiner always has room for me on his show, and I appreciate it. Like the Tech Doctors, he gets that a repeat appearance could be boring, so he finds a way to change things up for each visit

Thanks to Ken, Allison, Tom, Robert, Allison, Katie, David, and Chuck for giving me a platform to talk about all the things. And if you’re still reading, it’s worth noting that I released two shows of my own last week; The Parallel, and Hollywood on the Radio. Finally, Maccessibility Roundtable held its bi-weekly meeting, so do check us out.

May 19, 2016

Less Than or Equal Guest Shot: My Beef with Tech Journalism

Filed under: Access and Disability,Announcements,Podcast Appearances — Tags: , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 12:56 PM

I was honored to join Aleen Sims on episode #89 of her podcast, Less Than or Equal. It’s a great show, where you will meet a wide range of people, many of whom are not among the usual suspects of podcast guests (present company excepted, I guess.) We talked about the reasons accessibility is often invisible in the mainstream tech world, and why I get grumpy when I read (or don’t read) about accessibility in mainstream tech publications. I did that thing where I talk really fast, so increase the speed of your podcatchnr’s playback (Overcast is great for this) and have a listen. I would love your feedback, too.

September 13, 2015

Apple Makes Stuff, I Talk About It

Filed under: Podcast Appearances — Tags: , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 9:13 PM

My friends at Apple, for I must surely call any organization that has taken so much of my money in exchanged for shiny objects a friend, announced a lot of new shiny objects this week. And so, I podcasted about them on my own show, on a show where I’m a regular, and as a guest on someone else’s show.  Minimum show length? 1 hour. That’s the one I produced and edited. You’re welcome!

But Siri-ously. Do check them out, of they were fun shows to do:

Hey, if you’re sick of podcasts, check back on Wednesday. I’ll have book news.

 

August 30, 2015

Back in the Saddle: Check Out My New Podcast

Lately, I’ve been rediscovering my love of podcasting. For those of you who don’t know, and that includes a surprising number of friends and colleagues, I produced my first podcast in 2004, and continued to make shows on the regular for the better part of the next nine years. I have guested on many podcasts, and was active in the first wave podcasting community; the enthusiasts and semi-pros who congregated at the first few New Media Expo events. Oh yeah. And I ran Blogger & Podcaster Magazine, which sadly folded after a year-and-a-half run. 

It’s weird to feel I need to summarize my podcasting resume, but I do feel that need. The real point is that after putting podcasting on the back burner as I hustled up writing work, and taught myself how to publish a book, I’m feeling drawn back into making audio. 

My new show, now at episode #2, is called The Parallel: a tech podcast with accessibility sprinkles. As a consumer and a participant in both the mainstream tech journalism world, and the accessible tech community, I’m never entirely at home with the ways the two interact. My show brings these communities together for a conversation about tech that is informed by accessibility, but not dominated by it. Check out episode #1 for a slightly more detailed explanation.

Give it a listen, and if there’s anyone you think I should invite on, get in touch. The host plus two guests from different perspectives format could lend itself to some interesting conversations.

July 17, 2015

The One iPod Touch Fangirl

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Random Personal Nonsense — Tags: , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 11:09 AM

This week’s announcement of faster, more colorful versions of the iPod Touch was met with:

  • a) rapture
  • b) sophisticated market analysis
  • c) indifference

Actually, the answer is d) scorn.

You see, the lowly (that one always hurts) iPod Touch is not perceived as an aperitif for those wishing to sample the iOS menu. Nor is it the logical landing place for someone who prizes small, elegant things. It is also not a cost-effective way to get onto the Internet without all the carpel tunnel. No, dear readers, the iPod Touch kind of makes people crazy. Crazy the way reality TV makes me crazy. I mean, the existence of totally made up skits featuring surgically-enhanced blonde people doesn’t affect my life, but the very idea that they exist on a TV screen is kind of irritating. So it is in the brains of the iPod Touch skeptics, who outnumber me by the millions.

An iPod Touch hater has three modes: first, he or she, probably an iPhone/Apple Watch fan person, must be unimpressed. “It’s been so long since I thought about the iPod.” Next, it is good to be a prophet of doom. “I don’t think there’s much life left in that thing.” Finally, convert that one naife you know who secretly carries an iPod, into a cultural outsider. “I can see how you might get one for a five-year-old.”

And so the iPod Touch is an obsolete, doomed, toy. Case closed!

As I’m sure you have surmised, I beg to differ.

I got my iPod Touch in 2013, when I needed a test device for the first edition of my iOS accessibility book. I justified the purchase by promising myself to sell the underpowered thing once the book was done. But like so many Apple products before, my Touch, whose name is Sea Lion, burrowed its way into my life. Soon, it had become my primary podcast listening device, text message checker, and Kodi remote.

My case for the iPod Touch is a personal one: while the disdain in which it is held by the world at large is weird, I don’t suggest that everyone take a Touch to the prom. Chances are that if you don’t have one, you have arranged your life in such a way that the Touch would be redundant. But I use the thing every day, far more than my phone. With every fiber of my being, I am fighting the urge to anthropomorphize the little bugger.

Time for the bullet points. Here’s why I am The iPod Touch Fangirl:

  • Thin n lite: Apple is thin-obsessed, as are many of its customers. You can’t beat the iPod Touch for thinness and lightness. It fits into any pocket or purse, and can be balanced between two of my small fingers for easy reading or button-tapping. Wrist strain is for iPhone users, myself included. I’ve never considered burdening the Touch with a case. I’m not sure how you could design a lighter, thinner Internet device that also includes a screen of useful size.
  • Luxuriously long battery life: Because there’s no cellular radio to drain the battery, this thing is an Energizer, doing my bidding all day without complaint. I can’t say that of any iPhone I’ve owned, especially when I navigate with GPS, listen with VoiceOver, and/or make calls. Since I work from home where the wi-fi is fast and plentiful, the Touch doesn’t need a radio. When I leave the house, it’s full of podcasts and books, none of which make many demands on the battery. The phone’s job is to tell me when the next bus will arrive, and to take calls from my mom. Carrying two devices may seem a bit awkward, but it feels more like having a 16 Gb, wi-fi-enabled Mophie for my phone.
  • Perfect podcast and audiobook machine: I know that music is all about streaming these days, and plenty of people stream podcasts, too. I use Overcast to do this crazy thing called downloading. On the go, it’s quick and easy to pull the tiny iPod from my outside purse pocket, should I need to switch from tech podcasts to something lighter. The phone slumbers on, in the inner pocket, dreaming of SMS and signal bars.
  • Um, I sleep with mine: I suffer from bouts of insomnia, but even when I turn out the lights, I like to curl up with a good audiobook. The Touch is a far more congenial bedmate than my iPhone 6, with its bulky case and large, bright screen. I’ll confess that I’ve dropped the phone onto my face while manipulating the Audible app. This is a personal coordination issue, but whatever! I’ve never seen this tested in a lab, but I assure you that an iPod Touch to the nose hurts less than an iPhone 6 does.
  • Internet for kids: Finally! Something we can all agree on. Nope. Here’s where I make someone mad. If your kid is under the age of 14 or so, he or she shouldn’t have a smartphone. And if he or she is under the age of 10, an Internet device of one’s own is too much. So yes, the iPod Touch is a perfect tween machine. If Apple stopped making the iPod Touch tomorrow, would you give your 11-year-old his or her own iPhone? I know that passing an old phone on to your kids is among the best justifications for getting yourself a new one. And without the iPod Touch in the lineup, you can continue to do that. That’s right, mom and dad. I’m calling you out! Be honest about your own gadget desires. Give the kid an iPod Touch and let him or her grow into a phone when puberty hits. You’ll save money, if that’s a thing in your house.
  • Low stakes in unclean places: My husband is the kind of guy who does not call a plumber or electrician when something goes wrong at our house. He’s also the kind of guy who built our pavestone driveway and a french drain, and who is currently digging for a retaining wall between our house and the next. Take that, y’all who need an app to turn off the lights at night! Wait, come back, I have a larger point to make. So Frank spends a lot of time out in the yard with shovels and wheelbarrows and stuff. He picked up the audiobook bug from me, and likes to listen while he’s toting that barge and lifting that bale. He also likes his phone to stay clean and dry, and inside the house. Entertainment while digging holes, along with no calls from your large family, is kind of a perfect use case for an iPod Touch, or even an iPod Nano. Cheap these gadgets are not, but replacing a lifeless one is simpler and quicker than performing the same maneuver when phone carriers are involved.
  • Lower cost/no contract: Phone companies are evil. Can we all agree on that? You hate phone calls? Can we agree there, too? It’s unlikely that you would feel comfortable not having a device that can exchange calls on the telephone network, but your Phone app probably gets less use than Messages, Mail, or maybe even FaceTime. Therein lies the genius of Apple’s broad suite of communication tools. The iPod Touch costs 250 actual dollars, not 250 subsidized, we-own-your-ass-for-two-years dollars. I’ve heard half a dozen people say “95 percent of my calls and texts are with other iOS users.” I think most of them are exaggerating grievously, and my numbers are nothing like that either. But still! the iPod Touch can do everything a phone can do that doesn’t involve a cellular connection to the Internet, and making an old-school phone call. When I’m at home, I pick up whichever device is nearest. Sometimes, that’s my iMac, which is actually kind of heavy, and I plan to stop picking it up.
  • Watch schmatch: Since April of this year, people really hate pulling their phones out of their pockets. It’s a bloody nightmare! Hence, they’ve invested $400 or more in a tiny screen that sits atop their wrists. Is it just me, or is “complication” a counter-intuitive name for something that’s supposed to make your mobile life easier? When I’m home, the battery-chewing iPhone 6 sits on a bar in the center of my house, continuously drinking the sweet nectar of electricity. When I get a text or Twitter notification, or need to dash off a quick email, Sea Lion is usually in my pocket. I possess just enough strength to pull it out. From there, I view the entire tweet or text on a single screen, and dictate or type a grammatically correct and people-pleasing email without need of contorting both arms to read and write on a tiny wrist screen. Did I mention that it’s half the price of the watch?

I haven’t placed an order for the faster, more colorful, camera-rific iPod Touch. The same stubborn, cheap streak in me that allows me to love the unlovable also keeps me from buying new gadgets right before vacation. I do have a birthday coming up, though.

June 1, 2015

Maccessibility Roundtable #85

Filed under: Podcast Appearances — Tags: , , , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 12:04 PM

With WWDC approaching, we share our wish lists for the probable new versions iOS and OS X. Also, watch updates from those who have em.

Download Maccessibility Roundtable #85: The Guys Only Name the Big Ones

April 16, 2015

Apple’s Trust Dividend

Filed under: Access and Disability — Tags: , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 12:20 PM

If I were asked to summarize the attitude of enthusiasts toward Apple Watch accessibility, this would be my pull-quote:

“It was kind of weird for awhile, and I’m still not 100 percent sure what to expect, but everything will be awesome!”

(By the way, that’s less than 140 characters, leaving plenty of room for breathless hashtags.)

The chain of events leading to next week’s delivery of the first Apple Watches has not been without twists and turns. If you were to construct an announcement-to-ship day timeline, you might wonder what Apple was thinking, or perhaps why blind and low-vision people should be so eager to early-adopt this particular first-generation gadget. The answer, dear reader, is a simple one. Among Apple’s many assets is trust. Despite shipping delays, radio silence about accessibility features (until last week,) and in-store demo units with dimmed access settings, there’s little doubt among those I talk to that the watch will be a useful, fun, stylish, and accessible purchase. People just believe in this company.

 

Apple Watch Demos, and the Irony of Low-Vision

Filed under: Access and Disability,New Media and Tech — Tags: , , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 8:10 AM

I wrote last week about Apple Watch accessibility, mostly pointing to the first hands-on articles written by VoiceOver users. Many of our questions have now been addressed. VO is part of the watch, and so are some low-vision features, including zoom and grayscale. But during the long few weeks between watch pre-orders and watch unboxings, uncertainty obviously remains. In the larger context, that’s the point of the in-store try-on program, right? You use some combination of wrist, fingers, ears, and eyes to assure yourself that this new gadget is a thing you want, and will actually be able to use.

Last week’s first look stories told me much of what I wanted to know. But as a low-vision user whose primary interaction with screens happens through my eyes, two decidedly visual resources gave me even more clarity. Apple’s updated watch accessibility page, which I linked last week, includes great big screenshots for many watch features and apps. I mean, really big screenshots! From them, I learned that many screens use light text on a dark background; my preferred color scheme. This was welcome news, since there is apparently no Invert Colors option. Last night, I happened to see David Sparks’ Periscope broadcast of his visit to an Apple Store. His camera focused on a working Apple Watch (not the demo loop videos provided to try-on customers.) David and his companion scrolled through various screens, even responding to the questions of chat viewers, who wanted to see this or that app in action. Again, I got to see a lot of screens with easy-to-read text, along with the gestures used to manipulate their contents.

If I could leave just one mark on the tech world, it would be a giant mashup of access-focused and mainstream-focused product coverage. There’s so much we can learn from one another. 

March 16, 2015

Outside the Box with Jason Snell

Filed under: Access and Disability,Podcast Appearances — Tags: , , , , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 11:19 AM

A committee of the Maccessibility Roundtable chatted recently with Jason Snell, former Macworld poobah, and current proprietor of Six Colors. We talked about Apple accessibility, as seen from the mainstream tech world. I should note, too, that I’ve known Jason since we both worked at MacUser, back in the day. He and I covered the Internet, initially in our spare time. We also shared custody of an email server, from which we ran music mailing lists. No one from the former secretary of state’s office asked us for advice.

Outside the Box #3

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