Movable Type Beta 4

Six apart has been working on a new version of their popular Movable Type blog publishing platform. I’ve been experimenting a bit with the betas of version 4 and so far am finding no big issues.

 

Using Movable Type for my blog in some ways is a bit like hosting a small dinner party in a 200-person banquet hall. The software offers dozens of features that I’ll likely never use and I suspect if you have multiple blogs with several commenters for each you’d get more out of the program. Still, this is the package I selected a couple years ago and like that old saying about leaving things that are not busted alone, I continue to use Movable Type because it is working.

 

One thing that has been a nice touch in version 4 of Movable Type is what I believe is a new installation wizard. I know when I installed version 3 of the software, there was a requirement to edit some configuration files manually. In version 4, you need only unpack the archive of the program, upload to your web host, ensure you have a database created and then navigate to a web address to complete all configuration tasks. A quick start guide and helpful error messages during the installation wizard are available to resolve the majority of common errors. Database creation is typically no more than completing a web form in your web hosting control area. From the time I kicked off the download of beta 4 until I had my test blog up, it was no more than 10 minutes.

 

From an accessibility perspective, Movable Type continues what to me is a history of being quite functional with a screen reader. Blog and administrative templates use list and heading tags effectively to make page navigation very efficient. Using the web user interface for posting is still easy as well. There have been a few cases of missing alt text and I’ve reported those as bugs to the developers. Perhaps the one concern I have is around one of the listed new features for dealing with spam detailed on the release page.

 

28. Built-in support for integrated spam fighting and optionally displaying a CAPTCHA for comments

 

I’m not sure if this feature’s been added or not in the betas yet. Hunting around I haven’t found it thus far but what I wonder about is if there will be any sort of audio option. CAPTCHAs are still a big problem for accessibility. While I wouldn’t turn this on for my own blog, I suspect many will and then folks who do not see will again have challenges.

 

As just one example, I may not want to reveal my disability in some blog communities where I’m commenting but if the site uses this technology I’d likely have to, at least to the blog owner to get some sort of automatic commenting approval. Again I’ve not found how this feature is actually implemented so my concerns are more of a question as this time.

 

Thus far Movable Type beta 4 seems to be working well. It isn’t ready for production use just yet, but watch for it to come to this blog when it is released.

Happy Data Times

A couple months ago I wrote about a problem drive on one of my computers. Thankfully yesterday with the help of a friend and colleague I was able to get back all the data from the drive so all’s well in computing land. I’m joyfully listening to batches of all the music I had encoded before the hard drive crash and enjoying some of the audio files from our trip to China last summer that I thought were lost.

 

One day I’ll put more of our trip audio online. For now here’s a sample of a mall connected to our hotel and also one of a department store where we purchased some treats to bring back to friends. The mall audio is interesting if only for the song you hear playing in the background. Nothing like strolling through a mall in Beijing and hearing Karen Carpenter singing away.

 

Hunting around the web I found this deal on a 500GB drive for $99 that I’m probably going to purchase to help with a better backup strategy. Of course no amount of hardware will help if you do not start the backups so I consider myself extra lucky to have all the data restored.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Comment Period Nearing Closure

Most are probably already aware of this but if not, the W3C has an updated draft of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines open for comment. The guidelines are both updated and reorganized around four key principles.

 

The guidelines and success criteria are organized around the following four principles. These four principles lay the foundation necessary for anyone to

access and use Web content. Anyone who wants to use the Web must have content that is:

 

  1. Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be perceivable by users;
  2. Operable – User interface components must be operable by users;
  3. Understandable – Information and operation of user interface must be understandable by users;
  4. Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

 

The feedback process is detailed on the web page for the guidelines. Comments are due by the 29th of this month.

Joining the Cell Phone Generation

At times it seems as though I’m one of the last to actually own a cell phone. In fact of my immediate circle of friends and family I know I am absolutely the last one to have a cell phone.

 

I’ve dabbled in owning a cell phone a time or two in the past. My first attempt was back around 2000 when cell phones were really just portable telephones. More recently about 30 months ago I tried a couple different phones that were supposed to have a limited amount of accessibility but quickly grew frustrated when many of the functions on the phones I wanted to use did not work correctly.

 

Since then I’ve watched the complexity of cell phones grow and grow in terms of what the units can actually do. I’ve also watched the accessibility solutions improve and grow in number.

 

The American Foundation for the Blind
reviewed two of the most current screen readers for cell phones not too long ago. They also have a second review that goes beyond some of the basics.

 

I opted for Code Factory’s
Mobile Speaks Smart Phone version because the phone I settled on (Samsung’s Blackjack) runs Windows Mobile. Anyone who knows me will tell you that when it comes to gadgets I tend to be picky. I’m someone who’s willing, perhaps too willing at times, to make liberal use of return policies if I’m not happy with a product.

 

After 30 days of using the Blackjack Mobile Speaks combination I can say that I’m favorably impressed. By and large everything I’ve wanted to do with the phone has worked. This has included the basics like making and receiving calls with associated functions such as reading call duration, notification of caller ID details and reviewing call history. The more advanced functions such as sending and receiving text messages, browsing the internet and using various other applications such as e-mail, a calendar and more have also worked well. Finally I’ve been able to use all the settings and configuration options on the phone to adjust things to my liking.

 

Screen reading on the PC this is definitely not. You have a very limited set of commands for most of the basics including read character, word, full window and such. That said it has proven enough to get the job done and the folks at Code Factory thus far have seemed responsive to issues. In the 30 days I’ve been using the software they’ve had one update already that addressed some of the issues I found were not working when I first tried the combination.

 

Accessibility here is not cheap. There have been many different discussions over the years about how much we should have to pay versus what should be built into the technology we want to use. Perhaps I’ll share more of my opinions on that topic at a future date. What I will say is that the $299 I just spent for the Smart Phone version of Mobile Speaks seems like a reasonable price for what the software does and the relative market size where the product is being sold.

Weekend on the Oregon Coast

The blog’s been pretty quiet for the last couple months for some personal reasons. Hopefully I’ll get back into writing a bit more going forward.

 

Aimee and I used the extended Memorial Day weekend to get out of town for a few days. We started off by driving to Portland on Friday evening where we stayed at the Silver Cloud Inn. This is quickly turning into a favorite hotel when visiting Portland. The hotel is reasonably priced for a Portland hotel, located in a great neighborhood for exploring the city and rooms are spacious and comfortable.

 

Saturday morning we made the obligatory visit to Portland’s Saturday Market. This is a must-stop if you’ve never been to Portland and even after some 12 years of visiting the market I can still say that a couple hours strolling through the eclectic collection of crafts and people is a unique adventure. Saturday Market is really one of the quintessential Portland experiences with the range of people you’ll encounter. This can be everyone from those protesting the outrage of the month to folks who most likely spend most of their shopping dollar in upscale malls.

 

Our weekend continued with a drive over to Lincoln City. This isn’t our usual destination on the coast but the late date for planning our trip caused us to try a different hotel. We found a new cozy place called The O’dysius Hotel that will likely be a place we turn to on a future trip. I wrote a Trip Advisor Review because we enjoyed the hotel so much.

 

Our weekend was relatively quiet with much time spent relaxing at our hotel, walking on the beach and in general taking it easy. We did stroll around at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and made yet another obligatory stop at the visitor’s center of the Tillamook factory. I’m probably not completely objective as I think Wisconsin dairy products are better but here in the northwest, Tillamook is definitely one of the better brands for dairy you can find. The cheddar cheese is especially tasty.

 

The Oregon coast is one of those places that feels more and more like home each time I visit. The state has done an excellent job at ensuring the public has access to the entire coast. State law mandates that the entire coastline is public land. The beaches run the gambit from flat and sandy stretches that are great for an afternoon stroll to rugged and rocky spots that are more like hiking in the hills just to get access to the water. Numerous state parks and other great hiking stops up and down the coast provide endless opportunities to experience a wide range of nature peppered with the relaxing sound of the ocean close at hand. The relatively unpopulated nature of most cities also means by and large you do not spend all your time fighting crowds. If the saying about home being where the heart is has any truth, then one room in my home is definitely known as the Oregon coast room.