Friday, 14 December 2012

All I want for Christmas is ...

If you have a problem, there is probably a technological way of solving it. Sometimes you can do this even if you didn't know you had a problem ...or if someone else thinks you did have a problem ... even if there isn't really a problem ... if you get my drift. As our last post for 2012 dear old Santa Fe has a few items for your delectation

All I want for Christmas is an Internet of my own

If you have your own country to play with then what follows more naturally than your own computer operating system and even your very own internet. Fresh from being voted Sexiest Man Alive the top man in North Korea is revealed to also have that bit of JavaScript you always wanted that automatically makes your name bigger on every web page. Find out about Red Star, the balloon network and Kwangmyong in this story from the BBC.

All I want for Christmas is a buggy for my parrot

Sometimes you know academia has a sense of humour ... and I really hope Andrew Gray gets a masters or better for this amazing piece of work. Wired reports on the remote controlled buggy he designed and built for his parrot. Note the protective newspaper cover folks. Pity about the music: Mr Slater's Parrot would have been much better.

All I want for Christmas is a hum or a whistle

You know that annoying hum you sometimes hear? Well often it comes from mains electricity in some way, vibrating wires or parts of transformers. Would you believe that the hum is useful for forensics ... allowing you to determine just when a sound recording was made? Well, this story on the BBC web site (and the associated programme) tells you how.

I'm a bit suspicious as to how reliable the speed of the recording might be ... but then these days they're all digital aren't they ... and crystal locked. A few years ago I came across a guy in the USA who had developed a system for improving the quality of analogue audio tape recordings. Since all tape recordings included a very high frequency tone (called the ultrasonic bias) it is possible to detect the tone on the tape and adjust the recording, moment by moment, to make the speed absolutely constant ... and this improves the sound quality. His company is called Plangent Processes. Worth a look if you're an audio nut.

All I want for Christmas is a sing-song

And finally. Just watch this video (of a school nativity play) on YouTube and try not to laugh. No kittens, I promise. I'll say no more ... except 'Condiments of the Season to One and All'.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Accessibility and the evolving digital arena

The whole concept of accessibility is being questioned and we need to understand what is happening so that we're not caught unaware. We were a bit late applying retro standards to our web sites after legislation about website accessibility in the updated Disability Discrimination Act 1995 called, The Equality Act, 2010. We have kept an eye on the issues in this blog. See some previous posts.

But, there is a sea-change coming: perhaps helped through the positive legacy of the Para-Olympics where overcoming disability was celebrated. Within the last month a report by Kevin Carey commissioned by AbilityNet, Universal Citizen Access, Universal Consumer Access: A New Approach, has upped the anti. The Key Concepts Summaries from Page 29 should give the gist and 7.5 Key Concepts relating to Technology, (Page 31), are as follows:
  • Digital information systems should be defaulted to the maximum access state and the simplest information array
  • Publishers should adopt uniformity in their displays, taxonomy, terminology, navigation and controls
  • Conformity between major publishers is unlikely in the short term, so investment should be in inter-operability applications.
The key change is to redefine disability of access as anything that stops any citizen obtaining the same access to information as a peer group norm. This expands the concern for access radically. It includes age as well as physical impairments. So if extra information is only made accessible by QR (Quick Response) code on the assumption that people will have suitable mobile devices to hand to decode these, or, if—as is happening—large businesses, like banks, are now insisting that statements/information will only be made available electronically, they are mandating some minimal requirements for the customer that can exclude access. Note that restricted access here is not physical and not even age related, but device dependant which is linked to life-style and income. Oh, and just in case, those QR codes are the square matrix designs on ads, packaging, magazines, and in some museums etc. that can give you labels, layers of information and links to other digital environments. They are effectively matrix bar-codes.

In response to Kevin’s report, AbilityNet has launched Mind the Digital Gap, a proposal for a strategic initiative launched at a parliamentary reception at the House of Commons on 21st November. Once the concept of access is expanded to any citizen outside a peer norm, the numbers should ring alarm bells. There are millions of defined registered disabled people just in the UK so yes, we should be taking notice. Imagine asking your clients if they’d mind excluding X million potential customers worldwide from their information.

If you have higher education institutions among your clients then you might be interested in the Mobile Technologies and the Law Overview, by JISC, 19th November, that covers accessibility, as well as copyright issues.

Times, they are a-changing!