Christmas Comes Early–Bringing New Toys!

I recently acquired some new fun tech toys, and finally found the time to get to know some of my old gadgets better as well.

First. My husband gave me a VictorReader Stream as an early Christmas present. I am really enjoying it so far, and wanted to share some of my experiences with it to hopefully save others some of the trial and error I went through when setting it up.

Upgrading the software.

For those who don’t know, HumanWare recently released a software upgrade that allows the VR Stream to work with Audible books. As a long time Audible subscriber, I was very excited about this. Here are some important things to know about installing the upgrade:

1. You need a card reader for the SD card you intend to use in the VR Stream. This is because the only way to get the upgrade onto the player is to place the file onto the SD card (via a reader) before inserting it back into the VR Stream. In other words, you can’t just connect the Stream to your computer via USB cable, and transfer the file that way.

Chris informed me that I could buy a card (with its own reader included) at my local electronics store. I did find a 4 GB card (with reader) at my neighborhood Best Buy, but was told by the sales guy that very soon the cards will no longer be packaged with readers. The reason is that the older card readers (probably like the one I have that is four years old) didn’t recognize the larger cards. Now that the newer card readers (like the kind that recognize 12 different kinds of media) are standard, they’re doing away with the bundling of cards with their own readers. This is a bit disappointing, since the card readers (on their own) are $40, and the one that came packaged with the card I bought priced out at around $5.

2. You must have the VR Stream plugged into the wall before putting the card back into it, and attempting the upgrade install.

Once those things are done, the install is very painless. It only took a matter of seconds. To verify that all was updated, I just hit the info key to hear the version of the software I was running.

Audible Books and VR Stream.

This was a bit confusing, so I’ll go over some of the things I learned here:

1. HumanWare is actually now a recognized brand of device on the Audible sight, and you can even specify that you are using a VR Stream.

2. When you go to the Software Downloads area from the Device Manager page, there are several versions of the Audible Manager to choose from. You actually need to choose the one for iPods (not intuitive, but true). Before making the selection, connect the Stream to your computer via USB, so the software can be downloaded directly onto the player.

3. During the install process, you’ll see a bunch of checkboxes that allow you to tell Audible where to put books when they get downloaded from your Audible Library. There’s one that tells Audible to dump books into your Audible Manager Library List, and onto the Stream at the same time. The books get dumped into a special folder on the SD card (set up automatically for you by VR Stream). Then, when you navigate your Stream Book Shelf later, you’ll actually hear an option for Audible Books.

4. Once the software has been downloaded, you will be prompted for your Audible username and password to activate the Stream. Then you just need to add it as a device, using the Audible Manager Devices Menu. Again, the VictorReader Stream is actually on the long list of supported devices that appears when you tell the program you want to add a new player.

5. Finally, another important thing to know is that the VR Stream only supports Audible files in format 4. It will not play any of the files in the lower quality formats (like 2 or 3). When you choose to download a file from your online Library, you’ll see a “Choose File Format” combobox directly before the “Download It” button. Make sure the value in that combobox is set to 4.

Non-Standard Audio File Formats and the VR Stream.

I took a bunch of time to transfer several files from my computer’s music library onto the SD card for my Stream. I was really pissed off when I realized that the player wouldn’t recognize any of the files I had imported onto my computer with iTunes. Can I just say that I really hate Apple. I mean. The Cd’s are *mine*! I bought them with my own money! I didn’t download them illegally, or anything like that. Who the hell is Apple to try to tell me what I’m allowed to do with my own music, and who the hell are they to restrict the types of players I can play my own music on—particularly when they can’t be bothered to make any of their own iPods accessible to blind people. Damn. That really chaps my hide!

Anyway, after hanging out with my friend Google for awhile, I discovered that there are conversion tools that allow you to convert Apple and Microsoft’s stupid proprietary formats into files that are actually usable. Here’s the catch, however. Some of the software is free (but these programs often only allow you to convert part of each track, instead of the whole thing). Some of the software can be purchased for a small fee, (but the interfaces are totally inaccessible and unintuitive). I played around with (and promptly uninstalled) demos for four of these tools, before I finally found one called Switch. Not only is this application free…it is totally accessible! I wrote the developers an email to tell them that they rock!

So now, all I have to do is put the files I want to hear on the stream into this list in the application (an accessible process, because the dialog operates like a standard Windows dialog), and then hit the “Convert” button (which, incidentally, has been correctly labeled, and doesn’t appear as some graphic with a totally meaningless number).

NLS Digital Talking Books with VR Stream.

NLS has a pilot Web site that allows people with players like the Stream to sample their ever-growing collection of downloadable digital talking books. I haven’t listened to any of the books yet, but I have managed to get a few downloaded and onto my computer. I’ll let you know how that goes, but the most complicated part about this (and it wasn’t a big deal), was that I had to visit the NLS web site
and send them a general email explaining that I was a qualified NLS subscriber, and that I wanted to participate in their pilot project.

They sent me a link to an online application, and within a day, they sent me a temporary password and username. The books on the site can be located by author, subject, or title. It’s a very simply laid out site that has been easy to use so far. Caution: don’t try to download more than one book at once. The site seems to throw up. So…other than being time consuming, it looks cool so far.

I’ll write more tomorrow about my adventures with my BlackJack and my Brailliant.

Hope all are well. For those who have been in a deep freeze like we have been here, I feel your pain. I am counting the days until ATIA.

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I'm an accessibility advocate working on issues involving technology and people with print impairment. I'm a stoner, crackpot, hacker and all around decent fellow. I blog at this site and occasionally contribute to Skepchick. I'm a skeptic, atheist, humanist and all around left wing sort. You can follow this blog in your favorite RSS reader, and you can also view my Twitter profile (@gonz_blinko) and follow me there.

3 thoughts on “Christmas Comes Early–Bringing New Toys!”

  1. A couple of minor points.

    1. You need a card reader for the SD card you intend to use in the VR Stream. This is because the only way to get the upgrade onto the player is to place
    the file onto the SD card (via a reader) before inserting it back into the VR Stream. In other words, you can’t just connect the Stream to your computer
    via USB cable, and transfer the file that way.

    Actually, you can. I had to do it that way because I don’t have a cardreader. You just copy the file over to the root directory of the card, shut down the Stream and reboot. Works fine.

    Also, I’ve had multiple (up to 3) NLS downloads going at once with no problem.

    I realize these things (especially the latter) can be very much a ymmv thing, but it’s not a good idea to list suggestions as mandatory.

    The Stream does choke on very large Daisy files from Bookshare though. Humanware tech support confirmed it.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience with the Victor Reader Stream. I myself have not used one yet, but would love to get my hands on one. (I am a Talking Books Librarian.) Feel free to check out my blog at– it lists various resources for those with visual impairments and other disabilities, and also has a link to the NLS Talking Books program.

    Keep us updated on your adventures with the reader!

  3. One other point.
    Apple’s format is far from proprietary. It uses the AAC codec, which is playable in most any media player on the PC, including Windows’ own. The Stream must simply not support this codec, which as long as the codecs are done with software, probably could be remedied in the future.
    Also, right from iTunes, you could convert your files from AAC to MP3 by selecting MP3 as your encoder in the preferences pane, selecting all you want to convert, and clicking the “convert to MP3” button.

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