Living With Vic

I received my Vic from ILA about a month ago.  I cannot remember a day passing in which I didn’t use it for at least a few minutes and, on many days, I’ve enjoyed it for hours.  Vic has grown into my second most used bit of AT (JAWS on my various computers holding the number one position) and I’ve enjoyed everything from serious politics like “Hegemony or Survival,” by Noam Chomsky; light and funny books like “Fluke” and “Lamb,” by Christopher Moore and, from, “Hindi Conversation,” an introductory set of lessons that teach an English speaker to understand a number of useful words and phrases.


As a bit of disclosure, I do know a few people who work at Humanware but do not maintain a close relationship with any of them.  Every time we are both at CSUN, I go out on a “date” with my friend Myrna Vodda and we enjoy each other’s company and share New York stories and random gossip.  If I remember correctly, Derek Cote, formerly a contractor for HJ/FS works at Humanware Canada but the last time I talked to him was in Seattle in fall 2003.  Finally, at conferences and such, I try to stop and say hello to another former FS employee , Vinny Rappa for a quick catch up on how everyone is doing.  Thus, I do not have any strong personal bonds that would cause me to be exceptionally nice or overly critical to products from Humanware.


With that, I would like to suggest a few things that would make life with Vic, already a terrific experience, even better.  Someone else in the biz told me that the Vic ran on a GNU/Linux kernel but I haven’t heard any independent verification of such.  When I use USB on my Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution, it transfers data very quickly; why then does the Vic take so long to perform any USB data transfers?  I know, the documentation suggests that the work-around means pulling the SD card out of the device, sticking it into a card reader and copying the files on my PC.  This set of steps is a bit clumsy but it works nicely but I still am left wondering what went wrong with the USB implantation on this terrific device.


The USB issue represents the only flaw in the device I notice with any regularity.  The rest of my comments discuss features I’d like to see in future releases of the software that runs on Vic:


For books that contain text (, html, Daisy with speech and text, etc.) I would like to have a search facility.  This could be done by adding a search to the menu and then using the keys on the telephone like keypad to spell out the search term as if the user had a SmartPhone with MSS and typed an SMS to a friend.  I don’t know the various structured text formats very well so I don’t know how hard a search might be to implement but it would be very nice to have.


Second, save settings like speech rate by book.  When I’m reading a novel for pleasure, I crank the rate up and listen about as fast as the Vic can talk.  When I’m trying to learn a handful of Hindi words so I won’t need to stand around looking baffled while in New Delhi for TechShare next month, I want the speech rate to be exactly as recorded to ensure that I get every inflection and that what I hear and attempt to repeat is a reasonable facsimile of how the words sound in Hindi.  I can’t imagine that this feature would be too hard too add and, for the situation I just described and likely lots of others, it would be very helpful.


Although I have a fast Internet connection and, for me at least, it doesn’t make much difference if I download content in format 3 or 4, I wonder why only format 4 is supported.  My mobile phone accepts all four formats in its version of audible player and I would expect that this can happen on the Vic with a reasonable amount of effort.


This might be an RTFM as it might already exist but I haven’t bumped into it yet but at the Vic starts up, I can tell by the little tone that it turned on and do not need to hear that I am welcome to a device I already own, I don’t need to know each time that one user key has been processed and I don’t need to be reminded of which book I had been reading (although the title is the least annoying of the start up jabbering).  It should be possible to add a verbosity setting that silences all of this and just plays the little tune to announce that, indeed, I managed to figure out how to turn on this device.


Repeating myself once again, I feel strongly that the Vic is the coolest product for the blindness market niche in many years.  I believe Humanware has tossed down the price/performance gauntlet and has put a truly terrific device in the hands of we users that does exactly what it promises.  I cannot recall another device in our niche that has as few bugs or other defects nor one that has brought me so much pleasure in such a short amount of time.  My suggestions are provided in the hope that the people at Humanware will make an excellent product even better and I hope they can get some of these and ideas from other consumers into future updates.


— End

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322 (Gonzo Non-fiction)

By Boris Throbaum


“You say I run with a dangerous crowd, we ain’t too pretty, we ain’t too proud, we might be laughing a bit too loud but that never hurt no one.” – Billy Joel.


“Baby this town rips the bones from your back, it’s a death trap, a suicide trap, we gotta get out while we’re young…” – Bruce Springsteen.


My friend Gwen Camelot and I have started working on a novel about the days we spent hanging around an apartment simply named by those who attended the five year party there, three twenty two.  It’s location:

322 First Street, Westfield, NJ

, hence, the name of the place.


Twenty five years and roughly two months ago, I walked out of the place so filled with memories of wild sex, serious drugs and a level of alcohol consumption bordering on the truly absurd.  Friday and Saturday nights would mean the place would have an over capacity crowd of people either part of the scene or curious enough to come and view “the dark side” alive and in person.


BlindChristian, Gonz Blinko and I all met in or around 322 or associated events.  None of us can remember our initial encounters but all of us have vague memories about a lot of things that went on during those days.  I lived at 322 with two guys named Walter, we called one Wally and the other Walt to ensure we new which one may be discussing.  If only one was in the room, we could assume that he was the subject at hand but, given our frequent inability to formulate coherent sentences, one might have trouble making sense of many things we said back then.


As I said, twenty five years and a couple of months ago, I walked out of that place which remains something of a legend among the local police force.  I would wander far a field and, excepting BC, Gwen and Igor G. Grief (lead singer and bass player from the band Maggot) I lost touch with most of the old gang.


First, Gwen, Igor and I moved to the Boston area where the two of them still live.  Igor and I tried to get a few new bands together to replace his old act and my membership in the long forgotten Corporate Pigs.  We did some very interesting demo tapes but nothing we could play live which makes selling tapes virtually impossible.  Gwen started something called The Luncheonettes which Igor and I helped her produce but faded faster than the things we tried to assemble.


At roughly the same point in history, hardcore punk seemed to have run its course so many of our “skills” no longer applied.  In 1985, two years after we went to Boston, I took a trip to Goa, on the Indian coastline, to visit a friend and, mooching off of my parents, selling the occasional article  and the odd job I would find here and there, I basically spent most of the time since leaving 322 wandering around the world, chasing the occasional adventure, falling in and out of love too many times to remember and basically living as a very well traveled bum with a lot of good, although somewhat stretched stories to tell.


I’ve recently returned to New York where I’ve hung out with BC, Gonz, Gonz’s girlfriend (I didn’t take the time to learn her name as she won’t last long), Allie and some others from the old crowd.  I retook possession of my old apartment on WashingtonHeights and I look for things to do with my time.


On a visit to Boston, Gwen and I decided to write a novel about the 322 days and, in a momentary burst of optimism, we thought that a 25th reunion would be in order.  When you run with a crowd like ours, you expect that a few would have died, a few would have gone missing (hell, I was AWAL for about 20 years) and some may be incarcerated – we were not nice people.


As we’ve tried to track down the old gang via google and other online resources, we are finding that the corpses are leading the pack against the still breathing and those in prison.  Planning this event went from a festive kind of thing to one that depresses as much as it fulfills.  We owe it to those who managed to survive to hold this event as we need to ask the gods of healing for help with the mourning of our dead and to help lift some of the survivor’s guilt many of us struggle with.




Boris Throbaum is the name I used when in the Corporate Pigs.  This alter-ego went on a long hiatus which he will write about in the future.  We are really working on a book and reunion of the people around our old haunts and we are really finding quite a large number of corpses.


I asked Igor, who lives and breathes under his real name, why so many died but we escaped.  He said, “Death rejected us.”


— End

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