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 audible.com, “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 (bookshare.org, 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 audible.com 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.