Friday, March 18, 2011

Finders and Sidebars and Tables, Oh My!

Today was all about listening to podcasts, reading manuals, exploring files and folders, and attempting to install programs. I began today's Mac experience by listening to part of Mike Arrigo's
Blind Cool Tech podcast entitled "Mac Demo 7" that deals with how to accomplish various tasks including installation of new software. The first program I attempted to install was Adobe's Flash Player update which the Mac insisted I needed in order to play a YouTube video. Either the program installed itself automatically last evening or I simply was unable to properly update it myself today. YouTube, the Mac, nor I are happy about that at this point. My second attempt which turned out better was the installation of Skype. One thing I learned during the process of installing programs on the Mac was that one really needs to allow the displaying of file extensions. By default, file extensions are hidden, so I decided to try installing programs that way first. Showing file extensions as suggested in Mike's podcast really does help. When a program is installed on the Mac, one downloads a DMG or disk image file to the downloads folder of the hard drive. When this file is opened, a virtual disk is mounted on the desktop. Opening this disk or folder if you prefer, shows an install file with an APP extension. This file is copied to the applications folder and run from there. I understand that when an application is purchased from the app store, it is downloaded and installed automatically. You can quickly understand from the explanation above why being aware of what types of files you are working with is very important.

The process of moving around in the Finder where folders and files can be worked with is rather straightforward when explained. One interacts with a table that allows one to choose folders such as downloads or applications. At that point, one stops interacting with that table and moves to a table where a list of files is shown. Interacting with the second table allows one to work with these files. The problem for me was that for some reason I really struggled with the fact that I needed to stop interacting with one table so I could view the contents of another table.
A considerable amount of fussing and near cussing convinced me to walk away for a bit. When I returned after dinner with my wife, things seemed to fall into place and a previously difficult task seemed quite easy.

Skype on the Mac is ... well ... Skype! Viewing and working with contacts is quite easy. Making a call and initiating a chat are no problem either. Reading incoming chats was a bit more tedious for me, but I suspect practice both with VoiceOver navigation commands and moving around the Skype application itself will help matters. Ending this part of our discussion on a more positive note, audio quality on the Mac Book is superb. I used the built-in speakers and microphone to chat with David Woodbridge who produces a set of instructional podcasts for
Vision Australia which we shall talk about later, and Kevin Chao of the
VoiceOver On podcast. My audio being sent to them and theirs to me was crystal clear!

I have always been someone who prefers to customize programs as little as possible. I don't know why this is, but I will always try to use default settings where I can. That being said, I highly recommend that any new Mac user quickly visit Vision Australia's AT podcasts and work through the session on how to make your Mac easier to use. The explanations are straightforward and the setting adjustments which are recommended really do help the blind Mac user have a better experience with VoiceOver and the Mac operating system.

To any experienced Mac users reading this entry, my explanations probably seem very crude and clumsy. Scroll areas, sidebars, and tables are all jumbled together in my head at this point. Any comments you wish to make will be read and appreciated. All I ask is that you be gentle with me at this point.

The euphoria was bound to subside sooner or later and I'm glad it has. Today's exploration of the Mac felt like work, but I learned a lot and am ready for round three tomorrow. I think I will tackle setting up e-mail. If I have time, maybe Twitter? We shall see!


Zack said...

You might be interested to know that an option exists to allow Skype to read its incoming chats automatically, along with other events.
I know you said you don't generally like to customize your programs, but in this case I thought I'd pass the tip along as it's quite useful.
Open Skype's application preferences with cmd-comma, and investigate the Notifications tab. You can make Skype display its notifications either via Growl, which is an incredibly useful sort of generic notification system for a number of programs which I highly recommend, or speak them on its own.
Either way you'll be able to make those chat messages speak automatically.
I hope this helps.

Jamie Pauls said...

From within Skypes preferences, I was able to configure the program to tell me who had sent a message but was unable to figure out how to hear all incoming messages. Step-by-step instrudctions on how to do this would be appreciated.

Zack said...

I seem to have misspoke. You need growl in order to get the messages to speak automatically, which you can get from Once that's installed, you can configure its settings using an item in System Preferences which it installs. One of the things you'll want to change is the method it uses to notify you. You'll want it to speak, obviously. There's an Applications tab which allows you to configure Skype's event settings. The process is similar to that in Skype itself. You might want to disable the notification that contacts are typing to you, for instance, as that tends to interrupt other notices. Apologies for the initial misinformation... I should have double checked before posting. I'm relatively new to this myself.

Jamie Pauls said...

No problem. We're all learning together. Thanks for clarifying.