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Spencer's Spotlight

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Spencer's Spotlight published in 2018

January 2018

Happy New Year!
I hope all had a wonderful holiday season. My spotlight feature this month will focus mainly on a very fundamental piece of equipment. My keyboard.

Over the course of the last few months I have noticed when I have been writing my articles, that my keys on my wireless keyboard have been sticking. The typos were getting ridiculously high. So, Amazon to the rescue.

I am a Prime member and really dislike going to the stores and dealing with sales people that do not know anything about the products they sell. Anyway, I found a keyboard with good ratings for 14 dollars and 93cents, cool, under 20 dollars. I am all about a good deal.

It is the Logitech K 360 wireless keyboard. Well, it came in the mail, I opened the box and it was a very nice looking keyboard. But, where was the dongle? Where, where, where? I looked all over the box, inside the keyboard battery compartment, and could not locate a dongle. Well, you know as well as I do, that without the dongle, you have a worthless piece of plastic.

I called Amazon, told them what I thought about them selling a keyboard without the dongle. They said it was supposed to work in conjunction with the mouse and they would send me the mouse and that dongle would work with my keyboard. Okay, sounds good, what do I know, little too technical for me.

the mouse arrives, I find the dongle and yep, you guessed it, it did not work either. So, scratching my head, I went back to the keyboard box, looked for the directions hoping I may have missed something; maybe some kind of switch I was supposed to press or push. I used the Seeing AI app on my I phone and nothing jumped out at me, therefore, I dialed Amazon again to tell them that this dongle did not work either.

While I was waiting for them to answer, I reached back in the keyboard box and my fingers brushed a crossed the front panel of the box. Yep you are right, I found the dongle hiding in plain sight, front and center. I took it and popped it into the USB port of the computer, and yes, you guessed correctly, it worked. About that time, Amazon answered the phone. I said I had already answered the question I had and sheepishly said good-bye.

So, after all that, I am happy to report that this is a very nice keyboard. The layout is nicely positioned. I usually have to mark several keys for orientation, but not with this keyboard. It uses batteries rather than rechargeables, which I prefer. It sits comfortably in my lap or it can sit on a table. It has rubberized feet to keep it stable, as well as a kick stand to adjust the angle while typing. It has an actual on/off switch so you can tell if the keyboard is on or not, without guessing like the ones with the on off toggle button. It has a full number keypad and the six pack is not in the usual place, but is located above the number keypad.

I really like the layout. About the only drawback to this keyboard I have found so far is that it does not have an application key. I have had to get used to the shift F10 combo to achieve this function. Also, a plus for me is the arrow keys are slightly below the rest of the keys for easy access.

For under 20 Dollars, you cannot go wrong with this keyboard. I highly recommend it, even after all I went through to get it working. Just another day in the life dot, dot, dot.

February 2018

This month's focus will be on your memories. Do you have a box or drawer or maybe even a trunk of cassettes stored away full of your music memories? Maybe like me you have family recordings of gatherings or special events you would like to preserve. Well, I have a boat load of cassettes in my closet just waiting for me to find a way of transferring the information into a modern format.

A few years ago, my husband had given me a cassette to SD card recorder. It works fine but is just a little complicated. So recently, a friend of mine had received one from her son. It is a small cassette to mp3 converter that runs off batteries, or can be powered via USB. That got me looking on my go to place for shopping. yes, you guessed it, Amazon. After all, if it is not on Amazon, it probably does not exist.

I must not be the only one wanting to convert my cassettes to mp3 format, because on Amazon there is a plethora of choices in the cassette to mp3 converters. The one I selected is the Feir Cassette converter. It is a portable mp3 stereo USB cassette digital tape music player to mp3 format with headphones, no pc required. The price at the time of this writing is 32 dollars and 99 cents, with free shipping for prime members. There are converters available that cost less, so you can select the one suited to your needs and your wallet.

This unit is pretty straightforward, place the cassette in, plug in a USB flash drive (capable to hold up to a 32gb flash drive), or you can even plug in a USB adapter to sd card and record on an sd card. Press the play and the recording begins. There are also controls located on the back of the unit to stop or pause the recording. Earbuds come with the unit but I prefer to use headphones for a better listening experience so, you can monitor the recording in real time. It is a pretty nice unit. I love the portability.

So, no more wondering if you are ever going to be able to listen to your old cassettes again, the solution is only a converter away. Enjoy your memories!

March 2018

When thinking of the subject for this month, the phrase there’s an app for that comes to mind. It is not unusual to have an app for general technological gadgets, but, it is somewhat odd to have a kitchen appliance that can be operated by an app on the iPhone. The Instant Pot is such an appliance. It is a programmable pressure cooker. Some of us grew up with our Moms making delicious meals in the pressure cooker. I can remember beef stew, ribs, potatoes and sauerkraut were among some of my favorites. Pressure cookers can drastically reduce cooking times, having meals ready in minutes opposed to hours. The cookers today are built with safety in mind, which makes it possible for a totally blind person to use. Sizes can range from around 3 quarts to a whopping 8 quart capacity. Using the app available for the iPhone, The Instant Pot is completely accessible and controllable. Who knew that one day we would be cooking with an iPhone? There really is an app for that! Here are a few details about this amazing appliance: *Produces nutritious, healthy and tasty dishes with consistent results. *Replaces 7 common kitchen appliances; pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice/porridge cooker, yogurt maker, sauté/searing, steamer, and warmer. *Built with 14 Smart Programs; soup, meat/stew, bean/chili, poultry, sauté, steam, rice, porridge, multigrain, yogurt, slow cook, keep warm, and pressure cook. *Dual pressure settings for fast and flexible cooking. *3 temperatures for Sauté and Slow Cook. *A 24-hour “Delay Start” for delay cooking. *”Automatic Keep Warm” hold the temperature of the food until you serve. The cooker generates almost no noise and leaks no steam; aromas are trapped in the food without heating up the kitchen. Your favorite recipes are as easy as pressing a button. This sounds like it would be the ideal kitchen appliance for a family of 2 or more. There is really so much that this appliance can do, more than I can cover in this article. But it is so nice to know that technology has made it possible to be independent in the kitchen as well. It is available on amazon for around 160 dollars, but be sure the model you order has Bluetooth capability.

April 2018

It has just occurred to me that I must be hungry when I sit down to write my articles because this month’s subject is another kitchen appliance. The Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich maker is a handy little item to have in the kitchen. I use mine about 3 or 4 times a week. For a totally blind person, it is easy to use and good for a quick fix when you are in a hurry in the morning. It is a simple but ingenious gadget.

I have the single sandwich maker since it is only me in the household, but for the couples, there is a duel model. It comes with a cast iron insert that is super easy to clean. It hooks into the unit and has a tab that does not get hot so you can lift the sections without burning yourself.

I use premade biscuits, you can use English muffins or mini croissants, or lately, I have been using cheese Danishes which I found at a big box store.

Preheat the unit, and in the bottom, place the bottom half of the sandwich. I usually put a slice of cheese on the bottom before closing the top half of the insert over it. Make sure the well part of the insert is closed so your egg does not drip out. Crack the egg into it and place the top half of the sandwich on top and close the lid. Set a timer for 5 minutes and then swing the middle divider out opening the sections so the top half falls onto the bottom half completing your sandwich. Open the top of the sandwich maker and pull the bottom section up to expose your completed sandwich. Spatula it on to a plate and enjoy!

I found this to be easy to use and more importantly, easy to clean. The Hamilton Beach Breakfast Maker can be found at Target, Wal-Mart, Kohls, Bed Bath and Beyond, and my favorite place, Amazon. The single unit is around 25 dollars and the duel unit goes for about 35 dollars.

I think maybe next month I will eat before attempting to write my article.

May 2018

I work as a reservationist in a Paratransit call center. We get calls from clients checking on their rides, which requires us to put the client on hold while we check on their rides. While on the phone with the dispatcher, which can take several minutes, the ride shows up and the client disconnects the call. Because I cannot see the indicator light on the phone go out, I have no idea the client is no longer on the line.

I have heard of a light detector that would emit tones in a low or high pitch to indicate if the light was on or off, which could be a tremendous help to me. My husband had actually made one for me and it stopped working, and I missed having one at work.

A few months ago, I received an e-mail from BlindMice Mega Mall and called to order something that caught my interest. During my conversation with Mr. Campbell, I asked him if he knew where I could get a good light detector that would work on electronics and telephones. He said he had just discovered a company from Austria that could do what I wanted. Well, you know me, I ordered 2 of them. Right, one for work, and one for home. It is called the LumiTest.

It comes with 2 triple A batteries, and in the battery compartment, there is a tip that can be attached to the end of the LumiTest over the artificial eye for detecting indicator lights on electronics. This tip is very small so when you open the LumiTest, make sure the buttons are facing up so the extra tip does not fall out of its slot. Yep, happened to me, just saying. This little baby can detect contrast which is pretty cool.

If you want to know if a surface has colors, or is solid, by placing the LumiTes artificial eye flat on a surface, you can tell by the tones emitted. High tones for bright, low tones for dark, whether there are dark or light patterns. If the tones are solid, there is just one color. This can also work on paper to indicate print.

There are three buttons, one for contrast, the middle one for general lighting situations, and the low sensitivity one for detecting low light situations. It is 6.5 inches long by 1 by 0.75 inches. It weighs 0.13 lbs.

The cost is 79.99, a little steep but I found it worth the price. The LumiTest is made by Caretec. To order one or read more about this product, visit: www.BlindMiceMegamall

June 2018

This month's subject has been prompted by a conversation I had with a friend getting an iPhone 7. There is no headset jack on this phone. So, hmm, how do I listen privately without holding this rather large phone to my head to have a private conversation?

Well, there are several options, there are Bluetooth headsets of varying styles and shapes from which to choose. There are Air Pods, if your wallet is fairly thick. The problem I have with these options is that they all need to be charged and recharged. I am not a big fan of the rechargeable headsets. Some of them are so small you have to be extremely careful about where you set them down. I can speak with experience about this, I never did find a Bluetooth headset I absolutely loved.

Since then, I have revisited the idea of going back to the good old wired headset with a microphone built into the cord. They are fairly inexpensive and the sound quality can be rather good. This brings me back to the iPhone 7. If you are like me and you do not want to shell out lots of money on these Bluetooth headsets that can be easily lost, dropped, or have to wait while it recharges to use it, then this is your solution.

An adaptor can be found at several places now that changes your lightning port into a headset jack. You can find the adapter at Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Amazon, and most any place that sells electronics and accessories. It cost around 10 dollars.

There is also a splitter version that allows for charging the phone while you listen to a book, music, or talk on the phone. The only down side to this option is that you have to keep it plugged in all the time or there is another small cord in which to keep track. In any case, like our sighted counterparts, we, also, have lots and lots of choices.

July 2018

The summer is in full force here in Florida. Keeping that in mind, this month's spotlight shines on an item that will not heat up the entire kitchen when you go to prepare meals. Yes, must be hungry again, got food on the brain.

I am talking about an Air Fryer. I must admit, I was very skeptical when I first heard about this product, but kept hearing raving reviews. So, I folded and decided to make the plunge and get one for myself.

The model I chose was the Cooks Essential produced by QVC. I got the 5 and a half quart size which is apparently no longer being offered at this time. However, I did find the K46611 three quarter quart digital air fryer presets and pan. This is the same air fryer, only with a smaller footprint. It cost 79 dollars and 98 cents, with free shipping and handling, and with the option of 3 easy payments.

This model offers 7 presets. They are fries, steak, chicken, fish, chips, chicken wings, and quick 5. It also comes with a 6 inch cake pan, 6 inch pizza pan (mine did not come with a pizza pan, frowning about this), basket, basket holder, and recipe book. It has 1500 total watt power. It gets the job done, believe me!

If you are looking to get rid of greasy foods, this is a way to have your favorites without the harmful grease associated with chicken and fries, for example. I am very impressed with how food turns out, preserving the crispness and full flavor.

I am no longer a skeptic and highly recommend this product. Oh, yeah, did I mention it is a dream to clean, very easy and takes much less time, which leaves you more time to enjoy the summer!

FYI, I am going to be at the ACB National convention for the blind in St Lewis. So, stop by the Blind Perspective table located in the marketplace and say hello and buy a T-shirt with the blind perspective written in braille on the front, and the braille alphabet on the back!

August 2018

In July I attended the ACB Convention at the Union Station Hotel in St Lewis, Missouri. While there I had the opportunity to explore the exhibit hall and revisit old things as well as discover new things, one of which is the focus of this month’s spotlight.

I spoke with Ann DeWitt from a company called Tangible Surface Research. Based on feedback from the visually impaired community they have developed products to help people with low or no vision use their touch surface appliances. The product she was featuring in her booth is called HALO Tactile Icons. Halo stands for Home Appliance Labeling and Overlay Systems.

I think these tactile stick on icons are a unique way of addressing labeling needs for the population who are not braille users for one reason or another. These icons can be used universally. By using different shapes, they can be used to label home appliances such as a microwave, washing machine and dryer, dishwasher, and oven.

How do these differ from other labeling items? Well, unlike dots, these icons not only tell you the location of a button, but the shape gives you a clue about what the button actually does. Here are a few examples of labels you could use for a touch screen microwave:
Start: right triangle
Stop/Cancel: the shape of an X
Defrost: shape of a water droplet
Light: large oval at the top with a small oval at the bottom, similar to a light bulb
Power Level: staircase, increasing from left to right
Popcorn: shape of a popcorn kernel

Their focus is to create shapes that have meaning and make devices and appliances that have touch screens more accessible. These adhesive icons can be quite handy for anyone wanting to become more independent in their home environment. I bought a set of microwave icons for a friend who does not use braille. I chose the clear ones since her spouse is sighted. For those who have low vision, you can purchase either orange or black ones for high contrast.

They bring back the buttons to appliances that have touch screens. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about!
For more information about this product or to order a set for your appliances, the web site is:
TangibleSurfaceResearch.com

or you can e-mail her at:
TangibleSurfaceResearch@gmail.com

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