Hello everybody

As I reported to the group earlier, this morning I received my new Blaze ET. 
I’ve been playing with it now for a little while, and it goes way, way above 
that which is attainable on the rival HumanWare devices.

For one thing, the Web Radio channels are up-to-date, and they actually work! 
However, as yet I haven’t managed to play any of the  BBC national or local 
radio channels. That isn’t to say it isn’t possible, I merely haven’t got 
around to it as yet. I shall do so, rest assured.

Regarding settings of the hardware and software. Connecting to my custom 
network was a total breeze! I just entered the relevant data into the 
appropriate fields, and clicked connect. It just workedQ! With my Stream, I 
have always had problems in this regard so I shall go and try that again 
shortly, just to be fair, in case anything else has changed which made it 
possible for the Blaze to function. It could be, as I recently reset my router 
and started over.

Controlling the Blaze is also as easy as 1, 2, 3! i use that expression quite 
deliberately. Most of the hardware consists of rows of three buttons, with the 
exception  of the keypad which is arranged in a traditional circle-style with 
the small “OK”button residing in the centre. Without its case, the Blaze fits 
snugly in the hand. It weighs in at just a little more than the Stream, and 
aesthetically it is only a mere half a centimetre wider, and exactly the same 
length. The “Guide” voices on the Blaze seem to use either the Ivona or Acapela 
Group speech engine, so the quality is very acceptable. Changing language, time 
zone, voice persona, pitch and speed was very simple. So it doesn’t take long 
to find your way around.

In the box with the Blaze came a print and Braille quick start guide. However, 
and this is my only real dislike about the whole product. Whoever transcribed 
the quick start guide into Braille clearly doesn’t really know what they’re 
doing. For whatever reason, the line spacing has been changed, and it’s only 
around 0.75 of where it would ordinarily be. This close line spacing makes the 
quick start guide very difficult to read, to be honest. or the life of me, I 
just don’t get it! Why on earth anybody would want to tamper with those 
settings is beyond me.

Fortunately, there is a documentation CD provided with the Blaze, which 
contains the quick start guide and also the main user manual. To be fair, I 
only spent a few short minutes looking at the Braille guide, just to check that 
everything which should have been in the box was indeed present. I managed to 
find my way around the device without the aid of a guide. if you’ve seen Hims 
software design philosophy before, you probably won’t even need to touch the 
user guide. As somebody who extensively uses a Braille Sense U2, I had a pretty 
shrewd idea of how it worked before I even switched on the device and, sure 
enough, I was not disappointed.

In terms of services available, the Blaze really lives up to its name. It goes 
blazing ahead of the Stream, offering a diverse world of configuration options 
which make it possible to configure the device just the way you like it. 
Interestingly, the core operating system is Redhat LINUX, judging by the layout 
and format of the flash disk. That’s certainly a step in the right direction, 
seems that Hims too is on the point of ditching Windows Mobile.

I tried playing a DAISY book, and then recording one. It’s possible to record 
in either plane wave or MP3 mode, or else have your recording marked up as a 
very basic DAISY book. I don’t know how far Hims will take that, and what level 
of navigation it will permit. But I suspect that at the moment at least, there 
is only one level supported by native recordings in DAISY format.

I played a book which I created recently for a client which uses multi-level, 
multi-heading navigation. I had no difficulty whatsoever with playing that book 
on the Blaze, and navigation according to publisher’s parameters seems to work 

The internal microphone is quite sensitive, and it’s also adjustable. However, 
adjusting the sensitivity to a higher degree than the default did introduce 
quite a lot of noise on the recording from the internals of the device. Using 
an external tie-clip microphone which has a very high specification, I was able 
to produce a more than acceptable quality test recording which was totally 
noise-free. Although adjusting the sensitivity level on the Blaze to a degree 
or two higher than the default value produced problems. In order to speak, one 
must breathe occasionally. And with the sensitivity level set to quite high, it 
was triggered by my naturally inhaling oxygen, and then exhaling a mixture of 
oxygen and carbon dioxide. So at a guess, I would submit that the default 
sensitivity levels are just about right, and there’s probably no need to adjust 
those at all. It is great to have the option, however, and Hims needs to be 
given credit for that.

I still haven’t completed my battery life tests as yet. However, the percentage 
of available charge became quite depleted quite quickly when I enable Wi-Fi 
connectivity. It went from 100% to 90% in just over half an hour. And that was 
without enabling any Bluetooth connectivity. Which brings me to my one real 

I have mentioned before now that I use a Braille Sense U2 as part of my 
everyday technological life. Imagine, therefore, my glee when I discovered that 
the Blaze incorporates support for a Bluetooth Braille display as standard.  
So, I leapt to my feet and ran over to my technology cabinet. I took out my 
Focus 14 Blue, and also my Braille Sense U2. I put both into discovery mode, 
and then did the same for the Blaze. To my surprise and disappointment, the 
Blaze and the Braille Sense did not even detect that the other was there. So 
then, I took the Focus out of the mix, and tried just with the Braille Sense 
and the Blaze. Still, no detection. So then, I tried with the Blaze and the 
Focus. Same result. I would have expected that to occur with the Focus. 
However, given that the Braille Sense and the Blaze are manufactured and 
developed by the same hardware vendor, I would have expected a successful 
pairing between those devices. So I need to talk to Him about that I thin, see 
if they can shed any light as to what’s going on.

So, my overall conclusions. The Blaze is a very high quality device. Well 
packaged, well laid out and with some very worth while functionality; not least 
in the OCR department with which I need to do more testing. But I did print out 
an E-Mail and put it under the camera. The Blaze had no difficulty whatsoever 
and I would estimate that the results were approximately 97 to 98% accurate. 
Even symbols such as the “At” symbol, the “Colon”, the “Apostrophe” and the 
“Dash” symbol, not to mention the “Less Than” and “Greater Than” symbols were 
all correctly recognised. So that looks like a good little engine.

AS I discover more, I shall update the group. I’m sure some members will be 
interested, even if not all of them are. Those who are not are more than 
welcome to simply hit the Delete key on their keyboard, rather than complaining 
about wasted electrons. ;-)


My compliments and kindest regards
Gordon Smith:
<gor...@mac-access.net <mailto:gor...@mac-access.net>>

Accessibility & Information Technology Support Specialist.
+44 (0)7907 823971


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