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It sounds as if you have had an interesting few hours of discovery to good
From: Gordon Smith [mailto:gor...@mac-access.net]
Sent: 12 October 2016 18:40
To: Techno-Chat ... Technology Enthusiasm! <email@example.com>
Subject: [Techno-Chat]: Hims International: Blaze ET – Progress Report
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
<gor...@mac-access.net <mailto:gor...@mac-access.net> >
Accessibility & Information Technology Support Specialist.
+44 (0)7907 823971