What 3D Touch could mean for accessibility

September 19th, 2015 | Edited by | hardware

Sep
19

When it’s hard to tell a button from a link, the iPhone 6s and its 3D Touch feature could put more power into the hands of the visually and motor impaired.

In March, I wrote a piece for MacStories on the accessibility merit of Force Touch. I said, in part:
Imagine, for example, iOS 10 or 11. Apple will almost assuredly bring Force Touch to the iPhone and iPad, and they could utilize the technology in a slew of ways. They could effectively solve the problem with buttons in iOS 7 and 8 by using haptic feedback to denote a “button press” everywhere in the system. Thus, visually impaired users like me wouldn’t have to struggle so much in figuring out what’s a button versus a text label. Likewise, Force Touch could save those with motor challenges from the work of extra taps by allowing force-pressing to bring up contextually specific controls. There are lots of possibilities here.
My assumption that it would take two or three years for Apple to bring Force Touch to an iOS device was silly in hindsight. That’s because Apple is bringing Force Touch—namely, “3D Touch”—to the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, announced last Wednesday.

Apple is calling 3D Touch the “next generation of Multi-Touch,” with Peek and Pop and Quick Actions. My first impression is that the new technologies look pretty cool. From an accessibility perspective, there are some obvious benefits that jump out at me, but so too are there potential downsides.

iphone6s

The good: Less visual scanning and fine motor issues

Force Touch is useful simply as a time- and energy-saver. In visual terms, scanning a user interface can be daunting because it can be hard to find a certain button or icon. This is especially true in apps with busy or cluttered UIs [like Apple Music](http://www.macworld.com/article/2953973/ios-apps/apple-music-in-ios-9-gets-a-much-needed-redesign.html). Too much scanning is problematic in another way: it causes frustration, as well as eye strain and fatigue. Similarly, some users with fine-motor delays may feel frustration and/or even literal pain by having to tap a bunch of buttons to, say, send an iMessage or email.
Enter 3D Touch’s Quick Actions. What this feature allows is quick scanning and fewer taps. For example, instead of having to launch the Phone app, find the right tab, find a name, and tap it, someone like me can just hard-press the Phone icon on the Home screen, and tap a person’s name to call them instantly. It seems trivial, but the few seconds that are shaved off by Quick Actions really does have the potential to make a significant difference for the motor impaired. It makes a laborious task much more accessible.
As for Peek and Pop—which lets you preview things like emails and location maps by hard-pressing them, then hard-pressing again to open them fully—it seems like more of a convenience than anything else. I’m having trouble figuring out what its accessibility benefit would be. That isn’t to say that there aren’t anyaccessibility wins here—I’ll just have to try it in person to see.

The bad: Complexity and visual/motor issues

First, complexity. It’s not hard to imagine someone who’s cognitively delayed or has a learning disability being confused by 3D Touch’s layers and functions. Forgetting or misremembering what each touch does and how to get to them can lead to a less-than-enjoyable experience. It’s a bit of a tightrope walk, though: you want people to use 3D Touch, but the pragmatic approach would be to keep the UI mechanics as simple as possible by eschewing 3D Touch altogether. Simple may be best in these cases, but then you miss out on a marquee feature. It’s not an easy choice.
From a visual and motor standpoint, I have questions about Quick Actions and Peek and Pop. Will Quick Actions’s menus respond to Accessibility features such as Large Dynamic Type and VoiceOver? The same goes for Peek and Pop. My gut tells me that Apple’s considered these things and has added Accessibility support, but I can’t be 100 percent sure until I get my hands on an iPhone 6s.
Motor-wise, I can see 3D Touch being troublesome for those with RSI or other muscle-affecting conditions. Pressing the iPhone’s screen with different levels of pressure may prove to be painful. Also, some with low muscle tone may not be able to press firmly enough to register an action. (As an aside, I’m curious to know if Switch Control in iOS 9 supports 3D Touch. It’ll be a big deal if it does.)

Seeing is believing

If it seems like I’m writing mostly conjecture, that’s because I can’t definitely speak to 3D Touch’s utility as an accessibility tool—after all, the new iPhones aren’t out yet. The true test, of course, will come when I can play with one.
Still, as a person with both low vision and motor delays, I’m bullish overall about 3D Touch’s usefulness to me. If anything, I think it’ll make me more efficient, but that efficiency will only be as high as 3D Touch is accessible.

Source: www.macworld.com

Nvidia recalls some Shield Pro Android TV consoles over hard drive failures

September 17th, 2015 | Edited by | hardware

Sep
17

A small number of Nvidia Shield Pro consoles suffer from ‘a hard drive issue that can worsen over time.’

Nvidia’s sure having a rough summer as it attempts to branch out beyond butt-kicking graphics cards. In late July, the company recalled 88,000 Nvidia Shield tablets due to a potential heat risk, and now, hard drives woes are forcing Nvidia to replace some customers’ Shield Pro Android TV consoles.
Fortunately, the issue with the Shield Pro isn’t nearly as far-reaching as the tablet’s hot hot battery. Less than one percent of Shield Pro units are affected by the issue, Nvidia’s Manuel Guzman said in the company’s forums. Defective consoles suffer from “a hard drive issue that can worsen over time,” according to Guzman.

shield

The issue manifests itself in two ways. If you see a fastboot menu appear after installing the Shield TV’s Upgrade 1.4, you’ll want to replace your console, even if it starts functioning correctly again after a reboot. Affected consoles can also display “severe and persistent pixilation in all tiles of the top row of the Android TV home screen (text in tiles will be unreadable and does not become clear after a few seconds).”
Sound familiar? Then you’ll want to get in touch with Nvidia’s customer care. They’ll ship out a new Shield Pro as soon as the RMA is confirmed—even before you ship the busted unit back.
The impact on you at home: The recall comes at an awkward time, as Nvidia’s busy telling the world how superior the Shield TV is to the new Apple TV. But don’t let this minor hiccup turn you off on the Shield TV. One percent of units isn’t very large, all things considered, and as we mentioned in our massive media streaming buyer’s guide, Nvidia’s Shield TV is easily the best solution available if you want cutting-edge features like 4K video support and the ability to stream full-blown PC games to your TV.

Source: www.pcworld.com

Didn’t ask for Windows 10? Your PC may have downloaded it anyway

September 15th, 2015 | Edited by | software

Sep
15

Microsoft confirms auto-download of massive Windows 10 files, even for users who don’t opt into the upgrade.

Whether you want Windows 10 or not, Microsoft says it may download the files to your PC regardless.
In a statement to the Inquirer, Microsoft confirmed that it automatically downloads Windows 10 installation files on eligible PCs, provided automatic updates are enabled through Windows Update. The download occurs even if users haven’t opted in through the Windows 10 reservation dialog.
“For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade,” Microsoft told the Inquirer. “When the upgrade is ready, the customer will be prompted to install Windows 10 on the device.”
When reached for comment, Microsoft told PCWorld that the downloads occurred around the time of Windows 10’s July 29 launch.
Why this matters: Microsoft appears to have crossed a line in its zeal to move people onto its latest operating system. Several reports indicate that the Windows 10 files take up as much as 6GB of storage in a hidden folder, potentially hamstringing machines that don’t have much free space left. Even worse, users who have strict data caps could face hefty overage charges for a massive download that they didn’t even ask for.

windows-10

Bye-bye bandwidth

PCWorld has also heard from several readers on this issue, including one whose data plan has been affected by the automatic download. The reader, who runs a small computer repair shop, did not reserve Windows 10, yet recently noticed 6GB missing from his main desktop.

Upon further investigation, the reader’s daughter—who lives in an area without wired Internet and relies on Verizon Wireless for connectivity—had also automatically downloaded the installation files. “They do not wish to upgrade at this time, as they prefer to stay with Windows 7,” the reader said. “But they’re four days into their wireless plan, and have used more than half of their allowance because of the Windows 10 download.”

The Inquirer also spoke to a reader who said Windows 10 tries to install itself every time the machine is booted. It’s unclear if this is typical behavior for those who haven’t opted into the upgrade.
This isn’t the only instance where Windows 10 has gotten users into trouble with data caps. By default, the system also uses peer-to-peer networking to distribute Windows 10 updates, potentially eating up bandwidth without users’ knowledge.

What you can do

It’s worth noting that Windows Update provides users with a few auto-install options. Enabling “Important” updates provides security and stability fixes, while “Recommended” updates are meant to improve non-critical issues. There’s also a “Microsoft Update” option for other software such as Office. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to see which of these tiers enables the auto-download of Windows 10 files.In the meantime, some users have reported success at removing the files and Windows 10 update prompts by entering the following into command prompt as an administrator:
WUSA /UNINSTALL /KB:3035583code>
This should at least remove Windows 10’s update notifications, but we haven’t confirmed whether it removes the installation files and prevents further downloads.

Source: www.pcworld.com

Spotify cleans up privacy mess with plain language policy update

September 12th, 2015 | Edited by | software

Sep
12

Spotify is making amends for its privacy policy mistakes with plainer, clearer language.

“What do you mean?” has been a big theme around Spotify in recent weeks. Justin Bieber’s tune of the same name just had the biggest first week for a single on Spotify to date. The phrase also sums up perfectly the public reaction to Spotify’s recently revised privacy policy.

spotify

Spotify is now hoping to clear up the confusion that sparked panic, an apology, and at least one heated conversation on Twitter. Ek took to the company blog on Thursday to announce some revisions to the privacy policy that the company hopes will clear up any confusion.
“We did our best to explain the intent behind the changes in the Policy and our commitment to our users’ privacy,” Ek said. “We took note of many people’s comments that they appreciated the clear commitments in the blog post that were easier to understand than some of the details in the Policy itself.”
To that end, Spotify said it has introduced a plain language introduction to the policy. The revision is meant to clarify what the company’s “approach and principles” are regarding privacy.
“We still need to provide greater detail in the body of the policy,” Ek said. “But those details are, and will always be, in keeping with the fundamental privacy principles we outline in the Introduction.”
Basically, the new introduction clarifies many of the objections people brought up with the new privacy policy in August. It addresses how the company would handle access to your photos, contacts, microphone, and why it wants access to your device sensors.
Spotify says it would only access photos that you explicitly choose, for example. The company also categorically states the company “will never scan or import your photo library or camera roll.”
If you want to give it a read, Ek posted the new introduction in full in his blog post.
Why this matters: Spotify wasn’t the first company to run afoul with its users and the press after a change to its privacy policy. But it could be the last. Spotify’s clear language introduction that addresses specific issues is a change that all technology companies should adopt. Using plain language shows a basic respect for your users and allows people to understand what data you want from them and why.

Source: www.macworld.com

21.5-inch iMac could get its Retina 4K upgrade in November

September 10th, 2015 | Edited by | hardware

Sep
10

At 4K resolution, Apple’s smaller all-in-one would match the 27-inch 5K iMac in pixel density.

One year after dialing up the screen resolution of its 27-inch iMac, Apple will reportedly do the same with its 21.5-inch all-in-one.
Citing unnamed sources, 9to5Mac claims that Apple will announce the 21.5-inch iMac with 4K Retina display by the end of October, alongside the launch of OS X El Capitan. The new high-res iMac would then ship in November.
The exact screen resolution will be 4096-by-2304, 9to5Mac claims. This resolution has previously appeared in the code from Apple’s El Capitan Developer Preview. Currently, the 21.5-inch iMac has a resolution of 1920-by-1080.

retina_imac

With a 21.5-inch display, the 4K iMac’s pixel density would come out to 218.6 pixels per inch, just a tad higher than the 27-inch Retina iMac’s 217.6 ppi display. While 9to5Mac doesn’t mention the Retina branding, it seems likely that Apple will use it once again for its smaller iMac. As with the 27-inch iMac, the 21.5-inch model should have improved color saturation and faster processors to drive all those extra pixels.
There’s no word on pricing, but users should expect to pay a premium for the 4K display. Apple currently charges $1,999 for its basic Retina 5K iMac, though thedebut model had slightly superior tech specs and cost $2,499 at launch. Meanwhile, Apple still sells a non-Retina 27-inch iMac for $1,799. The current 21-inch model ranges in price from $1,099 to $1,499, and could stick around as a lower-priced alternative.
Why this matters: The 21.5-inch iMac is one of just three Apple products that don’t offer a Retina display option, the other being Apple’s 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Airs. With OS X El Capitan set for this fall, it makes sense for Apple to tie the launch a smaller, presumably more affordable Retina iMac.

Source: www.macworld.com

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