horizontal computing

Picture of chair in a reclined positionFunctional as an Illusion

Lately I’ve in the back of my mind a project. I want to be able to access a computer from my bed. So what? You ask. Well, it’s not as simple as just getting a laptop and plugging it in. Seeing as how the only thing I can move in bed is my head it poses a problem. And I already have a few things I operate which are positioned so I can access them. (see Pic below)

I stumbled accross this article on Gizmodo titled ‘Computer Desk for Lazybones’ about a device from Japan. It’s not exactly the solution I’d go for, but it did give me some more food for my thoughts.

Input: I envisage one of two scenarios. Either I access the pc completely through a trackball and use an onscreen keyboard or try and get a small keyboard that has some pointing device built it – small trackball, pointer. In either case the input device would be on something that could be positioned in the correct position close enough to allow control with my mouthstick while laying down.

Picture of bed table

Screen: There’s a couple options here as well. I could have the output of the pc go to my TV on the wall at the end of the bed then I could choose between TV or PC screen. My current TV is only small…..maybe a good excuse for a big flat plasma on the wall in my bedroom….though don’t think I could justify the expense. The other alternative is a LCD screen mounted closer to me in bed. I did actually contemplate a touch-screen monitor and do away with need to use a pointing device. However I’m not sure if I’d have the range with my stick while laying down. Besides which it’d need to be a small screen and even then I don’t know if such a beast exists.

Position: Ideally I’d like the input device, and screen if applicable, to be on the end of an ‘arm’ that is fixed to the wall and can be puled down and positioned where I need it – like one of those lights or instrument trays in a Dentist surgery. Idea….maybe I could get one from an auction and modify it. I have the idea of building the arm out of pipe and use car steering rod ends as pivots (you can take the man out of being a mechanic but you can’t take the mechanic out of the man). With this setup the pc would be mounted elsewhere, possibly under the bed.

It’s all just a dream at present but I’m working towards it.

pda keyboard woes

Essentially Flat

I have blogged previously that I have a PDA and written elsewhere how it is a very handy tool that helps me manage my life and work with a disability.

Well lately I’ve been having problems after I came out one morning to find it had done a hard reset. I had data synced on my PC so it wasn’t too much of a drama. It went trough the auto-setup. I created a partnership on AS and resynced the data and I got the bluetooth to re-discover my PDA< ->headset bond (my PDA has a love-hate relationship with my headset, or vice-versa, but that’s another story. Suffice to say, if you have a O2 Xda II mini and a BT headset how about getting in touch so we can compare notes).

Anyway, all seemed fine and dandy again until I tried to use the onscreen keyboard. It had gone strange and there was no space bar or backspace key. Some of the keys had changed.

changed layout



I hunted everywhere for a place to change keyboard type. I posted some queries on forums dealing with these devices and did search after search to find any leads to the problem, all to no avail.

I’d given up temporarily on the issue and reverted to using the transcriber more. Then the other day I was waiting somewhere, for someone or something and was passing the time trying to see what was up with the PDA keyboard issue. And I stumbled on the problem, well the solution to the problem.

Turns out that the “Use gestures….” option was checked for the keyboard and this changes the layout of the keyboard! The option can be found on your PDA under “Start -> Settings -> Personal -> Input -> Keyboard“.

It basically uses stylus direction movements for backspace, space, shift and newline. Since gestures are used it removes these keys and rearranges the keyboard layout. How reasonable, how straight forward, how clever…..how on earth is one suppossed to know?!

Now, don’t go saying I should’ve read the manual. Or referred to the manual. I can find no reference to it in the manual. That, in part, is why I’m telling you about it. Hopefully if anyone else ever has the same problem and goes searching the net for a solution, they might find this. If there’s even a slight possibility that the problems I had could help someone else find a solution, then I can possibly redeem some sanity I lost through it….the thought keeps me going anyway!

occupational therapy

circular ramp1, 2, 3

Going back a few posts under the title upright drifters I wrote about a presentation involving my life-tools and other things I was preparing for an OT class.

Well that’s been and gone but there was a request for the powerpoint file, so I thought I’d put it up with a link from here.

Here’s the presentation file.

The presentation acts mostly as a guide to give direction for me on the day – a lot more is said than appears on the preso. So if anyone wants more details please contact me using one of my email addresses on my blog profile page or my personal web page. Or if you want to discuss something please leave a comment below.

I was actually heartened to see so many people who were genuinely interested in the profession they’re studying and some passion about inequity. I was impressed by some of the knowledge of current disability issues and in particular the discrepancies between the Australian Building Code (ABC) and the Australian Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and the work being done in that area. All in all it was great.

upright drifters

house of cards

Just lately I have been preparing a presentation for a lecture I have to give to a class of occupational therapy students next week. As part of the presentation I have had someone taking photos of all the modifications and contraptions in and around my home I use to get by in my everyday life — I call them my life-tools.

My latest tool is a Sony RM-AV3100 learing remote control.

Over the years I have tried many multiple all in one type remote control devices with varying degrees of success. Some would do most functions but often missing out on one that just seemed to always be the one I really needed to work. Also the physical design of the remote controls often meant it was very hard to use them efficiently. Often their size was a problem – being too small – or the shape meant the control was not stable as I pressed the buttons.

Having recently added to my bevy of equipment a Sony surround sound digital AV amplifier the whole remote control business was in need of a rethink. A lot of the remote controls in the past had relied on codes or some voo-doo button pressing sequence to ‘hopefully’ ‘learn’ the code (more of a stab in dark ‘hope’ to fall-over the correct code than ‘learn’ in those cases). This time I definately needed something that I was absolutely positive would learn by training from another remote control. It also needed to operate between five and eight devices. The Sony seemed just the thing. Besides which it was large and flat – a fact that worked for me.

Just getting the right control is only half of the problem. The other half is finding a place to put it where I can use it and hopefully that people will not move it.

The positioning was proving a bit of a problem as I can only use my left hand to operate the control and the layout of my lounge room was not conducive to this. I had purchased some speaker stands a while ago which I had intended to use for the satellite speakers of my surround system but had since then decided to hang them on the wall. A mate was over and we were playing around with the speaker stand and seeing what we could do with this new remote control. With a modification which saw us cutting one of the stand pieces in half and Velcroing the control on top, we had a working solution.

The idea works like a treat only the Sony’s display screen does not lend itself to viewing at an angle. So I’ll need to experiment with some wedges under the control to better sewe the screen, but for now is passable. It’s a vast improvement on what I had and what is better it seems to be staying in its proper place without being moved around — sweet.

BTW: I wrote the majority of this blog entry by dictating with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It took some editing as I haven’t used the program for so long and was practising using the USB desk microphone I have as part of my webcam. Saves getting a headset on – I hate being ‘tethered’. Works reasonably well given I didn’t train it further, and with training and a bit more use, now I know the mic. isn’t too bad, I’ll be able to save my ageing neck and teeth and maybe crank out these entries a bit easier.

the dots are coming together

i’ve always viewed computers and technology as a tool. especially from the time i acquired my disability. before that point in time computers hadn’t crossed my path much and technology i didn’t much think of in any terms other than a tv and a (beta) vcr. but being from a mechanical background, tools i knew! so i think i’ll share more about tools in future.

i’ve been on leave from work this week. i didn’t go away anywhere as traveling for me can be a pain, in the sense it becomes a logistical nightmare, instead i had a mate fly down from newcastle so we could hang out together. consequently i didn’t spend very much time in front of a pc. instead we did other interesting things.

one interesting thing was running an optical cable from my pc in the study to the digital amp in my lounge. this works beautifully and i can now play my mp3 music from my pc in the lounge through the speaker system. it took me a while to get the basic bits together and get all the bits in place and while it’s nothing new and astounding that has never been done before it is definately more than just a toy for me. it’s a tool.

this latest tool gets around my not being able to put cd’s in and out a cd player and enables me to share my music when i have friends around.

my next task is to install the wireless usb adapter on my pc and the sd wireless card in my o2 so i can use terminal services on my pda to control my pc and play music from anywhere in the house. i have what’s needed, just need the help and a bit of time. more about that step later. and more on some other of my life tools too.