Ada Lovelace Day – Aussie females

It’s Ada Lovelace Day – an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology.

From the Ada Lovelace Day pledge site:

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

I have many female friends who are doing wonderful work in the technology industry – too many to name but here’s a few Aussie females that I’ll like to sing out about.

  • Donna – she is a great information architect, the Queen of Card Sorting and contributes much of her time to the web community. She’s always happy to share her knowledge and experience.
  • Caronne – I love her passion for the work we do. She’s an extremely supportive person and manages to balance work, life, web community stuff and life with two teens. She does amazing stuff with advocating great user experiences in Government agencies that many people don’t hear about!
  • Susan – one of the many challenging things of being a women is the ability to juggle multiple stressful components of our life. Susan is amazing – she loves the work she does and some how, manages to balance work, family, photography, blogging and web stuff!
  • Viv – a special person I used to work with who is passionate about accessibility and user experience. She’s a solid rock for any team that she’s on and is always quietly working away in the background getting stuff done. It’s people like Viv who work so hard and never seem to get recognition for the hard work they do – so here’s my shout out to you Viv!
  • Lisa – is amazing. She knows a lot of things about accessibility, usability and user experience. We have a very similiar approach to the work we do. She’s a very calming influence and I admire her passion for the work we do.

There are many other females out there who also doing great work (I’m looking at you Teresa, Amie, Suze, Lana!).

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

My Way Home

My friend Ben tagged me for the cool My Way Home meme. I’m a curious person by nature and I, like Ben, wonder what fascinating scenes do all my friends see and experience on their ways home.

The rules are simple:

  • Use a simple camera, the simpler the better
  • Upload them to flickr or whatever your preference is, but as long as they can be seen through the web
  • Tag them if you can with “onmywayhomeme”
  • Blog it and tell the story
  • Tag your mates.

I tag (I know a few of the people have been tagged already):

So here’s my story…

It’s about ten past five on Friday. I’m leaving work early as I promised to meet a friend for coffee on the way home. I’m already running late…I dash out of the client’s building but have a few traffic lights to content with. I entertain myself my grabbing a shot of the interesting red sculpture near the intersection (it doesn’t look very red here as the sun was setting fast).
Sculpture

The light is still red…so I tried a different angle of the same sculpture.
Another view of the scupture

I love textures and colours. This abstract wall sculpture on the Commonwealth Bank building catches my eye every time.
Wall sculpture

I like the look of Canberra Centre at dusk.
Canberra Centre

Continue reading →

Initial thoughts on the WiiFit

I’ve been a fan of the Nintendo Wii every since we managed to get one in the initial rush of the Australian launch. When hubby and I found out about Wii Fit, we pre-ordered it and picked it up yesterday. As this is the second day since we’ve had it, we’ve managed to spend a bit of time checking it out.

For those not familiar with Wii Fit, Nintendo describes it as “the first step to a healthier lifestyle”. The Wii Fit uses a very cool Wii Balance Board that can measure your weight, centre of gravity and can also calculate your body mass index. The game has over 40 exercises ranging over the following categories: yoga, muscle workouts, aerobic exercise and balance games. Specific exercises include, jogging, step aerobics, hula hoop, ski jumping, ski slaloms, etc. What’s particularly cool is that it helps you to keep track of any exercise that you do outside of the game, which is added to the log.

My initial impressions of the Wii Fit has been generally very positive. The set-up and calibration of the game has been very easy with clear step-by-step instructions accompanied by the appropriate visuals on screen. There’s been a few areas where some improvements could be made but it’s all very minor. Once set-up is completed, you pick a trainer (male or female) who will guide you through a range of exercises. The exercise tutorials are clear with the trainer taking you through each step before you actually do the exercise. Hubby has spent more time playing Wii Fit so he has unlocked a range of games/exercise that I have not yet gotten to. From what I can see, they tend to follow a similar follow-the-leader format for many of the exercises. There’s a few cute and fun games including penguin slide where you have to catch fish whilst balanced on a piece of ice.

The only negative thing I have to say at this stage is that the graphics, while clear and useful when used as a step-by-step guide through the game, aren’t overly flash. The yoga exercises and muscle workouts are overly simple. I would have liked to have seen a more human-realistic feel to the graphics rather than the line drawings (with simple block fill) used. The rest of the game utilises the normal Wii styled graphics which is pretty much the same as from Wii Sports.

The interaction with the Wii Balance Board is on the whole, pretty good. It seems to be fairly accurate at determining what you’re doing. The jogging on the spot was quite challenging as my instinct is to run forward. That was probably the most awkard interaction out of the exercises I tried, but I think I burned the most calories with that one!

On the whole, I’m loving the Wii Fit so far. I’m very unfit and I don’t do any exercise. In light of that, the Wii Fit is perfect for me. I get guided through a range of quite fun exercises which means that I can slowly work on getting fit and hopefully lose a few of those extra kilos that I put on in the last seven months. It’s also making me more aware of my balance points which affects the posture. If you’re a hard core exercising type of person, this probably isn’t suitable for you. But on the whole, both thumbs up from me!

Fixing Microsoft Word 2007 crashing feature

After I installed the latest Windows Updates this morning, I got home and noticed that Microsoft Word 2007 would crash every single time I opened Word. To make matters worse, Word would also crash every time I tried to exit the program.

Lovely conundrum.

After an hour of frustration and a giggle at the appropriately titled Word 2007 crashes aren’t a bug, they’re a feature, it occurred to me that I went through this exact issue some time last year. A quick hunt through my del.icio.us bookmarks revealed the answer in the form of the Microsoft Knowledge Base’s article about crashes in Word 2007, Word 2003 and Word 2002.

The issue is with a corrupted key in the registry. The steps to fix this problem are:

  1. Exit all Office programs.
  2. Open the Registry Editor by selecting Start, Run, type regedit, and then select OK.
  3. Locate the following registry subkey: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Word\Data
  4. Back up the registry key (select the Data folder, and then select File then Export. Call it whatever you want and save it to an easily accessible spot like your desktop).
  5. Delete the Data subkey (select Data, then select Delete from the Edit menu).
  6. Exit Registry Editor.
  7. Start Word. Ta da!

Hopefully this will save you some hours of frustration!

8 things you didn’t know about me

A belated happy new year to all of you! I’ve been battling a bacterial infection while I’m on holidays, which hasn’t been fun.

My friends Donna, Andrew and Matt recently tagged me for the ’8 things you don’t know about me’ meme. The rules are pretty straight forward:

  1. Link to your tagger and post these rules
  2. List EIGHT random facts about yourself
  3. Tag EIGHT people at the end of your post and list their names
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged

So here’s eight random facts about me:

  1. I’m a covert rubberstamper. I have a fairly large range of rubberstamps, mostly arty styled stamps, and a nice range of interesting papers. I love the different textures of paper and love to mix and match stamps to papers. You may end up getting a hand made creation from me (but only if I know your birthday!).
  2. I was born in Singapore and spent 8 years growing up there. My family and I migrated to Perth, Australia in the 1980s – a period when people were scared of the “Asianisation” of Australia. It was an interesting experience growing up in Australia. For a long time, I tried to deny my Asian roots after being told many times “to go back to where I came from”. I’m now totally comfortable with all sides of my heritage and am a strong believer in living in a negative-discrimination-free society.
  3. I love quirky hand crafted pieces of art.
  4. I play the djembe. I don’t play it particularly well, but I love it.
  5. I used to be a pretty severe stutterer, as were my dad and my uncles. I used to get really frustrated at not being able to verbally express myself clearly. I knew what I wanted to say but could not voice what was in my head. It was even more frustrating seeing other people get frustrated at me. I managed to overcome this issue by sheer force of will (both my parents and I were unaware that there were various treatment plans available to help overcome stuttering). Although I don’t stutter nowadays, there are times when I get close to it but the problem manifests in being unable to pronounce certain words in certain conditions.
  6. I saw snow for the first time in 2003. Prior to that, I didn’t even realise that we had snow in Australia! Ever since 2003 we’ve been hitting the ski slopes every season.
  7. I actually get grumpy at times. Just ask my hubby.
  8. I love retro tin robots. I like robots in general and have always had a fascination with them. At one stage, I thought I was going to grow up to be a roboticist.

I tag the following folks as I’m interested in finding out more about them!

  • Sarah Isaacson – I met Sarah briefly at a Web Directions conference. She’s the creator of the Twitter WordPress Sidebar Widget plus she’s just a lovely person!
  • Lisa Herrod – I know she’s already been tagged by Donna, but she’s being tagged again :)
  • Kenji Walter – I’ve only met Kenji recently, at the Canberra Web Blast
  • Minnie – she’s a wonderful artist, writer and photographer.
  • Gary Barber – I first met Gary at one of the earlier Web Directions conference. I was so excited at meeting a fellow Perth person all the way on the other side of Australia.
  • My dear friend Caronne
  • Ben Ryan – he’s oh so witty and his dry sense of humour makes me laugh.
  • Karen Cheng who writes Snippets of Life – I’ve been following her blog towards the later part of 2007 and I love her writing style.

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas! I’m currently in Perth and have spent a great day full of Christmas celebrations with friends and family. I’m also quite full with champagne!

I was hoping to get some photos of a pretty cool Christmas lights display in Perth this year but when we got there, the displays were turned off due to some complaints from within the neighbourhood (apparently the road was so congested that residents couldn’t get into their houses). So I leave you with the YouTube video of the place we saw (except we sadly didn’t get to see the full display shown in the video).

There are 26,500 light bulbs, 128 lighting channels, 5 kilometres of electrical cable, 220 man hours to set up and $3.40/night in power to run this display. Every light is synched to music which is heard by motorists on a FM92.5 as they drive past this home in Bishop Riley Way, Churchlands Western Australia. The home owners aimed to raise $10k for Princess Margaret Hospital but ended up raising $11,839.

This display is based on Carson Williams‘s original Christmas light display done in 2005.

Have a very Merry Christmas filled with lots of good cheer!

Canberra Web-blast

For those of you in Canberra, the Canberra Web-blast is happening tomorrow night. It’s free to come along with free drinks and free food…plus lots of door prizes!

So what is Web-blast? It’s a huge end-of-year party for the web community – bringing together web designers, web project managers, interface designers, information architects and other web professionals. Join a range of Canberra’s web communities and celebrate the end of year in style.

What: Canberra Web-blast 07
When: Wednesday 12 December 2007
Time: 5pm onwards
Where: SMS Management and Technology, Ground Floor, 8 Brindabella Circuit, Canberra
Drinks: Free
Food: Free finger food provided

If you’re not in Canberra, Sydney is also celebrating Web Blast (although I’ve heard that tickets are all gone…).

The Canberra details are also up at Upcoming.org as Canberra WebBlast and you can follow event announcements on twitter.

I’ll Do It Myself

Glenda Watson Hyatt, author of I'll Do It Myself book
Meet Glenda Watson Hyatt – she is an author, blogger, podcaster and she runs her own accessibility business called Soaring Eagle Communications in Canada. By the way, she has cerebral palsy.

Glenda shares her life story in her book I’ll Do It Myself to show others that cerebral palsy is not a death sentence, but rather a life sentence. Having previously visited Australia where she chatted with Jacqui Dalling at her blog Terrible Palsy, Glenda is back in the land down under. As part of her virtual book tour, she answers my questions about living with cerebral palsy and web accessibility.

Starting at the beginning…You mentioned being integrated into a regular classroom when going through school, plus going on to earn the highest award in Girl Guides, the Outstanding Junior Student Award and a gold medal in horseback riding! What was it like going through “mainstream” school with cerebral palsy?

To be honest, I preferred regular class to special ed class. For the most, I felt part of the group, albeit the fairly quiet part. I think I was challenged more and more was expected from me. I’ve probably accomplished much by being mainstreamed than I would have by staying in special education.

You recently coined a neat phrase – “Disability 2.0 – Nothing about us without us”. Are you able to expand on what you mean by this?

So many decisions, policies and such are made that affect people with disabilities, yet we are not part of the process. Some of these decisions and policies are absolutely ridiculous, yet we need to abide by them to get the services we truly need. By Disability 2.0, I mean a greater emphasis on self-determination – on people with disabilities being actively and equally involved in the decision-making process, and being present when information regarding them is shared and discussed.

It’s amazing reading about using your left thumb to type. Do you use a standard keyboard to type and navigate around websites? Are there any other technologies that you may use?

Yes, I plunk away at on a standard keyboard with only my left thumb; my four fingers glide along the top of the keyboard to steady my unsteady hand. However, it is becoming more difficult to find keyboards without an extra row of keys along the top.

In place of a mouse, I use a Traxsys (formerly Penny + Giles) joystick. Definitely not an inexpensive alternative at approximately $700 Canadian. OUCH! But I have much better control with the joystick than with the mouse. With the mouse, one involuntary or jerky hand movement and the mouse pointer goes flying across the screen. How frustrating!

I also use EZ Keys software for word prediction and abbreviation expansion. As I begin typing, the six most frequently used words starting with those letters appear in a small blue box on the screen. Different words appear as I continue typing. When the word I want appears, I simply hit the corresponding number and the computer completes the word. It does save me quite a few keystrokes! Although, even with this handy software, I still only type approximately ten or twelve words a minute, give or take.

Communication has always been a key message in your blog. With web 2.0 bringing new and fascinating ways of interacting with people around the globe, what are some of the key opportunities and challenges that you have faced with web 2.0 technologies?

These technologies have expanded the ways I can interact with people. The new opportunities to connect with people are truly amazing! I am eagerly waiting time to explore Second Life and to see what it is all about.

However, I am reluctant to fully embrace some of these technologies because they aren’t accessible to people with some types of disabilities and, if my business is about web accessibility, I feel I need to walk the talk as much as possible.

It has been interesting reading about your accessibility work for the Canadian Government and encouraging to see the growing awareness of accessibility and the W3C WCAG 1.0 in both the government and private sectors. To some extent, there seems to be a perception that web accessibility is mainly for people with visual disabilities. Developing websites for people with motor related disabilities is not often covered to the same depth as say, visual disabilities. Have you got any tips for our readers on some things to consider when developing websites for people with motor disabilities?

I agree that there is a misperception that web accessibility is mainly for people with sight impairments, and the barrier facing people with other disabilities are discounted. For me with limited hand function, I find those pop-out menus difficult to navigate – they either disappear before I can click or I end up clicking the wrong link and going somewhere I didn’t want to go. It would help if those menus were keyboard navigable so that I could tab through the links if necessary. Equally frustrating are tiny clickable areas; redundant text links are helpful. Also, timed tasks are some times difficult for me to complete before the session times out. A way to increase time would be appreciated.

Book cover of I'll Do It Myself!
Many thanks to Glenda for taking the time to satisfy my curiosity and for the opportunity to be part of her Summer Sojourn virtual book tour. Don’t forget to check out her Do It Myself blog where you can read and purchase her inspiring autobiography I’ll Do It Myself You can also help out by voting for Glenda in the “blog for a year” competition.